In Conversation: Picture This

In Conversation: Picture This

The Irish band built their life around touring - but then their lives changed...

“That’s all we know, is travelling and playing shows. That’s our life. It’s not a job we go and do. Our whole life is that, so our whole life was taken away from us”.

There are bands who tour, and then there are bands who tour. Picture This are the Irish phenomenon that have unassumingly captivated audiences all over the world, amassing over 300 million total streams and selling out arenas like the 3Arena, the SSE Arena Belfast, and venues like O2 Shepherd’s Bush in London. Their second album 'MDRN LV' gave them the accolade of the “top-selling album from an Irish artist in 2019” and they maintained the momentum by touring with the Jonas Brothers on the European leg of their world tour in 2020.

Much like everyone else, COVID restrictions throughout the world sidelined the quartet from live performances, but in 2021 they show no signs of letting up. Receiving praise from Billboard and MTV UK, the band performed their track ‘Things Are Different’ on The Late Show with James Corden and are set to release a fan album, 'Life In Colour', on June 25th. Itching to get back to performing live, they are kicking off a UK tour from October 6th in Nottingham.

Clash spoke to Ryan and Jimmy about their love of performing live, how it’s a lifestyle for them and not a job, and the inspiration behind some of the notable tracks on the upcoming project.

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How’s the last year been for you guys? What’s the pandemic been like in Ireland?

It's been an interesting year I guess for everybody to say the least. It's been tough, and it kind of has its ups and downs and has it’s negatives and positives - when it comes to creating anyway.

I know, usually we create kind of, on the fly and off the cuff usually, because we're on and off the road a lot. And so you don't have a lot of time to actually get in and just like, spend weeks on something, the former we actually kind of prefer. Well, I prefer anyway, in terms of writing. I like just getting in and doing a vocal quickly and off the cuff.

But since the lockdown, we've had so much time. We actually have time and space for the first time since we started, to write, create, record and produce and do all of those things. It's been great. It's been a new way for us and it takes getting accustomed to. But I still think I personally would prefer to still be on the back of a tour bus doing vocals and writing songs in dressing rooms. But yeah, it's been good, bad, and everything in between.

I wanted to kick things off with some lines from ‘LA House Party’: "Wearing Calvin Klein and knock-off Rays / Posting photos online to people they hate. Man, I miss the Kanye from 2008 / Says the guy in the bomber off his face / And that's so LA..." Have you guys experienced a lot of these types of people throughout your careers these past few years?

We have and we haven’t. That particular song, ''LA House Party is a very true story, and it is a direct regurgitation of what happened. That party was full of those stereotypical dudes with the hood up and the glasses on. There were a lot of those kinds of people at that party. But we actually love Los Angeles.

We would spend a lot of time whenever we're kind of not on tour, we would usually spend our time in Los Angeles, because we have some great friends over there and great people that we work with. So we actually love it.

How fitting that this is about LA, and it’s the first single under your deal with Joe Jonas’ Let’s Get It records. Talk to me a bit about the Jonas Brothers, what it’s like going on tour with them and how they’ve impacted your career.

So we toured Europe on an arena tour with the Jonas Brothers, around Europe and the UK. It was amazing and we had a great time. A lot of things kind of stemmed from that I guess. You know, the pandemic kind of put everything on hold. But this alone was kind of our first kind of foot back into what's coming, you know, for next year.

The single, 'Things Are Different' is about the pandemic - could you elaborate on this?

Yeah, it is. It definitely is a part of it. I was always kind of conscious that I didn't want the song to be the pandemic song or the COVID song because it's more than that, in terms of where I wrote it from. It was definitely a reflection of the state of the world at that point.

And I felt kind of necessary to do a song like that because usually our songs are about love and romance and relationships and all of that kind of thing. But I felt like if we're bringing out music right now we should acknowledge it. We're also conscious that we wanted it to be a positive message because there were a lot of great songs, but there were songs about the world ending and people were instilling fear in people. It's a toxic process. But we felt like it was our duty to kind of release a super positive song about that.

