Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. Book coming soon! See my complete profile
Primo has never played a local show. This is because the synthwave artist is from another galaxy.
Explaining how she landed here, Primo breaks down her backstory, saying, “The story of Primo is that I am an intergalactic assassin sent from the future, and another galaxy, back to the ‘80s to do a hit job, and I end up falling in love with my target … so she’s always been an alien, and she’s always been a badass rock and roll assassin, but she fell in love with the ‘80s and wanted to stay, so she didn’t go back to her planet. She’s here now.”
A wildly creative concept, Primo is the alter-ego of Austin-based musician, Laura Lee Bishop, who released her first EP under the new moniker back in 2017. Titled To the Max!, the project was a first glimpse into the world she’s created.
I caught up with Primo before her recent show at Berlin Under A in NYC to open up some packs of MusiCards, and the artists we found sparked conversations about her musical influences, the time she was in a hair metal cover band, and her very non-PG thoughts about the movie Labyrinth.
Let’s start with Tina. She is 100% one of my biggest influences. Huge huge huge for me. I’m obsessed with everything she’s ever done.
I saw her when I was in college at NYU.
You have to specify that you’re not 100 years old, because she’s been performing for like 60 years.
OK. I saw her in like 2008, or ’09. I took the train into New Jersey with my friend Bennett. It was the first time I ever drank 40s on the train out of a paper bag, which was really fun for me.
I would say like 75% of my songs, when I write them, I think – would Tina sing this? Is this a Tina song? A lot of vocal things I do are based on Tina Turner.
Is this for your previous projects under your own name, as well as Primo?
I would say for Primo, but Tina Turner has been a huge influence on me my whole life. It’s not like something that was an influence when I started doing Primo, my whole life Tina Turner has been one of my #1s … and Patti LaBelle. Tina and Patti are my two ladies.
Do you remember when you first bought a Tina Turner album, or when you first heard her? How old were you?
Really really young.
My mom had an amazing record collection, and great taste in music.
And when I did see Tina (live), I don’t know how old she was, but she was maybe in her 60s, running around, it was insane.
She has the energy of a woman half her age.
Yeah, because I perform and I’m gonna keel over after 30 minutes.
Please don’t. That would be a terrible end to this night.
It’s almost happened. One of my last shows was a short set, so I was trying to pack everything in, and by the end I was totally out of breath.
This is the only cardio I get – performing.
RATT is not a huge influence, but RATT just gives me a memory.
I used to be in an ‘80s hair metal cover band.
What was the name?
It was called Rock Hard.
I was the singer, and we sang every one hit wonder song, and then every popular hair metal song, (but) they hated anything that was too popular, so if it was Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” it was a no. They would do “Photograph,” but not anything too too obvious.
The guitarist, who actually played on (the Primo songs) “To The Max!” and “Showdown City,” he’s a phenomenal guitarist, but he was obsessed with RATT, so we used to call him RATT Boy.
He’s amazing, and he fuckin’ looks like he’s in one of these bands. He’s just rad from head to toe, a badass guy. We used to call him RATT Boy, and then one day someone called him RATT Boy one too many times – fistfight.
So every time I see RATT I think of him getting really pissed about us calling him RATT Boy. He’s probably going to get so mad that this is in the story, but he just loves RATT, and he’s such a good guitarist.
Tom Petty I saw with my mom in Dallas. I think it was the only concert we saw just the two of us. It was a really special weekend.
I love Tom Petty. My husband is huge Tom Petty fan. My husband plays drums for me in Primo, and has always played drums for me. I used to do more singer-songwriter, Americana rock type stuff, and Tom Petty was a huge influence.
The thing I love most about Tom Petty is that I love a singer who the second they start singing you know who it is. You don’t need to hear any music, they just have the most distinct fucking voice, and he has one of the most distinct voices that’s ever sang ever in the history of the world, and he’s written some of the best songs in the entire world.
He’s also evidence that maybe the cleanest and “best” voice isn’t necessarily the best thing in the world.
Oh yeah, I 100% agree, and I’m not a “pretty” singer, necessarily, I’m a screamer. It’s like a guttural screech a lot of the time, but it’s me, and it’s emotional, it’s what I’m feeling, it’s not perfect, but it’s real.
