If there was a Cincinnati Entertainment Awards category for pathologically busy musicians who start new projects to occupy the time normally reserved for sleep or breathing, Prim would take home the bling.
The freshly minted Dream/Electro Pop foursome possesses individual resumes that would require a five-point condensed font to fit on a single page: In addition to various full- and part-time jobs, former No No Knots vocalist/guitarist Molly Sullivan has a burgeoning solo career (she won last year’s Singer/Songwriter CEA) that keeps her road-bound; ex-Diet Audio guitarist/keyboardist/programmer Ian Gullet splits his time with Smasherman; ex-Oui Si Yes bassist (and almost a lawyer) Alessandro Corona plays with Butt (that could have been worded differently, but who could resist?) and literally a half dozen other bands while working on solo material; and drummer Jake Langknecht also keeps the beat for The Never Bird and Cedar Skies.
“We’ve got a lot going on,” Sullivan understates.
Prim began in the winter of 2013, when Sullivan and Gullet were tapped to provide musical pieces to local improv dance troupe Pones Inc. for a Fringe Festival production. After hearing each other’s contributions, the pair were inspired to pool their talents.
“I heard this piece and I’m like, ‘Holy shit, someone in Cincinnati is making music like this? Who is this? I must know him now!’ ” Sullivan says with a laugh. “We had mutual friends, so it was like, ‘You wanna collaborate on some stuff?’ We wrote a few little morsels, little seedlings, and fleshed things out and built some songs from there.”
Sullivan had set herself the task of writing a song per day for a month and posting the results on SoundCloud and was already creating material that colored outside the lines of her edgy Avant Pop solo direction; she identified the project as Prim (lifted from the somewhat archaic phrase “prim and proper”). Gullet proved to be an invaluable creative and technological partner in the extension of that exercise.
“I get really impatient with my inability to work well with technology, so with recording software and gear, I don’t have the patience or know-how to build upon the things I start,” Sullivan says. “Having Ian, an audio engineer, it was really awesome to build upon those ideas.”
“It’s hard when there’s only two of you — for me, at least — where the writing is real collaborative,” Gullet says. “ You’ve got to have someone to say, ‘No, that really sucks. Let’s work on something else.’ Maybe not in those words. ‘Take another smoke break,’ or ‘Take a breather.’ We were just punching ideas together until we were like, ‘Hey, let’s find some people [to fill the band out].’ ”
Prim was completed with the arrival of Corona, who had already been talking with Sullivan about banding up, and Langknecht, who had approached Sullivan months before with an offer to drum behind her. With the quartet assembled, Sullivan found the essence of what she’d been missing since the end of No No Knots.
“I was able to compensate in certain ways with my solo stuff with looping and pedals and having that fuller sound,” she says. “But I was still missing the kinetic energy, the movement and lots of things happening at once.”
“I like it because it’s pretty far outside my comfort zone, so I don’t have any ideas of what it should be,” Gullet says. “You build up ideas, [where you feel] like, ‘This is cliche,’ so it’s fun to come at it completely fresh and play whatever I want.”
Prim began practicing last February and then made its debut in April on the last night of Sullivan’s solo residency at Northside bar The Comet. While Prim’s studio output to date amounts to just a trio of excellent tracks posted on Bandcamp — “Older,” “Victors” and “Krch,” reminiscent of Mazzy Star and Canadian Pop chanteuse Jane Siberry — the band hopes to remedy that situation in the coming year.
One of the most relevant questions about Prim would not necessarily be how it formed but rather why the members chose to launch yet another project to crowbar into their collective hectic schedules.
“Having a band with a female singer, that’s great, getting that perspective,” Corona says. “There’s a lot of really good bands in Cincinnati with female fronts, more than when I started playing, and I think that’s a good thing. Plus I wasn’t playing Pop-oriented music so it was a good outlet to do more melodic stuff.”
“From my perspective, the drums have different demands,” Langknecht says. “It’s never upbeat and straight ahead. The other day, [local musician] Aaron Collins said ‘This band’s really groovy,’ and I was like, ‘Maybe it is.’ It’s downtempo Pop and it’s really fun to do.”
“One of the things I like about Prim is that we throw things together and it’s chaotic, and we don’t have the pressures of the rat race,” Sullivan says. “People enjoy it, and we enjoy being on stage doing it, and I don’t see what the hell is wrong with that. It’s wonderful.”
For more on PRIM, visit prim-musik.bandcamp.com.