The Picturebooks have just released their sophomore album and Another Century label-debut, Home is a Heartache. The German duo featuring Fynn Claus Grabke (vocals, guitar) and Philipp Mirtschink (drums) takes listeners on a gritty rock and roll journey with each and every track. Songs like “I Need That Oooh” and the brand-new “Wardance,” have that classic element of blues and rock while giving off a modern twist that makes their sound entirely addicting.
Aside from the music, everything from their unique creative space to their self-made instruments puts The Picturebooks at the top of the list of bands you need to know. AXS did a Q&A with them prior to their album release.
AXS: First, tell me about your recording setup?
Fynn Claus Grabke: Well, we’re from a very small town in the heart of Germany called Gütersloh; there’s not much going on there. We had to come up with something or we would have either died or ended up in some kind of nine-to-five job for the rest of our lives, which to us is the same. So, after Philipp and I met at the skate park, we started this band; practiced in the attic of my family’s house, played our first gigs and realized that this is something that could work out. We rented out this barn on this farm outside of Gütersloh, where my dad already had a studio where he would produce bands, and we would help out every once in a while to learn a bit more about this stuff. We ended up taking the barn right next door and built a little garage in it to build and repair our bikes. We built a skate ramp outside so we could skate whenever we wanted to and we started writing new stuff in that garage next to all of our [things]. Motorcycles, motorcycle parts, tools, the smell of gasoline and old oil, skateboards lying or hanging on the walls everywhere, paintings of friends or from myself, instruments like guitars and stuff but also some of the self-made percussions that we built or some of our Native American friends built and gave to us. Being around all this stuff, setting up in the middle of the room with just two microphones 12-feet away from us, and just going for it; seems perfect to us.
AXS: How does the music scene in Germany compare to the music scene in the U.S.?
FG: It’s completely different. Industry-wise, things have to be planned out a lot earlier and more precise when it comes to booking shows or anything release-wise and stuff. In the U.S. things are a lot more spontaneous. Germans in general always expect things to turn out the way they are planned, where Americans always expect that something might still change. We had to get used to that. I remember arriving at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach which is our most favorite club in the world at like 3 p.m. to set up and sound check. There was this one lady behind the bar that didn’t know what we were doing there and didn’t get what we were about. She said bands usually arrive like 10 minutes before showtime. We kind of didn’t care and just went for it anyway. We still are doing it like that all the time when we tour the U.S. because we think it’s just fair for the audience to have a nice sound and stuff. After all, they paid an entrance fee and stuff. Back in Germany, that’s normal. Even when you’re the smallest band, you will get a rider with a schedule and stuff; everyone will have catering. Most of the time we would have dinner with everyone that works at the club and talk about how things will be this night and what, and who, everyone is, and is doing. There’s a green room in every club with drinks and food. We often were treated [differently] touring in the U.S. or U.K., where it is similar. The scene though is pretty much the same. After all, people are all the same.
AXS: What’s the ride been like since you signed with Another Century Records?
FG: Great, we feel very honored to be with a label like that; we can’t be happier. Being in The Picturebooks, touring all over the place, all the time, trying to talk to as many people as possible after the show by our merch booth, using all the socials and all this jingle jangle will only get you so far, you know? We needed something like Another Century to push it to that next level, so to speak. We’re very thankful for that.
AXS: Tell me about your label-debut, Home is a Heartache?
FG: Well, Home is a Heartache is pretty much the product of being on the road for three straight years and pretty much playing shows every day.; it was really intense. When we arrived after our last show, it was kind of a weird feeling not having a show ahead of us for the first time in years. We immediately loaded everything out of our van into the studio and started writing and recording about all this stuff that happened on tour that we so far didn’t have the chance to really think about and understand. A lot of the stuff on the album is improvisations, like the lyrics are mostly improvised. It’s probably the most honest way to write lyrics because I just say whatever I feel and all of a sudden there is a song like "Zero F*cks Given," or "Wardance," or "Cactus." The last song on the album is called "Inner Demons" and it’s about my severe panic attacks that I developed on tour somehow. I was really stressed out at some point and things just got to my head. I was getting them on stage too and stuff; it was horrible. I told Philipp about it and that we should do a song that kind of feels like a panic attack rather than me singing about one. So, we just went for it; hit the record button, and just started playing without knowing what the other one will do and used the first take. All in all, Home is a Heartache is about being away from home.
AXS: What’s next for you guys?
FG: Touring, a lot of touring. We will also do a lot of touring on our bikes. Riding to the festivals and clubs on our bikes, playing the show and jumping back on the bike and hitting the road.
For more on The Picturebooks, you can head to their website. Home is a Heartache is now available for purchase.
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