BEST OF 2017: "We're a fucking great band!" proclaim Picture This and nobody here's disagreeing with them...

It was a fairytale year for Jimmy Rainsford and Ryan Hennessy who tell Peter McGoran where it's all gone right...

“This was purely us. This is us, down to every little detail – the artwork, the design, the songs, writing, producing – everything.”

Jimmy Rainsford, one half of Irish sensations Picture This, appears slightly emotional as he stares at the physical copy of the duo’s first ever album. It’s early on a Thursday morning in the upstairs canteen of Warner Studios, and it’s the first time that he and frontman Ryan Hennessy have had a chance to see the self-titled LP in the flesh. I can tell that it means a lot to them, and I feel particularly privileged to be the first journalist to speak to the lads as they observe it.

When Hot Press last spoke to Picture This back in December for our 2017 Annual (where they took their well-deserved place as ‘Hot Press Newcomers of the Year’), even the idea for their debut album was a half-formed thing. Despite having released a chart-topping EP and sold out consecutive shows at the Olympia Theatre, the two lads from Athy, Co. Kildare, seemed more preoccupied with sharing music online with their extraordinarily dedicated fanbase – colloquially known as the ‘Picture This Army’ – than cooping themselves up in a studio.

But right around the time that the band bagged themselves a Choice Prize Award for their single ‘Take My Hand’ back in March, they’d already made their way to Nashville and production for the album had begun. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that they could’ve kept up their success by dropping all of the songs online over the course of several months (a method which has proved hugely successful since their inception), but the record itself is a tangible marker at a high point in their career, showing just how far they’ve come.

“We went out to America,” says Jimmy, “knowing that we were going out there to pick the right producer, the right city, the right everything for us. I think we met 12 producers across New York, LA and Nashville, and we settled on Jacquire King, because we knew right away that he was right for us. We met a lot of different people who were pop-based and had bigger credentials, but he is a very band-driven producer. He’s worked with Kings Of Leon and James Bay and we liked what he’d done with them. It was a good match for us. Since we’re a live band and play our own instruments, it seemed like the best thing to do.”

“He let us do our thing,” adds Ryan, “which is important. I didn’t want the producer sitting there while we were work, saying, ‘You should be doing this, that and the other’. We just fleshed out ideas with him and he enhanced what we already had. That was how it worked. It’s not like we went into a studio and just started writing songs; we had all the songs ready to go. We just went there to record. It was a well-oiled machine, we did a song a day, and we were only there for two weeks.”

Fans will have heard most of the songs before, but there’s a noticeable gleam to even their older tracks. Jimmy agrees.

“We were using the best instruments in the world,” he reflects, “and we played every single instrument on the album, which is mad cause nowadays that’s unheard of (laughs). But we played everything ourselves, between me and Ryan, and Eoin and Cliff who join us live. We were in the right routine – we had an amazing engineering team, everything sounded incredible.

“It was savage too because I’ve heard horror stories with producers who are just like, ‘That isn’t finished yet’ or ‘You need to change this or that’. But Jacquire was like, ‘If you think it’s finished, then it’s finished. It’s your song.’ And him giving us room to do our thing is what makes it sound so raw. It sounds like Picture This. There’s no other band in the world that sounds like us.”

“We were lucky to have commonsense when we went out there,” chimes in Ryan. “As Jimmy says, we met lots of producers in LA, Nashville and New York but we didn’t care about who they’d done previously. We’ve met people who have done the biggest albums in the world, but we didn’t really like them. We just liked Jacquire instantly – and he was a great guy and we knew we’d work well with him. Even if we hadn’t known he’d worked with Kings Of Leon or anything, we still would have went with him because of how much we liked him. It’s funny, because we ended up meeting people who’d produced some of the biggest bands in the world who were fucking idiots.”

Go on…

“I don’t remember specific names,” Ryan laughs.

“Jacquire was just the perfect fit,” Jimmy adds. “We met a guy called Rob Cavallo, who’s done all the Green Day records. He wrote for Goo-Goo Dolls and a bunch of others – like this guy is massive. We met him in Los Angeles and we didn’t talk about music. He triple booked us for a dinner with Jessica Simpson and Diana Ross’ son. Took us down the Hollywood Boulevard and let us drive his quarter-of-a-million dollar Merc, then we went for dinner… and didn’t talk about music – not once.”