I’m into an interesting vocal, not a perfect vocal.
Did you have any vocal instructors who tried to get rid of any perceived imperfections in your singing?
This is gonna sound really conceited, but no, because I was a Class 1 vocal soloist, so I can do that, but that doesn’t move me, or inspire me. I feel like that’s really important to being a singer, to have that technical side, and to be able to sing perfectly, but what moves me is when someone takes that training and then does something interesting with it.
Cher is, even outside of music, just attitude, 100% what I would like to be. She’s funny, number one, which is huge, and she’s so confident, and sure of who she is and what she’s doing. There aren’t a lot of artists that have the confidence that Cher has. And the longevity she’s had … she put out an album not that long ago, a few years ago, the one that had “Woman’s World,” I loved that album!
When I was in college she released “Believe,” and started that whole Auto-Tune, vocal distortion, thing.
She was one of the first people to do that.
She’s innovated. That song … people kind of were saying stuff about when it first came out, and the next thing you know everyone is doing it.
And that voice, that’s another thing about Cher, it’s distinct.
I like innovators, and I like unique, interesting, vocal stylings.
When it comes to unique vocal stylings, how did you develop yours?
I don’t think I developed it as much as it’s just what comes out. Even when I say, “On this one I’m going to be calm, and tame, and normal,” I’m never calm, and tame, and normal. I always end up being ridiculous. If I’m not yelling by the end of the song it’s not a Primo song, it’s not a Laura Lee Bishop song. If ain’t screaming then it’s not happening. That’s just the way it is with me.
Sometimes when I’m singing I’ll cry. I upset myself if it’s sad, or if it’s an angry thing I get really mad, and I’ll be sweating profusely, so I think for me developing it is just living in the song, and really feeling the song, and making it like a story that I’m telling that I’m intricately involved in, and invested in.
Cher was also a chameleon, constantly evolving and changing, and you’ve done that going from your solo work under your own name, to Primo. What sparked your evolution?
I was just kind of tired of people telling me what I was gonna sound like, or what I should sound like, or what they thought I wanted to sound like. They were always so wrong, and things were getting so far away from where I intended them to be that I wanted to cut out all producers, all label people, all anyone.
With Primo I record and produce everything myself in my guest bedroom. No one else is involved but me, so I don’t have to answer to anyone. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, and I can release music when I want, and how I want. It’s 100% freedom, that’s what Primo is for me. It’s been the most freeing, exhilarating experience, and I’ve learned so much, so so much.
Lenny Kravitz has been a sex symbol for a long time. I’m sure quite a few people had posters of him on their bedroom walls. Was there any artist whose poster you had on the wall as a kid, that maybe you were obsessed with?
Obsessed with David Bowie 100%. Obsessed to the Nth degree. My screensaver on my computer, my iPad, my phone … well, right now my phone is Freddie Mercury.
My first sexual feelings in life were David Bowie. Labyrinth. Jareth.
Wait, your first sexual feelings were David Bowie stealing a child?
David Bowie wearing really tight stretch pants with his whole package on display.
I focused more on the stealing of the child.
It was all about the dick for me.
David Bowie 100%. I have dreams about him. I have written songs about him. I have a song called “Within Me” because there’s a line in Labyrinth where he says, “You can’t live within me,” and I made that into a song.
Did you ever get to see him?
No. No, it’s really painful. I always had this dream that he would hear my music one day, and then I would be his protege, and then we would fall in love.
Does your husband know about this dream?
Oh yeah, he knows how I feel about David Bowie. I’m obsessed. It’s borderline weird.
It’s sad that he won’t be able to read this.
He’s watching down on me. He watches me all the time, like while I’m in the shower … while I’m changing … just laying in bed at night.
This week’s NYC Scene Report features an “Unbelievable” cover from New Myths, Rachel Lynn saying you can “Look to Me,” Otis Clapp finding a “Gypsy,” and Yvetter Nacer getting out of the “Quicksand.”
* Brooklyn-based rock trio New Myths released a cover song a few weeks ago, and it’s “Unbelievable.” Actually, that’s not just a review of their music, it’s also the name of the song, as Brit Boras (guitar/lead vocals), Rosie Slater (drums/vocals), and Marina Ross (bass/vocals) covered the EMF classic from 1991.
