Monitor Down

The music blog that doesn’t want to hear itself

Meet the Primrose League: the UK’s Web-Only Rock Band

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the primrose leagueThe first time I saw Daniel Earwicker he was tearing through a cover of the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” on an old Rickenbacker. He was doing it without vocals, so the screaming lead guitar poured in like a crashing wave. I thought he was impressive for a guy with no head.

The people who watch Earwicker play, in fact, usually only see him from about the shoulders to the knees. That’s because his primary audience is on YouTube, where Earwicker, 36, has established his presence as a self-contained Internet band, complete with a growing base of rabidly loyal fans. (Me: guilty.)

His band is the Primrose League, and the lineup is as follows: Guitar, Daniel Earwicker; bass, Daniel Earwicker; drums, Daniel Earwicker; vocals, Daniel Earwicker. Production … you get the picture. He records on his home computer in the south of England, videotaping himself on each instrument. He then cuts it all together into a homemade music video, featuring himself as all players. As of yet, he has about 14 original songs in his catalogue, which he’s made available in album form to anyone who wants them. And yeah, they’re good.

“I’ve never sent a CD off to a record company or anything like that,” Earwicker said over an email interview last week. “YouTube is the first time I put music out to somewhere that the general public could find it.”

At first, he said, he had only posted a few covers to his channel – a pretty common phenomenon among “headless” YouTube musicians. He only began posting his own material at the request of listeners, never imagining people would start following him.


“The joy of putting something out there, and getting feedback from others, is something I only recently discovered existed,” he said. “It is fantastic that people hear what I’ve done, sometimes immediately after I finish it.”

The Primrose League’s songs tend to combine intricate, layered guitar work with throbbing, head-nodding basslines and solid drumming, with impressively harmonized vocals. It seems to channel the Beatles, since Earwicker was a Beatlemaniac before he could even speak or walk. (As a kid, he was heartbroken upon learning they had dissolved before he was born.) Also heavily present is the influence of the Smiths, which he discovered around the time they broke up. From childhood, he said, his relationships to these bands clearly defined the direction of his own musical taste.

“I’m never sure whether the Smiths changed me or whether I was already programmed to respond to them,” he said, “but the Smiths definitely woke me up somehow and set me on a path. They proved that making brilliant records was still a living art form, not just something from the 1960s in black-and-white film. So that made it into something I urgently had to start trying to do, learning any tricks I could.”

The Johnny Marr-style layering in Earwicker’s music is made possible by his impressive stockpile of musical equipment, the envy of a certain percentage of the YouTube world. The Primrose League arsenal includes a typhoon of guitars (vintage Rickenbackers, a Gretsch, a Telecaster and various acoustics and electrics), a Rickenbacker bass, an electronic drum kit, a Mac Pro equipped with ProTools, and a few other odds and ends. All of it is displayed in his Studio Tour video, posted recently.

“A lot of people ask me how I can afford it, which is pretty simple,” Earwicker explains. “I don’t have a car. Think about how much a car costs, they’re so expensive. Think what you can buy instead with that money. And walking is great exercise too.”

With the following Earwicker has built up (1,370 subscribers when this was published), and his video comment sections overflowing with gushing praise, the question of pursuing label attention has obviously come up.

“To me, the question should be the other way around – why would I want to?” He said. “The core of what I do will always be making something for one person, to be listened to on earplugs, waiting for the bus, or walking to school or whatever hateful routine you want to escape from.”

One obvious benefit of not having a label signing off on his work is that Earwicker can experiment with different styles of music – as evident by the latest number, “Who’s Controlling the World,” which is pushing towards the funky side of things. Most labels would probably be freaking out – hence why they’re not part of the picture.

“You don’t need the keys to Abbey Road to make recordings anymore,” Earwicker says. “You can save some pennies and you can buy massively more powerful equipment than the Beatles ever had, on eBay, and you’re ready to start, so why not just start?”

With his own home studio, an audience entirely online, and ProTools as his main performance vehicle, the Primrose League is a modern, digital-age one-man band. Just for the record, would he ever consider being part of a “regular” band?

“On odd occasions where I take the time to play music with other people, I slot right in quite happily, so I can work both ways,” he said. “So maybe I will do collaborations, who knows?”

Almost as an aside, he adds, “It’s an interesting idea to collaborate online.”

Now there’s an intriguing notion. In the holy scriptures of the Internet music scene, Myspace Music is like Genesis, with its free band Web pages and streaming songs. The Arctic Monkeys took the next big step by becoming an online phenomenon independently, before they let the label guys take over. Now, through YouTube, the Primrose League has created kind of a “New Testament,” producing music with no professional help at all. If the next step is for band members to co-write, perform and produce songs from across the globe, the musical landscape will have become quite superior to the days when bands like the Beatles submitted songs to their labels in hopes of eventually seeing them released.

Of course, it would be pretty hypocritical for a band to create its own marketing-free music universe only to attempt to get rich. For the independent musical Web to have integrity, it can’t sacrifice self-indulgence for mass appeal. That would be like hijacking Noah’s arc and then just pretending to be Noah. Or something like that.

“The latest song I uploaded, I must admit to being extremely eager to let people hear it right away, the same day I started working on it,” Earwicker said. “But I think if I let that become the point of it, then it would become quite an empty activity.”

You can hear the Primrose League at Daniel Earwicker’s YouTube channel. Download the albums at the band Web site, PrimroseLeague.co.uk, or through iTunes.

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Written by Peter Kimmich

March 3, 2009 at 2:27 pm

5 Responses

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  1. As one of the rabid fans I have to say that my heart jumps whenever I see a new video posted by the Primrose LEague. As someone who is old enought to realise I’ll never be the next Johnny Marr, it’s inspiring to see that you can simply do it yourself and that an audience is out there…..and an audience that 99% is pretty supportive…even of my own pathetic attempts… :-)
    Daniel definitely inspired me to buy a Rickenbacker… I had an Eagle copy but now own a 330/6 and a 330/12

    Irish Brian

    April 16, 2009 at 11:45 pm

  2. I agree, Dan definitely inspires others (incl. me) to get up and start making their own music and get more into playing. The good news is, the more you write music the better you get at it. The Johnny Marrs of the world weren’t born knowing how to create masterpieces like “How Soon is Now.”

    Yeah, and I get all excited too when the PL puts out a new release…

    Peter Kimmich

    April 28, 2009 at 1:03 pm

  3. […] Peter over at Monitor Down takes an extensive look at Primrose, a really cool… well I guess you can call it a “band”… that not only is making some cool music, but is also changing the ways music is reaching the masses and what it means to be a “rockstar”. I’d recommend not only checking out this piece, but also Primrose when you can because at the very least, it’s a really cool idea: Meet the Primrose League: the UK’s Web-Only Rock Band […]

  4. Interesting post, I will let my family and friends know about this blog
    cheers.

    June White

    July 12, 2009 at 5:55 am

  5. chord runs are everything to me, the melodies here are just so mesmeric…they transport me to the old comfort zone certain sound combinations and tempos gave me as a teenager and the utter texture of it being felt between my ears.. medicine it was! for all else was pressure..this is new medicine for me, i havent been so fired up in a long time..just sick of the state of the industry, but hey, who cares, there is hope, not for the industry, but for the further existance of new music, with true meaning and craft…and best of all, with a spark that THRILLS!!! the listener!
    a.w.e.s.o.m.e.! xx

    spill

    August 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm


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