Picture Book are two brothers, Dario Darnell and Lorne Ashley, born in New York City and raised in Manchester. They've been making waves with a live electronic show that combines classic songwriting with straight up dancefloor bombs - check out the warm synthetic fuzz, 4/4 thud and crooning vocals of current single In My Head:
And you can get a free download of the single here
We thought we'd let the lads introduce themselves in their own words, so here we have Picture Book, in loquacious mood, talking us through where they're at and where they wanna be...
How would you describe your sound?
Honest. Bubblin'. Groovy. Funky. But not how funk was described in the 90's & 00's… funky, as in, full of soul, not light and fluffy. Like Fela and James did it. But we're doing it with computers, because we can't afford a 14piece band. It's full of love and groove, everything played live by Dario and I meticulously, everything intended honestly. If we're angry, it'll come out like In My Head, if we're deliriously happy it'll sound like Sunshine.
Where are you at now with Picture Book? What's coming up?
We are we? Where we've always been, man, - writing, recording, gigging, being excited, sharing stupid things with our fans, getting fucked up with our friends. Dario and I have always been adamant that we will adapt to whatever fad is currently controlling the masses online out of necessity, (Facebook, twitter etc) but we'll never stray from our original goal as song writers. As pompous as that sounds, it's true. If it gets picked up by 'labels', 'agents', 'promoters' then thats great. But that's all luck. We'll never chase ratings, we'll never chase taste. Our art will remain untouched by this pathetic celebrity culture we live in. People are smarter than the media allow them to be. There's one book that changed my life this year - We Are All Weird by Seth Godin…. read it. It'll change yours too! No teasing amount of 'celebrity', 'fame' or 'fortune' will de-rail the shuff'lin express. That's our main focus right now by the way, The Shuff'lin Express. It's what we've dubbed our live show. A journey. To bubblin peaks and beyond. :)
You've got a very electronic set up, which you try and replicate exactly live- who does what? And does that allow any room for the tracks to change onstage?
The Shuff'lin Express live show is never the same. It's actually the complete opposite of what you think. It's almost a blank page when we start. Dario plays drums, keys / synths / percussion (and lead vocals on some songs). I play guitars, bass, keys / synths, BV's and DJ. So, everything is played live, on stage, then looped, to create the song. So, everything changes, all the time. No two shows can ever be the same. It's a LOT of work, and sometimes it can get very confusing… but if we're not working for our fans, then why would they bother working for us? The effort it takes for us to set up a show, getting equipment to a venue, erecting the set etc etc is equal to the effort it takes for people to travel to a show, and put faith in you that they won't be wasting their time by coming to see you.
Like I said, people are smart, this 'space bar dj' fad will end very soon, as soon as people get bored by these attempts at hypnotising them with OTT AV shows, where the dj uses smoke and mirrors to confuse their audience while they stand there and twiddle knobs that don't do anything. It's cheating, it's practically stealing in my eyes. What a waste of money for a ticket! We've been lucky in many respects, as we started out playing instruments in bands first, so whatever is written has no button bashing aspects to it. We hardly ever sample, unless its a resample of ourselves. And, in respect to the first part of your question, our studio set up has been changing a lot recently, currently it's lying somewhere between "we hate computers and never want to use one every again" and "we can't live without Ableton, I want MORE COWBELL"…. a never ending battle! (great question btw!)
Here's some footage of the lads putting there kit through it's paces. Someone needs to email this to DeadMau5......
We see your studio is called 'Bicker Brothers' as brothers in a band, do you ever get into screaming, Gallaghere-sque fights? And who wins?
No Gallager fights… But the screaming happens sometimes. As they say, if you're not feeling anything then you're feeling nothing at all. Dario and I, obviously, love each other on many levels, as flat mates, as band mates, work colleagues, best friends, old friends, and as brothers. That's a lot of time we spend together… the arguments make it all worth while. The day we stop arguing, will be the day we know we've stopped caring. Plus, it's a great theme for visiting artists to the Bicker Brother's experience! We have worked with a lot of people in Bicker Brothers, you know, writing songs with people, engineering sessions, and, despite the relapses between the two of us, we've never had a complaint yet! ha
Your Dad fronts legendary post punk/pop act Kid Creole and the Coconuts, would you ever collaborate with him? And what does he make of your music?
Dad has always been proud of our musical efforts throughout the years, but Picture Book especially, as it has a lot of the same relentless punk-esque energy that the very early Kid Creole shows had. YouTube: Kid Creole at the Ritz, in like, '81, '80 and you'll see what I mean.
And as far as collaborations go, we're collaborating all the time. Dario and I recorded the entire "I Wake Up Screaming" album from 2011. It was a 3 year session starting back in 2008, and we're all very proud of it. We have some more ideas in the pipeline too. He's an incredible artist to work with. And again, with Dario, Dad and me in one room, all creating… the arguments flow. It gets the best results. If we aren't throwing chairs at each other then it's not working. Dario and I turn in to Kevin & Perry, "URGH! IT'S SO UNFAIR!!!!" There should be cameras on in those sessions, man.
And talking of collaborations, is there anyone you'd like to work with? And which other producers do you rate in general?
We've been very lucky in that our friends growing up have all turned out to be brilliant artists themselves. Our influences are not necessarily the people we want to work with the most, it's our friends. Love & respect creates the best art, in our opinion. Not desperation and fame. If we spend a few hundred thousand (that we don't have, by the way) to get some no.1 over rated 'producer' to fuck with what we wrote honestly, morphing it to their sound so we can sell a couple of thousands copies, then we've lost our path. We want to help forward art, not continue to stagnate it, as has happened recently. If we keep concentrating on celebrating the same formulas, the same chords, the same nonsense lyrics, then we'll progress no further as a community and no further as a culture. We want no part of that world. Everyone has something to say, but bands are lucky enough to be able to communicate our stories and messages on bigger platforms, and intend to carry that out with an ever evolving journey through experience and learning, thats a responsibility that has been lost recently.
We focus a lot on new artists on SupaJam, as a band on the way up are their any tips you'd like to share with other acts trying to break through?
On our way up? Thank you very much! Tips? I can't do that. Those that can't, teach. It's a feeling isn't it? You know if your going to last or not… And I don't mean break through. Because breaking through has never been an issue for us, that was either going to happen or never happen. We've just always known that we'll be doing this forever. And that's that, you'know? If someone is reading this thats about to start hitting samples on a laptop, trying to be more like Guetta than Burial, then my advice would be to learn the guitar first… Listen to The Beatles, Nirvana… listen to all that angst. There were no laptops then. It's only that extra passion/emotion that humans resonate to for an extended amount of time. Other songs are around for 5 minutes at number 1, or never heard at all. If you write a song from the bottom of your heart with whatever message it may contain, and one person hears it - then thinks about it again in a week/month/years time… then you've won. Oh, and, figure out BEFORE you invest your time and being into it, just what IT is that you want from it. If you answer that with money, fame, women, drugs, etc you're living in the past. If you are willing to give up food, water and a roof over your head (basically your entire mod-con securities of living) to be heard by anybody that will listen, at any cost, then you're starting in the right direction.
Amen to that! For more conviction, heartfelt meoldy and thumoig good tracks you can show Picture Book some love on Facebook here or just see what's happening on their website here