Slowed down, and with a sound that’s part grunge, part Garbage, the New Myths version of the song has a totally different vibe than the original.
For those of us old enough to remember when “Unbelievable” launched EMF to the top of the charts, and eventual ’90s one hit wonder lore (or when Kraft used it in their “It’s Crumbelievable” ad campaign in 2005), this cover is a real treat.
As an aside, New Myths’ live in-studio performance of this song makes me want to attend one of their shows, so there’s a chance you’ll see me in the crowd sometime in the near future.
* NYC-based singer-songwriter Rachel Lynn is embracing a ‘60s soul-pop vibe with her latest single, “Look to Me.”
In a statement, she explained the inspiration for the song, saying, “‘Look to Me’ is about trying to be a source of support for someone who's struggling with their inner demons. Sometimes those demons can try to take over a relationship, and it's a difficult battle for everyone involved. Musically, the song has a retro-pop vibe, so my producer, Ali Culotta, wanted to mix it as a modern-pop song with a nod to earlier eras.”
Whether you love your music old school, or new school, you can always look to Rachel Lynn for a great song, and “Look to Me” is another winner from this longtime column fave.
* “I ain't sh*t but anxious / Off the wall like I'm still eating them paint chips.”
Those are the opening lines of Queens-based hip-hop artist Otis Clapp’s latest single, “Gypsy,” a song that’s off a project that’s been half a decade in the making.
In a statement, Otis Clapp discussed the song, and the album it will be on, saying, “I present to you ‘Gypsy,’ the very first single and video off my upcoming project 40s on the Church Steps, a project that I’ve been working on since 2014! So much blood, sweat, and tears was poured into this vision. It’s been a hell of a process, and the long road has lead me to this, and I’m really proud to share it with you.”
“Gypsy” is yet another fantastic song from Otis Clapp, and 40s on the Church Steps should be on everyone’s “Most Anticipated Albums of 2020” list.
* In baseball terms, Cuban-American artist Yvette Nacer is a five tool player. An actress, author, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Nacer is currently playing the role of Fate in the Tony Award-winning musical Hadestown. Somehow, she’s also found time to release a new single, titled “Quicksand.”
Discussing the inspiration for the powerful pop ballad, she said in a statement, “I was inspired to write ‘Quicksand’ because, at the moment, I felt stuck. I was frustrated that I seemed to be in a negative loop. The song is essentially a cry for help, and a determination to break the pattern. We all feel trapped sometimes, but we have the power to rise above it.”
Click play on “Quicksand,” and experience the power of Yvette Nacer’s voice.
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.
Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Shakira coming to a movie theater near you, to My Chemical Romance and Rage Against The Machine each hitting the stage again, to Panic! at the Disco’s extended stay at #1, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
* The concert film Shakira in Concert: El Dorado World Tour will premiere in movie theaters on November 13th, and coincide with the release of a live album. I wonder how stringent theaters will be about enforcing any rules requiring me … I mean moviegoers … to wear pants.
* My Chemical Romance announced they’re getting back together, and will be playing a reunion concert at the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles on December 20th. A reunion concert? I would’ve figured on a parade.
* In more news of bands reuniting, Rage Against the Machine will be getting back together for a pair of headlining performances at the 2020 Coachella Festival. It should be an interesting experience for the band to perform for a crowd that thinks the “shells” in “rally round the family, with a pocket full of shells” came from a trip to the beach.
* Selena Gomez has finally ascended to the very top of the chart, with “Lose You to Love Me” becoming her first #1 song. You know how we celebrate all Selena Gomez accomplishments around here, right? By using them as an excuse to post a photo from Spring Breakers! This really is a tradition unlike any other.
* Harry Styles announced his sophomore album, Fine Line, will be released on December 13th, which also happens to be the birthday of his ex, Taylor Swift. So I guess that’s what you get for the woman who has everything.
* Metallica donated $100,000 through their All Within My Hands non-profit foundation to aid wildfire relief efforts in California. Wait, isn’t sand used to put out fires? So sand enters the equation? Hmm, is this truly a charitable donation, or is it an elaborate promotional campaign to reinvigorate interest in “Enter Sandman”?
