The Picturebooks are one of those bands that have been around forever but unless you’ve gone out of your way to find them, they’ve probably passed you by. We caught up with the German stoner rock band whilst on tour supporting Monster Truck across Europe. Whats instantly striking about the two piece is just how refreshingly laid back they are and as we’re about to find out, that’s exactly how they like it.
We catch the guys relaxing in their dressing room between soundcheck and going on stage and they make us feel immediately welcome. Firstly, we think the name The Picturebooks is catchy as hell, but we wanted to know just how Fynn Claus Grabke and Philipp Mirtschink came up with it. “Man I’d love to tell you the raddest story right now,” says Grabke with a laugh. “Something about pictures showing you so much, but that’d just be a lie,” The real story of the bands name is just as laid back as the guys playing style, as Mirtschink explains.
“Well the whole thing got very interesting and we decided we should play some shows. So we got offered a show and the promoter called us to say he was pulling the flyers together and he didn’t even know our name,” he says, with Grabke adding “and in that moment I just replied with it’s The Picturebooks,” and the rest as they say, is history.
Next up we obviously had to check in on how the tour has gone so far and Grabke is happy to oblige us. “It’s been outstanding, every show has been sold out which is crazy,” and they’re obviously enjoying being on tour with Monster Truck themselves as Mirtschink tells us “You never know when you’re the support act what’s gonna happen but the guys in Monster Truck look out for us and make sure we get treated right. Take tonight for example, we have our own dressing room and can make ourselves a cup of tea which is great,”
The shows to date have been electric and the guys couldn’t single out a particular show as their favourite. But Grabke did have this to say “so far every show has been fucking awesome! We played in Ireland for the first time which was great. Maybe the last two shows have a slight edge but just because we’ve been playing a lot of new songs and we’ve just managed to get comfortable with the set.”
With the guys only recently releasing their latest album ‘Home Is a Heartache’ and playing a lot of those tracks live for the first time, it’s understandable that they might not be completely comfortable playing them. So we asked if they had a chance to get much practice in before heading out on tour. “We should have!” exclaims Mirtschink, before Grabke explains “we were in the states shooting a video and then we got back and had like two weeks to prepare the whole tour.”
Mirtschink then throws in an extraordinary comment. “We don’t practice at all though, that has a lot to do with it. We’re not really musicians,” which sends us all into hysterics. Grabke explains further “The way we approach music is different,” which only makes us even more intrigued so we push him for answers. “Well, first up I can’t play a chord and I’m the guitarist of the band!” And now we’re completely engrossed, and unsure if Grabke & Mirtschink are taking us for fools.
Fortunately Grabke is more than willing to explain all for us. “When we started making music it was a completely different idea, we don’t even really consider ourselves a band,” he says. “We’re just two best friends who use this as a creative output. But the way we approach it is completely wrong in the eyes of a musician,” and now we’re starting to understand their meaning. “We had to do everything wrong to make it sound right, inventing different techniques. I have this open tuning that I just press and it’s like wow! See, I can play guitar.”
Grabke isn’t alone in his individual playing style as he continues by discussing his partner in crime, Mirtschink. “Take this guy, he used to play cymbals, but when you see him play it’s like animal from The Muppets. He just destroys the drum kit, there’s blood everywhere and we go through several drum kits on every tour.” Now, we’ve heard of bands damaging their instruments in the line of duty but never to this extent, and as the guys tell us, it hasn’t always gone down well.
“There’s this rad story, this one company sponsored us and in one week we had to call them every day to ask for new kit,” Mirtschink continues “After a month or so they literally cancelled the deal because they didn’t want to keep giving me new kit, I’m not even going to mention the company’s name.”
Moving on to their new record, Grabke tells us how nice it was to be in their hometown when the album dropped. “We were hanging out in our local cafe back in Gutersloh which was nice because we’re hardly ever home. And all of a sudden we got a bunch of messages telling us congratulations on the release through our socials and voicemails and stuff and it was heartbreaking in a weird way. It was like waking up and it’s your birthday.”
Now, it may surprise you, it certainly did us, but The Picturebooks have been around for almost a decade. Grabke tells us how the project affected his schooling back then. “I signed my first record deal when I was 17 and Philipp came to pick me up from school and we drove to Berlin to sign it,” obviously signing a record deal at that age and playing shows eventually took it’s toll, as Grabke explains.
“I tried to carry on but at some point the principal literally kicked me out because I was so tired all the time from playing shows. I did finish though at evening school because I promised my grandparents I would,” He also remembers his graduation so to speak with fondness. “I remember picking up my graduation certificate having played a show in Prague and then having to travel back to Germany which is an 8 hour drive to get it. We then went straight back on tour.”
When playing shows, the guys have a very simple philosophy on expansion as Grabke explains. “In the US we started out in playing a tiny show in California and luckily the promoter loved us. So the next time we went back we played to a bigger crowd, and the next time even bigger. Until gradually we’d sell out a venue and have to book a bigger one and so on and so forth. Now we’re here supporting Monster Truck.”
For anyone who might follow the bands socials you may have noticed the guys do love a good motorcycle, in fact they build them from scratch. Luckily they let us in on a pretty fun project they’re due to embark on soon. “We build choppers and it’s become kind of serious these days. We’ve won contests and stuff,” Grabke tells us, and this has attracted the attention of none other than Harley Davidson.
“So Harley Davidson contacted us and were like, ‘do you want two bikes?’ to which we said yes, obviously,” so they’ve customised their own Harley’s and are going to be riding them around Europe while on tour. We don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty close to the dream tour to us.
Bringing the interview to it’s conclusion, we asked how long we might have to wait to see The Picturebooks back in the UK and luckily for us it’s not long at all. “We’ll be back for Desertfest very shortly, and we’ve got a lot cool things to look forward to so stay tuned,” Grabke informs us.
It has been an enlightening insight in to the world of a band who’s take on all things musical differs from the majority of bands in some drastic ways. Whats refreshing to see, though, is that after more than 10 years of playing shows, The Picturebooks remain as enthusiastic about their music as they were in the beginning.
If you’re at Desertfest make sure you get down to see The Picturebooks headline The Underworld on the Friday night. Their latest record, ‘Home Is a Heartache’ is out now.
Source: Punktastic – Radar