Although historically overshadowed by the music emanating from its more populous neighbor to the east, Ireland boasts an impressive rock and pop tradition, thanks to the indelible legacies cemented by acts such as U2, The Cranberries, My Bloody Valentine, Thin Lizzy, and The Corrs, among many others. And this rich musical canon is destined to continue unabated as a new generation of aspiring Irish artists and bands carry the creative torch for years to come.
One such group is Picture This, who captured the attention of listeners in their homeland and beyond with their chart-topping self-titled debut LP released back in August 2017. Last month, the foursome comprised of Ryan Hennessy, Jimmy Rainsford, Owen Cardiff and Cliff Deane avoided the sophomore jinx with their stellar second studio affair MDRN LV. Co-produced by Jayson DeZuzio (Imagine Dragons, X Ambassadors), along with Hennessy and Rainsford, the album boasts a noticeably more robust and ambitious set of songs than its precursor, all but ensuring that Picture This’ star will remain firmly in the ascendant.
I recently connected with the band’s charismatic frontman and chief songwriter Hennessy to learn more about the making of MDRN LV, the group’s upcoming live gigs, and more.
Justin Chadwick: Congratulations on the arrival of MDRN LV! Considering the success of your 2017 debut album, did you and the band feel a heavy weight of expectation in recording your second album?
Ryan Hennessy: Not at all. I think we were the only ones who didn’t feel any pressure whatsoever, or didn’t even think about the whole second album syndrome thing. It’s a question we get asked a lot and it genuinely didn’t even cross our minds. The only pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves, to constantly improve and better what we’ve done before.
JC: How has the band’s music and your songwriting evolved over the past few years?
RH: When the band started and for the first album, I wrote all the songs on an acoustic guitar which served me very well. But it was also very restricting in many ways, as I’m a very limited guitar player—I only know a few chords. So for this album I was just recording melodies and lyrics into my phone without any accompaniment and then Jimmy would put the instrumentation around it afterwards, which was so freeing and allowed me to be a lot more melodically diverse.
JC: What was it like working with Jayson DeZuzio in the studio? How do you think the collaboration has impacted your sound as a band?
RH: It felt very natural from the beginning working with Jayson. He was a great facilitator for our ideas and he’s a fearless guy when it comes to music. He’s not afraid to take risks which really rubbed off on us. We love how he thinks about music and we are on the same wavelength creatively, we love working with him and will do so again, I’m sure.
JC: Roughly 35 years ago, David Bowie sang about “Modern Love” and the anxiety that comes with trying to make sense of it. How would you define “modern love” in 2019 and what prompted the band to reference this theme for the album title?
RH: Modern love is all around us and it has so much character. It’s a dysfunctional kind of love due to the modern climate we live in, but this album really embraces that and says, “Yeah that’s how it is now, let’s just deal with it. Let’s take the ugly side of love with the beautiful side of love and just work it out.” We are all modern lovers whether we like it or not. Modern love is the color that was missing from those old black and white movies.
JC: Can you talk about the inspiration behind the album’s lead single, “One Drink?” And is one drink ever enough...for anything?
RH: I wanted to make a breakup song you could dance to. There’s a hell of a lot of breakup songs out there and most of them are ballads and very somber, but we wanted to create one that got you moving and got you feeling like this sucks, but we’re gonna be alright, it’s not the end of the world. I hope there’s people cry dancing to this song all over the world. And no, one drink is never enough.
JC: Who would you say are your musical heroes, and why?
RH: We tend to love proper classic iconic bands like Oasis, Queen, The Beatles, Metallica, The Eagles. I think we just love their uncompromising vision as well as their amazing music and we aspire to be like them.
JC: What can fans expect to experience at your upcoming live shows that might not necessarily be captured by listening to the album? And do you plan to tour stateside anytime soon?
RH: The live show always has an extra dynamic to the recording, I think it’s like that across the board for most music anyway. But there’s an energy to our shows particularly that you could just never capture on a record no matter how hard you try. Our live show is a big spectacle, it’s not just another gig. The production, the lighting, the setlist, even the clothes are all thoroughly thought out and created by us to back up the music. We’ve got a US tour that starts in April and goes on until the end of May all over the US and Canada.
JC: OK, last question. In the spirit of Albumism, what are your FIVE favorite albums of all time?
RH: Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die, The Stone Roses’ The Stone Roses, Ben Rector’s Into The Morning, and Owl City’s The Midsummer Station.
SEE Picture This on tour | Dates