photograph by Illegal Tender
The first I heard of Primary 1 was in early 2008, with Joe Flory doing a version of Metronomy’s ‘My Heart Rate Rapid’. He called it a ‘love letter’ instead of a remix, version or edit - and if he meant it as a love letter based on the quality of his interpretation, it was one absolutely signed sealed and hand delivered. Whilst Metronomy was still learning how to do pop, Primary 1 re-arranged the song into a piano tune with a catchy chorus and weird personality.
Then I turned my ears to the brilliant single he had released a few months earlier (in the now remote year of 2007) called ‘Hold Me Down’. It's the kind of track that makes an artist an overnight sensation and kicks labels into starting bidding wars. But even though the single got a proper release (there were remixes from the Shoes, Yuksek, Rory Phillips and others) and praise enough from journalists, it somehow didn’t reflect back onto his popularity.
But if one great single wasn’t enough to get people’s attention, now, we have plenty of good releases to choose from. We asked this Matt Damon look-alike (who sings as if he's black) a few questions, from working with Ben Affleck to his actual collaborations; but what we should have asked was "How in the hell do you maintain still being everyone’s favourite 'future star' for four years in a row?"
And from this normally precarious position, one of his first demos, ‘Princess’, turned into a single that received praise from erm, none other than Perez Hilton on his monstrosity of a blog, which was before Joe collaborated with Nina Persson from The Cardigans, to create the lovely ballad ‘The Blues’. He went all electronic with Riton via the songs ‘Who’s There?’ and ‘Radiates’, created a highly addictive chorus with the Shoes in ‘People Movin’ and kept popping up everywhere with remixes and demos. And Flory is still yet to release an actual album.
The only thing more difficult than foreseeing when we'll finally hear his debut is to define the type of music Primary 1 makes. It’s pop, but not quite. It’s experimental, but you can sing along. As he says in our interview, it's the type of music that can make fans out of the likes of Erol Alkan to Perez Hilton. Perhaps it’s simply pop without the interference of labels and fashionable genre tags. Maybe it's just Primary 1’s interpretation of pop music. Anyway, it’s good.
What's with the 1 in your name?
There's only really me making the music!
You have worked with lots of other artists, if you are so disposed to working with other people why didn't you join a band?
Couldn't find the right people I guess... That's the hardest part of being in a band!
It feels like you've been releasing a new song every month - when do you find time to write? Are you that type of musician that is having a coffee and writing lyrics on napkins?
I've been writing for years so there's a backlog of songs, actually releasing them is trickier though... Inspiration wise, I generally get hit out of nowhere. All the best ideas are quickly realised.
When you're collaborating with other artists, do you prefer to share the same point of view about the song or do you like the challenge of combining different ideas? Which of your collaborations flowed the best?
I think the collaborations I've enjoyed the most are ones where I just got to be 'the singer' for a bit. 'The Blues' and the tunes Riton and I did together were like that, a real half-half collab. I really like writing to music someone else has made because you get to enjoy it much more, you're not sick of it already.
Looking at what you've released to date, would you say that it's indicative of your evolution or is this just the way you write without thought of genre?
A bit of both... I think when this latest album is released there will be a very clear evolution from 'Mess Detective'. As to genre, I don't think I'll ever master one, I'll just do whatever takes my fancy that day.
Which album will be released first: your solo or the one with Riton?
I think mine first... And Henry's (Riton) will be solo also, featuring stuff we've done together and lots of other collabs.
Can you walk us through the 'Princess' video and what it means?
Basically the story of the video is: Joe gets in lost in desert, collapses, hallucinates, meets a magical desert princess, marches around proclaiming his love for her whilst being followed by 11 headless suits.
The song itself is just about being 19, and deeply, naiively in love with some girl; the kind of in love where it's all idealistic and childish. Ha! So that's why the video is 'all a dream' etc.
What did you think when Perez Hilton wrote about you? What do you
think about him? Would you release music on his label if he asked?
Yeah great! A bit surreal. I love the fact that Erol Alkan AND Perez Hilton are supporters. That says something to me. Well...
If you had to be one of the chart topping acts right now, who would you be?
I like that one football song - 'Waving Flag'? I heard it in the co-op without having any idea what it was, and I liked it. So I can't not like it now. So I'd be them.
How many times in your life have you been mistaken for Matt Damon?
Would you ever work with Ben Affleck?
As what? I'm a worse actor than he is.
Could you scribble us a comic strip?
If you remind me, yes!!
Watch out for Primary 1's comic strip for IM//UR, coming sooooon...