It's also, that song was also about how your friends from home will always treat you the same no matter what you do, like we've gone on toward the world, and done all of these amazing things, and we're living our dream. But when we go back home to our friend groups, I'm still the guy that I was who grew up playing football on the street and getting in trouble, and I'm not the lead singer of the world touring band. And so the song is about that also, as well as to save the world during these times, for sure. 

What was it like performing on James Corden’s show in the States? Did you guys always imagine yourself performing on these caliber of shows?

Yeah, we always strive to try and get our music in front of as many people as possible. With the James Corden show being such a massive show, it was a no brainer for us. And it was great to be approached and asked to do it.

We recorded the video in an empty Stadium in Dublin, and even that feeling was incredible. It encapsulates what's happening for our industry at the moment where every venue, stadium and whatever else is empty. But yeah, it was a hugely amazing and emotional moment. To combine that with being on the James Corden show, was ecstatic.

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Another fantastic song is 'If Ever However Whenever Forever' - can you talk to me about the inspiration for this song. This was the soundtrack to my holiday.

I feel sorry for everybody else because I really complicated that title. as well in my brain because I wrote it. Yeah. anytime anybody tries to tell me that they like it. They're like, I love that song, “However, whenever, whatever”.

But that song is a very personal song to me. It's about the early stages of getting to know somebody and trying to figure out what's going on in their head, because maybe you haven't really said how you feel out loud. It then develops into the chorus of like, no matter what happens, or no matter whether I'm yours or not, I will always love you and you will always be the person for me - it's about like an unconditional love, naive romance and a lot of weird, coincidental things that happen.

It’s a very real song that comes from a very real place. And I'm glad you enjoyed your holiday.

You guys are touring in the UK soon, and previously you’ve sold out multiple shows at the 3Arena in Dublin. Is touring an essential part of your lives? How does that look in a post-COVID world?

That's kind of all we've ever known. Yeah. gigging from day one. Like that's literally all we've been doing, and to have that stripped away from you almost instantly, is something you never expect to happen. You completely take it for granted in a way because you just think that this is always how it's going to be. And then your main kind of lifestyle gets taken away.

Like even personally, that's all we know, is travelling and playing shows. That's our life. It's not like a job we go and do. Our whole life is that, so our whole life was taken away from us. Out of nowhere, and we've just kind of had to pick up the pieces. All we care about really is getting out and playing music live.

As you guys have got the Irish market on lock, is it exciting to be touring in the UK again? The reaction online is crazy, with loads of UK fans expressing that they can’t wait to see you live.

Yeah, we've done a couple of tours here in the UK, but especially to be coming to London playing Brixton and playing venues that we've never played before is great. Every time when we come back, we're always playing bigger venues and it's been a while since we've played our own UK tour - two years this October.

It's great to know that even after the pandemic, and after a year of being away, the UK fans are still there, and they still want to actually want us to play because it’s scary. The whole lockdown, we were releasing music, but you aren’t getting that in person response, where usually, as you release music or when you’re touring and playing shows you get the people singing the song back to you every night.

So you don't know whether your song was connecting or not. You see the streams, and you see the reaction online with all the tweets and stuff. But you just can’t beat that kind of gratification. We’re looking forward to that again in October. Because when you release a song and it connects with people from all over the world, and in their own homes that’s great. But when you're actually in a venue, you're all connecting at one time. And it's the greatest feeling we’ve ever experienced.

One thing I wanna know about is the inspiration behind the name, Picture This.

Picture This comes from when we needed a name to call our social media. We weren’t planning on becoming a band, we just wanted to put out the song. We ended up calling that Picture This and it's funny because at the time, we didn't think about it much. But really the meaning of it is that when you listen to music, we feel like you can picture a cinematic experience in your head, and our music is that kind of music.

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Picture This will release new album 'Life In Colour' on June 25th.

Words: Oliver-James Campbell

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