“Diana Ross’s son was waiting at the bar the whole time during dinner,” laughs Ryan. “So every now and then he’d get up from the table and go and tell him, ‘I’ll be there in a few minutes.’”

And Jessica Simpson?

“Oh sorry, yeah, she was waiting with Diana Ross’ son the whole time. Billy-Bob Thornton was sitting across from us. It was just the craziest thing, we couldn’t stop laughing to ourselves the entire dinner. But that’s how a lot of it was. We had a lot of producers telling us, ‘I’ve done this, I’ve worked with such and such.’ We didn’t care. We went with Jacquire in Nashville because he was straight with us and said, ‘Listen, I think your songs are great, I’d like to produce the album.’”

FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE

The American venture was evidently a formative experience. While they’d already played several times in the country before, the band got to introduce themselves to a wider audience at South By South West Festival and by arranging a tour in the country.

They then returned to the States in September to perform live to a national audience on The Today Show. Coincidentally, they were booked on right after Hillary Clinton. Did they cross paths with the ex-presidential candidate?

“We were fast asleep back stage man!” laughs Ryan. “We’d played a sold out show in New York the night before and we got back to our hotel at 12. Then the call out for The Today Show was at 4am. So we got there and we knew there was a big buzz and all these celebrities walking by, but the two of us slept through all that.”

Noting that they’re gaining attention in the States, I ask them whether ‘cracking America’ is the next step?

“I think if America is going to happen, it’s going to happen,” shrugs Jimmy. “If it’s not, we’re not going to spend ages picking at it. It has to happen naturally, the same way it happened here naturally. I don’t want to be spending years in America trying to crack it. I’d prefer that if it’s going that way, we’ll be there and we’ll fuel it. If we’re going to be there as much as we are here, then we’ll fuel both sides of it. But I don’t want it to be a thing where we say, ‘Oh we’ve been trying to break America.’”

_image4_

Closer to home, Picture This started September by bagging themselves an Irish No.1 on the first week of their debut album’s release. They’ve been sitting pretty on the Charts ever since.

“I never thought I’d have an album,” says Jimmy, “let alone a No.1 album. Words can’t describe how amazing it is.”

Does it ever give them pause to look back on the whirlwind journey they’ve taken to get here?

“The odd time it kind of hits you and you’re like, ‘Fucking hell’,” laughs Ryan. “When we first started as a band, our manager told us ‘You have to play a gig. It’s great to be online and everything, but you’re going to have to play a gig.’ He told us he’d lined up a gig in Dublin and we said, ‘We’re from fucking Athy! I don’t think anyone’s going to come see us in Dublin.’ Then we sold out the Academy. We were the first band who ever sold out the Academy with their first gig.

“So for us to have a UK tour and a US tour, it’s crazy. But we tend not to sit around and dwell on it. Cause we’re too busy first of all – we’re always thinking about the next thing. If you dwell on it, you’re just going to get overwhelmed and big headed.”

There is a tendency for artists who’ve made it this far to rest on their laurels and feel content with what they have, but Ryan’s attitude suggets that won’t happen to Picture This any time soon.

“For me, anyway – and I know Jimmy is the same – from day one, I was completely confident in the band and the music. I always believed, ‘We will be an arena band.’ So when things started happening, you’ve already seen it in your head so much that it’s almost normal. Not that it doesn’t blow you away because you do appreciate it, but since you’ve seen it so many times in your head, you’re like, ‘Yeah, this is what I was confident in.’

“I expected us to be an arena band and I expected us to be a stadium band. And it’s that thought process which leads us to actually doing that. I don’t know anybody who is at the peak level of their job, whether it be sports or music, who sat around and thought, ‘I’m alright. Yeah, I’m decent.’ It’s a very Irish thought process to talk yourself down; a very Catholic thing. It’s kind of that repressed feeling of being embarrassed for being good at something. I’m sick of that.

“If someone asked me are Picture This a good band, I’d say, ‘Yeah, we’re a fuckin’ great band’, and it’s okay for me to think that. I think Conor McGregor is great for that mentality, I mean he oversteps the mark a bit as well, but I think he’s a great role model for young Irish people to be confident in their ability.”

