An Interview With The German Duo, THE PICTUREBOOKS!
Posted On 10 Apr 2017
It’s not surprising that The Picturebooks record in the same garage where they regularly refurbish and repair motorcycles and choppers. The German duo — Fynn Claus Grabke [vocals, guitar] and Philipp Mirtschink [drums] — captures a raw, rich, and real energy befitting of the room’s natural reverb, industrial aura, and spiritual spark.
Fynn and Philipp first crossed paths at a local skate park. Becoming fast friends, they realized their mutual interests extended beyond skateboarding and into music like The Smiths, The Cure, and Minor Threat. Soon, they began writing songs together, utilizing equipment Fynn’s dad Claus had accumulated over his years as a musician and record producer.
Mirroring their daredevil skateboarding ethos, they broke rules while recording. For starters, there was considerable physical space between the musicians and the microphones, and it wasn’t simply a sterile studio environment. The concrete floors and airy expanse contributed to the sound, and the overall atmosphere proved quite a propos. They even constructed their own instruments to boot. Fynn picked up thrift shop guitars in Los Angeles. Influenced by the tribal sounds of Native American music, the band built custom percussion and augmented their feet with bells. Moreover, Philipp decided to eschew playing cymbals and adopted large Toms, which he bashes with mallets instead of sticks. They conjured true fire in the garage with that astounding, untainted reverb and their personal arsenal of modified instruments.
Ultimately, all of these pieces form a blues-rock pastiche that’s as individualistic as it is infectious. The band signed with Another Century Records in 2016 with their label-debut, Home is a Heartache was released on March 10th.
Learn more The Picturebooks in the following All Access interview:
What are some words you would use to describe 2016 for you and your music? What were some of the highlights? What are you most excited about for 2017?
Fynn: Oh man! 2016 was intense for I think pretty much everyone. Writing and recording “Home Is A Heartache” was the highlight for us of course. About 2017 .. we were most excited about the release of the album, and being able to tour a lot again and play all these new songs live. Philipp and I have been doing this for while now. We would sometimes go to places we’ve never been or played before and sometimes end up playing in a bar in front of ten people or so, still giving everything we have hoping that they like that much that when we come back, they’ll come back and bring a bunch of friends and make that place a little more crowded and stuff. We would keep coming back to these places til we finally sell the club out. We did this a bunch of times in a lot of places and it worked out. This is basically how the Picturebooks work. Word of mouth, social media and all that jazz. So 2017 we’ll continue this, meaning in some places we can finally book shows at the bigger venues and can’t wait to meet more awesome people and of course the fans and friends we already made so far.
Growing up, did you both always want to be musicians? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Could you either of see yourself doing anything else today?
Fynn: We grew up in this small town in the heart of Germany called Gütersloh, just skateboarding and stuff. We both met in the local skate park. We were the only kids looking like we did and pretty much the only ones listening to what we listened to. Stuff like David Bowie, The Cure, Black Flag, Minor Threat, Devo, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges… someday we ended up in the attic of my family’s house where a bunch of instruments were lying around because my dad used to have a music studio up there. We starting writing songs right away and all of the sudden we started playing shows and stuff. We never thought that someday we will be in a band or so. Till this day I can’t play a chord. I tuned my guitar to a self invented open chord at one point and still play it that way.
Philipp: Yeah, me neither. I’ve never had drum lessons. I just went for it. Couldn’t afford to buy more cymbals at some though and got rid of them.
How did you come up with your band name? Was it difficult to narrow it down? What other names were you considering?
Fynn: The promoter of our first show called me and wanted to know the band name because they wanted to print out the posters and flyers. I didn’t even think about it that much and said “The Picturebooks”. We stocked to the name till this day. That’s over 10 years ago I think.
I’d love to know more about you record in the same garage where you regularly refurbish and repair motorcycles and choppers! How does the space work so well for both things?
