"We aren’t letting the highs get too high or the lows get too low" - Zach Williamson
Tomorrow (April 24) Picturesque release their sophomore album 'Do You Feel O.K?' via Rude Records/Equal Vision Records. An ambitious and unique collection of songs dipped into as many different pools of inspiration as possible, it's the sound of a band having fun with the music they're making and letting their creativity flow as far as it can possibly reach.
We chatted to guitarist Zach Williamson about how the band reached the point where they knew they could make an album like this...
It’s been three years your debut full-length ‘Back To Beautiful’ was released, but you guys have never really stopped making music and moulding your sound. What have those years been like from your side and how do you feel as though they have affected this new album?
"I don’t know how everybody else makes records, but when we make them we storyboard. We go around and say ‘What do you want from this?’ So we say how we want this kind of bridge in one song and we want this kind of emotion in one song. On the first record, we nailed a lot of our rock references that we wanted to incorporate, but not a lot of our pop references. When we were trying to do the pop side of things it would peak out, like in ‘Fake Fiction’ for example. We made little attempts at it, but we just weren’t that good at executing it.
“In the three years since, we’ve been really honing in on our variety. We’re trying not to release the same thing over and over again. Our first pivot was our cover of blackbear’s ‘Do Re Mi’. From there we saw that we could do things in a lower register and Kyle [Hollis, Vocals] could sound good delivering more of a low aggressive pop vocal. So then we went and made ‘Dead Flowers’ out in LA and that’s where we realised that we really could start to do things a bit more pop, throw in a little bit of RnB and still being a guitar band. It’s been a long sweeping turn.”
It must be take a bit of pressure off when you’re able to experiment with these things with a song that’s not strictly yours. Like having a song like ‘Do Re Mi’ to test the waters must have really helped develop this side of you.
“Absolutely. But when you look at the album as it is now, there’s actually heavier stuff on this record than there was within our old stuff. It’s funny how that’s turned out. The thing is that despite the new influences and the pop-leaning ideas, we’re heavier than we’ve ever been as well! There’s way more of everything on this record.”
Has that desire to play around with things influenced how this record sounds lyrically?
“First off, Kyle and I have become my favourite song-writing duo. I’ve worked with a lot of people but I happen to like working with our vocalist the most. It’s awesome. I couldn’t ask for anything better. Lyrically, Kyle trusts people a lot more than he used to. You can talk to him in the writing room now and he will listen. We’ve cultivated this trust over the last five years and he knows that I’m not going to steer a song in any particular direction. It’s his song and his voice and his direction and his story. He knows that I’m not going to turn the song away from what he’s trying to say ever.
"What we want to come across is that Kyle is talking to you rather than singing to you, so we use a lot of 3rd/4th grade language purpose just so things don’t sound forced. If you were talking to Kyle you would never hear him saying any of the things he said on the last record in real life. You would never hear him say ‘These monstrous things, that we dream in our sleep’ in real life, you would hear him say ‘She said she loved me, but she doesn’t’.”
That’s such a simple but effective thing within the storytelling within your music.
“Yeah, absolutely. We made sure that the lyrics were raw and like they were literally coming out of Kyle’s mouth as opposed to him just singing at you. Though when you give that amount of care of time to the vocals, you have to go back and give the same amount of care and time to the guitars. So when you hear Picturesque on record you’re basically hearing Kyle’s voice and Dylan [Forrester]’s guitars and I’m the lion tamer in the middle with a whip keeping it all together.”
So in terms of writing, this was pretty much the opposite of the last record in terms of how it was formed?
“Yeah, we took our time. Well, we wrote a lot of songs before we went into the studio last time but we would be surprised if there was a song that was actually ready or good enough. Erik Ron [producer] didn’t change anything about them when we expected him to. That left us in a weird zone where we thought these songs would be changing dramatically and they just didn’t. So with this record we wanted to come in with much more of a complete picture. We’re notorious for reworking a song four times. ‘Monstrous Things’ was reworked four times. ‘Speak Softly’ was reworked four times, all in different recordings as well.”
So taking that time and building these songs into something more complete, that must have resulted in a lot of very honest and very deep conversations? Did something feel different from times before?
“I don’t really know. It always feels strange the way that things shake out. Sometimes you know it’s all going to work out and sometimes you know if something is trash. As far as it felt making the record, we had geared ourselves up for something so high stakes, and then when we went in there and listened to the songs, that’s when things started getting really apparent. The thing is, this wasn’t a hard record to make until the very end. It was one of the best studio experiences we had. We weren’t stressed. We weren’t freaking out about every part and micromanaging it.”
Though overall, it's apparent how much fun are having making music together.
“Basically on the first record it was much more of a compound thing. Kyle had been in a relationship which got broken off in the weirdest way. It was a very strange time. He was losing weight, his immune system was bad, loads of stuff. Then we made the first record and he got everything off his chest. That’s where ‘Back To Beautiful’ comes from. After he was done he looked healthy again. So then on this record you have a very different Kyle. He’s wearing a Supreme bag and acting more silly and watching The Office. So there are dark undertones on his album, but for the most part you’re dealing with a very different person. The band works as a really good backboard for that.”
So, how do you feel that Picturesque is different in 2020 to who you were in previous years?
“There are simply two things; I think that we are a lot more confident and also we aren’t letting the highs get too high or the lows get too low.”