As they themselves are aware, the Athy lads have also become important for legions of young people in Ireland. Hot Press’ reviewer of Picture This’ album noted that they create “music that resonates deeply with homegrown audiences, which is a testament to their songwriting and performing skills.” A quick glance through Picture This-related posts on Twitter and Facebook would add to that assessment; that songs like the soaring ‘Never Change’ and the infectious ‘95’ are able to resonate on a personal level for countless people. Can Ryan explain that process?

“People tend to forget when they’re analysing my lyrics that I am a writer,” he muses. “Like, I can easily create a story about something that I heard about from someone else, but there is still a piece of me in every song. I wouldn’t write a song that there wasn’t a piece of me in it.

_image5_

“They’re all from experience. There’s a couple of songs that are about one person in particular, then there’s a couple of songs that are about another person, and then there’s some songs that are a general fucking summary of a lot of relationships.

“I left school, I didn’t have a job, I was on the dole until last year. So I was just going out every weekend and having all these experiences and meeting loads of women. Falling in love, falling out of love, meeting new friends and falling out with them. That’s what the likes of ‘Let’s Be Young’ is about – friendships and relationships.

“For me, songwriting’s just completely impulsive. I don’t understand people who say ‘I’m going away for a weekend to write some music.’ I can’t do that. I just can’t do that. Fair play to people who can and who come out with a good song, because I think that’s a very difficult thing to do.

“For me it could be a matter of waking up and there’s a guitar in the corner of my bedroom. I’ll just pick it up and start playing, chords or whatever, and then a song comes from it. It’s not me going and saying, ‘I’m going to write a song today’, because I’ve tried to do that and I can’t. It just has to be a moment, an impulse, and the songs are written based off whatever mood I’m in. See each song has a mood. ‘You And I’ – that’s that hangover mood. You know when you feel hungover and you’re like, ‘Fucking hell I need to do something’? Then ‘Take My Hand’, I wrote that because I wanted to listen to a song about a summer romance that wasn’t a fucking cheesy ’90s power ballad or wasn’t a big dance song either – so I just wrote one myself.

“But they’re all written to relate to everyone. For example, ’95’, my favourite lyric in that song is, ‘I ran down to the Square and held back her hair and she threw up everywhere’, cause there’s a square in every town – there’s a square in Athy that’s the size of this room – and everybody, at one point, has been drunk in that town square with their loved one. That’s why it connects with people.”

DEBAUCHERY

Drunkenness and debauchery seem to be common themes in these songs too…

“Yeah well that comes from experience too,” Ryan shrugs. “As I said to you, I spent three years of my life just doing nothing. Going out every weekend. There was a lot of drunkenness and a lot of experiences with women, but yeah, that kind of writing comes from experience and it comes from listening to my older brother and my friends talk about their experiences.

“I was fascinated by my older brother going out and all the stories he’d tell me seemed fucking crazy to me, so I was going out and experiencing these things too. I’m an introverted person naturally and I think it could be mistaken for ignorance sometimes because people see me on stage and I’m a fucking animal – that’s where I come alive, as fucking pretentious as that sounds. But then people meet me in person and I’m kinda reserved.

“I used to go out drinking so I could chat up girls because I wasn’t confident enough to go up to them when I was sober. That’s why a lot of the stories are about me drunkenly falling in love or meeting someone. Drunkenly making mistakes, because that’s what was happening. I think a lot of people are like that as well.”

Drunken situations – as all musicians know – make for interesting song fodder. And there’s a lot more where that came from.

“We write so much music that we can’t wait to record the second album. As soon as we left Black Horse Studios in Nashville, we were like, ‘What do you want to do about the second album?’ I’ve got about five fucking albums of great songs, not just five albums of fucking shite that we have to pick out of. Good songs. I mean that.

“And that’s our favourite part, recording music and going and playing it. So we’re going to be doing that as much music as possible in Jimmy’s. Then hopefully take it into 2018 and record album two.”

“That’s the key,” Jimmy says, smiling. “People forget that it’s all about making music. Everyone puts out their first album and they will rinse it for two years straight. And then they’ll finish their cycle and go, ‘Right, what do I do now?’ No. Nowadays, you just have to keep releasing music. That’s how you become big. Look at any big band that has had a long career, they’ve released music over and over again. People are too concentrated on trying to manufacture the perfect song. They spend years doing it and then they put out just that. It’s stupid.”