* With just two songs – “High Hopes,” and “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” – Panic! at the Disco have been at #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart for an entire year. I’m starting to think Brendon Urie doesn’t really have all that much to panic about.
* The Songwriters Hall of Fame announced the nominees for their 2020 class, and the names include R.E.M. The Neptunes, Outkast, Patti Smith, Journey, Vince Gill, Gloria Estefan, The Isley Brothers, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, Mike Love, David Gates of Bread, Steve Miller, and Mariah Carey. Hall of fame voting is always tough, and in this case only six nominees get in each year. This begs the question – what’s Steve Miller’s Wins Above Replacement?
* Finally, we’re in November, soooo …
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.
Last week, NYC-based alt-rock trio Newborn hit the stage at Arlene’s Grocery as part of a Rocker Stalker event, and while the city was getting drenched by a downpour of rain, the weather outside couldn’t dampen the spirits of those inside at the show.
Desiring an air of intimacy, at the start of their set Newborn frontman Allen James (on the left in the photo) invited fans to bring the half dozen, or so, chairs in the venue to an area in front of the stage. A group of fans quickly obliged, and an immediate connection between artist and fan was made.
By the end of Newborn’s set, those in the chairs, and those standing up, were united in chanting for “one more song.”
Here are three reasons you should join them, and see Newborn live.
1. Newborn are modern alt-rock with classic rock influences
The first time I saw Newborn was back in January of 2016 at the old Studio at Webster Hall, and at the time I said I felt they had a slight Soul Asylum vibe. That comparison, however, doesn’t fit quite as well in 2019, as the band now seems to have embraced some classic rock influences. In other words – the guitar solo isn’t dead, and when it’s done by Allen James, it sounds great!
2. The band has a vast musical knowledge, and it shows
Every band covers songs, but most of the time those songs are either of the same genre, or are cheeky covers of pop hits. Both of those types of covers can be really fun. Sometimes, however, a band likes to flex its musical chops a bit, and Newborn did this with two covers on this night – one was originally by a band that’s synonymous with the ‘90s, while the other was by a trip-hop/electronica group so obscure that even I’d only heard of them because I happened across their music while creating a playlist two years ago.
The ‘90s cover was a reworked version of the Garbage classic “Only Happy When It Rains,” which was apropos being that everyone had to dodge raindrops to get to the show.
The other cover was a reimagining of Hooverphonic’s “Mad About You.” Fun fact – Hooverphonic will represent Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2020.
3. Nothin’ but a good time
I hope the band doesn’t want to throw things at me for making #3 a Poison reference, but Newborn’s shows are most definitely a good time. Case in point – it was a rainy night, a rainy Tuesday night. That’s two strikes against any band playing in the city, as it’s hard enough to get people to come out on a Tuesday, but to get them to come out on a Tuesday in the rain? You’re more likely to see a unicorn on Houston.
That said, Newborn still drew fans to the show, including some folks who’d never seen them before. Out of the trio of concert goers I spoke with, two of the three were Newborn newbies, and from the looks of it they were loving the show.
If Newborn can energize an NYC crowd on a rainy Tuesday, just think of what they can do if you see them on a clear weekend.
To find out when, and where, Newborn will be performing next, check out their website for show dates.
This week’s NYC Scene Report features Missyou getting “notthatdeep,” KYOSi unveiling her wildly creative video for “Boo Radley,” Live Well planting some “Seeds,” and Hoax coming to terms with loneliness.
* Longtime column favorites Missyou will be releasing their sophomore EP in 2020, the first single off of which is “notthatdeep.”
Blaise Beyhan, frontman of the NYC-based indie alt-rock band, explained the inspiration for “notthatdeep” in a statement, saying, “This song is built on the idea that things don’t always work out, but you have to keep pushing. It’s important to try, and sometimes, even if you don't succeed, the beauty is in the journey, and the lessons you learn in failing are sometimes the ones that teach you the way to prevail. We have to be better for each other, for the planet, for the ones that come after us.”
2020 is just around the corner, and Missyou is not to be missed!
* Indie electro-pop artist KYOSi has been featured here quite a bit since I first discovered her music back in 2016, and the video for her latest single, “Boo Radley,” is downright stunning.
