Picture This started with guitarist/vocalist Ryan Hennessy and drummer Jimmy Rainsford. The two recorded “Take My Hand” after Hennessy wrote the song and recorded a rough sample on his phone. After that, the past few years have been a blur, the success and popularity gained after releasing “Take My Hand” led to a record deal with Republic Records, that led to the band releasing their self-titled debut EP. The band toured the world extensively for the release, then they started working on a follow-up album. Last month, they releasedMDRN LV, their sophomore album. Alternative Addiction recently chatted with Picture This’s Ryan Hennessy about the band’s follow-up album, their live show, and why they don’t mind being labeled a pop band.
One of the first things that we talked with Hennessy about was the band switching from a duo, which they appeared to be early on, to the full band that they are now.
“We’ve always been a four-piece band, the other two guys were playing in the band live with us from the very beginning,” said Hennessy about the change of appearance. “We decided to put the guys more forward because when people were seeing just me and Jimmy on posters, people expected us to sound like an acoustic folk kind of band, that’s not what we are. We’ve always had massive full-band kind of songs. We wanted to get rid of that misconception.”
Showing the other two members of Picture This, Owen Cardiff (guitar) and Cliff Deane (bass), more prominently isn’t the only shift. The other notable change for Picture This is the production done for their new album, MDRN LV, vs their self-titled album.
“With the debut we recorded with Jacquire King in Nashville over a six-week period,” said Hennessy when prompted about the production of the two albums. “It was all contained in that time and it was all recorded at Blackwoods Studio in Nashville. It was an amazing time, but for this album we recorded it over the course of a year in my home studio. We worked on it that way and each time we went to Los Angeles we brought the Pro Tools sessions over and we had it mixed. It was quite different from how we recorded the last one. There was more of an adventure. We didn’t go to a certain place for a certain amount of time, we wrote and recorded along the way which made the album a soundtrack to the story of our lives really.”
The band producing themselves isn’t something new. King did a tremendous job with their first LP, but before the band released that album, and that version of “Take My Hand,” they released their own version of the song and it was good too. It’s hard to differentiate between which version of the song is better, but early releases from the band showed that Picture This had some production skill too.
“That’s how we started the band,” said the Picture This vocalist. “We started with ‘Take My Hand’ - we weren’t even a band at that time, I wrote the song and Jimmy had heard it. Then we fleshed it out and posted it online and people loved it. We just kept doing that and releasing songs online. With that first album. it was recorded over a 5-6-week period with Jacquire in Nashville. It was cool to work at your own will; recording and producing whenever you felt like it. That allowed us to be a lot more experimental.”
There’s some experimentation with Picture This, but they don’t ever stray too far away from their core sound of being a pop act. Following the footsteps of accessible alternative/pop/rock acts like Third Eye Blind, Matchbox Twenty, the Goo Goo Dolls and countless others, Picture This doesn’t attempt to be something they’re not. They’re happy writing accessible songs that people can sing along to and they’re perfectly content with being labeled a pop act.
It’s just music that we enjoy listening to,” noted Hennessy of the pop branding that the band has been labeled with. “People are always worried about being weird and being outside of the box and all of that, but we’re kind of perfectly happy inside of the box and being a pop band. We’ve never shied away from that. The biggest bands in the world have been pop bands. The Beatles were a pop band. Queen was a pop band. They are pop but with an integral edge to them. We just realized that there was a niche there as well. It’s just the natural music that we were writing and producing. We just happen to be a pop band.”
Hennessy also talked about some of the specific songs on MDRN LV and what set those songs apart from other material they had worked on when putting them together.
“There’s a song called “If You Want to Be Loved,” that song kick-started the whole sound of this album. I remember when we finished it, listening back, Jimmy said, “I Don’t know if this can be a Picture This song.” That excited me. That was kind of a lifeblood moment for all of us. That’s where we knew where we needed to go. That’s a song that we all look back on very fondly. Then, there’s the title track off the album, “Modern Love,” when we first listened back to that song, we thought that was a special song too.”
With any mainstream act, a big part of why they’re able to gain the notoriety that they do is because their shows are just as good as their albums, if not better.
“Our live show has always been a massive part of the band. We’ve always been renowned for our live show. The songs lend themselves to a big group of people screaming and singing at the top of their lungs. Our first ever show was sold out, there were 800 people there. The ball just kept rolling from there. I think it was refreshing for people to see a pop band playing live and being good musicians with good songs. When you come to one of our shows, It’s a proper show. In Ireland, we play for thousands of people and we put on a massive production. We can’t wait to keep going and bringing that show all over the world. We design everything, that’s something we take a lot of pride in and it’s my favorite part of this job,” added Hennessy.
When Hennessy wrote “Take My Hand” and shared it with Rainsford, they couldn’t have possibly dreamed they’d be where they’re at with the band now. They’re not just full-blown touring musicians, it feels like they’re on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. They’re just a few strokes of luck and a hit away from gaining the momentum that can roll that way for the Irish quartet. Hennessy talked about how Picture This improved from their first album to this one, and you get the sense that their success stops when they’re ready to stop working for it.
“I suppose when we toured the first record, we had done a lot of gigs obviously, but we had started to do a lot of bigger tours and we were starting to play our first arenas. Then, from there last year when we were recording the album, we traveled to L.A. a lot and we spent a lot of time in America in general. We did our own stadium back home and our audience in the UK got a lot bigger. All those things happening to us made us grow up as a band. That was instantly reflected in the kind of music we were making on the new album. It was kind of a gradual thing that happened, but it was thanks to the first album’s success that opened the band up to a whole new world" -aa