“You can’t do it anymore,” Ryan picks up. “People consume music so quickly. Fucking Drake is only after releasing about ten albums this year (laughs). Do you know what I mean? And at the end of it people are still going, ‘Yeah Drake, but where’s the next one?!’”

“That’s what we want to do,” Jimmy nods. “We want to keep going until someone tells us, ‘Alright lads, you’ve got to stop.’ We can afford to do that now because we’re prolific songwriters and producers. Every single thing on that album was done by us. We’re good enough to keep doing this by ourselves, which is why we can already say that we’re ready to keep bringing out more music.”

The Picture This Army will be delighted…

 

Related Articles

Picture This Announce Release of Debut Album

Their eagerly-anticipated self-titled album will be released on August 25.

Read More

Picture This at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Picture This are taking over the Olympia Theatre with a set of five sold-out gigs.

Read More

Picture This added to Belsonic lineup

The Kildare duo will be the main support act for the 1975 in Ormeau Park on 16 June.

Read More

LISTEN: Picture This debut new single 'Never Change'

The Athy lads bring our their first new song of 2017.

Read More

Picture This Take Song of the Year

They have emerged over the past year as one of the brightest new outfits in Ireland ó so it is gratifying to see them take the Song of the Year accolade

Read More

Picture This - We look back on an incredible year for the Athy Duo

In the past 12 months, Athy duo Picture This have become one of the biggest bands in the country, whilst also sparking a minor revolution in the music business. Not a bad year, all told.

Read More

WATCH: Olaf gets snap happy with Picture This at Eurosonic

Read More

Watch: Picture This cover Ed Sheeran in traffic jam video

The Irish pop rock duo decided to take on one of Sheeran's new song.

Read More

Picture This, Richard Thompson, Gaga, Bastille & DJ Shadow star in Free Music Friday

Gucci Mane, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Elbow & Whenyoung are among the supporting cast!

Read More

Picture This add two more Dublin gigs!

Due to high demand, the Irish band will now perform at the Olympia Theatre for a total five nights in 2017

Read More

Picture This tickets on sale tomorrow!

The band revealed their 2017 tour dates only one week ago. Now, tickets can finally be secured for their UK and Ireland shows!

Read More

In Case You Missed It: Picture This Deliver BIG news for 2017

The announcement came in a creative way over the band's Twitter page the other night.

Read More

Picture This Announce Irish Tour Dates in a Creative Way

The announcement couldn't have been more inviting!

Read More

Picture This - The Secret of their Success

Their rapid rise has been unlike any ever seen in Irish music. As their wild ride heads for Stradbally, Picture This discuss their headstrong approach, their crowd-pleasing style, and why you won't catch them behind a velvet rope any time soon.

Read More

More Great Shots of Picture This in the Hot Press Chat Room

Read More

Picture This - Electric Picnic 2016

Read More

Picture This in the Hot Press Chat Room - Electric Picnic 2016

Read More

Picture This break hearts at EP's Rankin stage

The Athy duo did not disappoint with their Electric Picnic debut.

Read More

Picture This No 1. All Tvvins No2 as they storm the Irish Album charts

All change at the top, as Lisa McHugh completes an all-Irish top three at the summit of the album charts

Read More

Picture This' Self Titled EP Coming Out August

The Viral superstars' debut EP is coming August 12

Read More

Picture This add a third show at Olympia after selling out previous two

Picture This have added a third and final date to their Olympia Theatre stint for later this year.

Read More

Picture This announce second Dublin Olympia show in November

Their first date there is now completely sold-out

Read More

Picture This Drop New Video For 'Let's Be Young'

The Kildare duo have done it again.

Read More

Picture This take Ireland by storm

Though they’ve only officially released three songs, Athy duo Picture This are now selling out major gigs on the back of several viral videos.

Read More

Picture This welcome a whopper of a guest for their latest Traffic Jam

Hint: He was our ginger Christmas cover-star

Read More

Irish band Picture This are Traffic Jamming again- this time with The Coronas frontman!

Read More

WATCH: Irish band Picture This do their own version of Carpool Karaoke with a very special guest

Kildare duo are joined by Christy Dignam to give a beautiful rendition of Aslan’s ‘Crazy World’

Read More
 

Advertise With Us


For information including benefits, key facts, figures and rates for advertising with Hot Press, click below

Advertise

Find us elsewhere