The song is off her recently released Negative Space EP, which is a project she states she had no set goal for, saying, “There’s no real end goal with any of this, you know? The question I ask myself is ‘did I make something I believe to be beautiful?’ and if the answer is yes, then I’ve reached success.”
She continued, adding, “When you stop giving a fuck about where something is going you open up to a new palette and just enjoy working with sound.”
Check out the incredible video for “Boo Radley” and I guarantee you’ll give a fuck about KYOSi.
* New York-based emo punk rockers Live Well released their full length debut, Perfectly Temporary, back in September, and now they have a nostalgia tinged video for the song “Seeds.”
Lead singer Paul Masbad discussed the video in a statement, saying, “Working on ‘Seeds’ has been like no other video we've worked on. With some older, nostalgic clips of myself from an old YouTube channel of mine, it makes this video hit a little closer to home than other videos we've shot.”
He added that when it comes to the song, “I really like how sonically it's one of our harder songs, but it’s really a love song at the core, and the lengths someone would go to in order to spend time with the person they love.”
Check out the clip, and see how Live Well are growing something great with “Seeds.”
* Despite their name, Queens-based indie pop-rock band HOAX are totally real. The creation of Michael Raj and Frantz Cesar, HOAX describes their music as “empathy pop,” and their latest single is “You Get So Alone Sometimes.”
Michael Raj explained the song in a statement, saying, “I started thinking of it as the empathy of loneliness. It's like a feeling of understanding what it means to be lonely, and being okay with it, not okay in the sense of hopefulness – like, ‘Oh don’t worry! It will be better in the future’ – but more like reconciling with loneliness as a true mark of feeling, and being human. We feel alone because we know what it feels like to feel together with others. One cannot exist without the other.”
“You Get So Alone Sometimes” is off HOAX's upcoming full length album, which is based on a story/screenplay the band wrote exploring the human condition, and you can check out the song right here.
For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.
Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Taylor Swift’s big honor, and big copyright lawsuit, to Eminem finding new popularity, but it’s with government investigators, to a Lady Gaga impersonator who did a great job until getting busted, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.
* Taylor Swift will receive the Artist of the Decade award at the 2019 American Music Awards, which will take place on November 24th. She’ll have to have a lot more break ups if she plans on winning this honor again next decade.
* In less happy news for Taylor, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals revived a copyright lawsuit brought by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler over her hit song “Shake It Off.” The duo claim Swift’s song stole their lyrics from their 2001 song “Playas Gon’ Play,” that was performed by 3LW. I’m just sitting here wondering how it could have possibly required more than one person to figure out that playas are gonna play, and haters are gonna hate.
* Kanye West’s Jesus Is King will likely debut at the #1 spot on the Billboard 200, making it Kanye’s ninth consecutive #1 album. Hmm, nine is divisible by three. Nine is also a six upside down. Three … sixes … 666. Oh I see your game, Kanye. I see it all too well. Jesus Is King? Looks to me like you’re on someone else’s payroll …
* Remember when Eminem made some anti-Trump comments in a freestyle, and on a song? Well, the government apparently wasn’t very happy with what they heard, and BuzzFeed now has copies of documents that prove the Secret Service paid Eminem a visit. This qualifies as the most interest anyone has had in an Eminem song in well over a decade.
* Luke Combs’ debut album This One's for You has ruled Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart for 50 weeks, tying the record originally set by Shania Twain’s Come On Over, which did the feat in 1997 (the chart launched in 1964). When reached for comment, Shania issued the following statement …
* A Lady Gaga impersonator was mistaken for the real thing at a charity event in Las Vegas. Her cover was blown when she didn’t make the entire thing about her.
* Korn and Breaking Benjamin will be co-headlining a North American tour that kicks off in January of 2020. I feel like this will be the perfect time to attempt to bring back the wallet chain.
* Prince’s posthumous memoir, The Beautiful Ones, was released this past week. As if being a writer isn’t tough enough, now I have to compete with the deceased?!?! F*ck!
* Mike Posner completed his nearly 3,000 mile walk across America. The 2,851 mile journey began in April in Asbury Park, NJ, and ended in Venice Beach, CA. There’s no word on how The Proclaimers, or Vanessa Carlton, feel about their previously announced walking totals being bested.
And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.