Fynn: In Gütersloh, there is nothing going on, you know. So we had to come up with something. We rented out this barn next to my dad’s studio where he produces bands and stuff. We were practicing and building or repairing our bikes in that barn. Built a skate ramp outside and slowly built this little paradise in the middle of nowhere. We would help out. In the studio every once in a while and stuff and ever time when there was time recorded the Picturebooks stuff. We learned a lot in these times, especially that our sound can’t really be recorded in a normal, professional music studio. We started laying all the cables into our garage from the studio and set up two microphones, 12 feet away from us to get that sound we’ve always liked so much when we were rehearsing and writing in there. All the reverb you hear on the album is the natural room sound of that garage. We never put a reverb on it afterwards or so. We also feel like that you can hear the motorcycles, tools, parts, smell the gasoline and old oil in way. (Laughter) But that’s maybe just us. We don’t know. A lot of people said that though that they feel that way when they listen to us.
Can you talk about what it has been like building your own instruments? Is this something that has come very naturally to you guys?
Fynn: Well it all started when Philipp got rid of his Cymbeline…
Philipp: Yeah, when they were gone we were looking for an accommodation. When we were in the USA a lot of our Native American friends gave us some of there percussion like this thing you wrap around your hands or feet with bullet shells around it.
Fynn: Yeah and all their stuff inspired us to do something similar, but do it our own way you know. We used the chain that we usually use to lock our bikes with or bashed onto old gas tanks and even wrapped bells around our feet and stuff. Even live I have that around my leg.
You recently released your Another Century Records debut, “Home Is A Heartache.” What is it like working with this label? Why do you think they fit you and your music so well now?
Fynn: It’s awesome. I think we needed some time to be ready for this step. Before that we were always doing everything on our own you know. We still do that but have them to support what we do and stuff. They fully support our interests.
What was the inspiration for the songs on “Home Is A Heartache”? What was it like putting this collection together? What is the album’s current lead single? Have you gotten the chance to perform these songs live yet? What has that been like for you?
Fynn: The whole album is about two best friends being on tour for a long time. We toured for three years straight. Played shows pretty much every day. If we didn’t play we were in the car, plane, ferry or who knows what to get to the next concert. When you’re constantly moving, you start working differently in a way. Home becomes nothing but an ache. This place that only excises in your head or when you look at your phone and FaceTime with your girl. You start changing that place for the better and you are disappointed when you come back for a day or so that it isn’t like you expected it to be. On “On these Roads I’ll Die” I sing, “so many destinations but you never arrive.” That sums it up I think the best. Philipp and I don’t need to do this you know. We do this because we have no plan b in our lives and decided to do it our way or not at all till we die on these roads.
There’s a super rad video for “I Need That OOOH” that we shot in the desert in California. That video means a lot to us after my dad almost died during the shoot after being hit by a car and suffering under severe injuries. We still managed to Finnish the video with him and the help of our amazing friends that we made through skateboarding and choppers.
We will also have a tour video for “Zero Fucks Given”. Other then that we mostly go with the flow. We live making videos because we feel like visuals are very important.
Who are some of your favorite musicians? What musicians would you love to work with in the future?
Fynn: When we developed our sound back when we wrote “Imaginary Horse” we forbid each other to listen to music for 2 years do create a sound our own and not get inspired by other bands. I think that was the most inspiring times of our lives. You get to the core of yourself. I don’t even know if there is anyone that I really want to work with. We make music so differently to other musicians. We never learned it or so and invented all these weird techniques to sound the way we want to sound. We basically had to make everything wrong to make it sound right to us.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs?
Fynn: That’s a good question… I think we’re not trying to make us look better or cooler or anything like that at all. We didn’t create an image or so. We do what we think is right and don’t put motorcycles or skateboarding into our videos or photos because it’s cool or so, we do it because that’s what we do. I think the most important thing in life is honesty and that’s what our music is, honest. Most of the songs are improvisations. Especially the lyrics. So I can’t make my problems or what ever I’m writing about sound better then they actually are, I just scream out what ever is going on in my head. Sounds like I’m making it easy on us because it makes the whole writing process so much faster but I think it’s just very honest.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourselves or your music?
Have fun! Enjoy life! Make or listen to music! Go skateboarding! Go ride motorcycles! Go Vegan!!!