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Parking the conversation

Picture This told David Hennessy about their new album, the whirlwind it has been for them so far, playing for Manchester United legends and when Noel Gallagher kept their iPod.


Kildare rock band Picture This have just released their fourth album, Parked Car Conversations. The fourpiece from Athy have enjoyed consistent success since bursting onto the music scene – via social media – with breakout track Take My Hand in 2015.

They have delivered on the early promise with two chart-topping albums and a third peaking at number two, as well as a string of hit singles.

The Irish World sat down with vocalist Ryan Hennessy, guitarist Owen Clifford, bassist Cliff Deane and drummer Jimmy Rainsford in February this year while they were in London for a photo shoot to chat ahead of the album.

What does Parked Car Conversations mean? There’s something intimate about the conversations that can take place in a parked car, is that what you’re getting at with that title?

Ryan: “That’s exactly it, yeah. There’s a deep intimacy to a parked car conversation, whether that’s with a family member or a friend. It started from conversations we would all have in cars together over the years, especially when we were starting out because being from Athy especially, a rural town: Everyone drives so you spend a lot of time in cars together. I’ve had a lot of life changing conversations in cars over the years and that’s kind of where that came from.”

They can be monumental, those chats that have to be had in the moments after arriving at a destination but before either person gets out..

Owen says: “They can turn into hours sometimes.”

Cliff says: “That’s true. There’s a window of opportunity, I think, when you’re in a car with somebody to say something because it’s a closed space, no one else can hear you. It’s a nice environment as well. We’re chatting here now, we’re facing each other. When you’re in a car, you’re both looking forward and not in direct eye contact. So I feel for me, I’m definitely a lot more open when we’re kind of getting in deep conversation.”

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The band had already released Leftover Love and Call it Love from the album with  Act of Innocence being their most recent single when we chatted to them.

Where did Act of Innocence come from?

Ryan says: “It’s a song really about a naive kind of young love.

“I think you can have young love no matter what age you are, that’s what that song’s about. You can feel young even if you’re old like me, so it’s just about that.

“It’s just about unconditionally throwing yourself into somebody or something.

“That’s kind of how I am as a person.

“I’m either all in or all out a lot of the time, that kind of goes for love as well, so it’s about being just all in with somebody and being kind of obsessed with them.”

Jimmy: “It’s good to balance off each other like that.”

Would you say it’s a song that is representative of the new album?

Jimmy: “I think it is. The content of it at least anyway is that naivety and innocence, of who we are at heart and the kind of people that we are and the kind of people that we grew up being.

“It’s quite familiar in a way.

“That’s going to be the first song on the album and whatever comes after that will kind of follow in the wake, you know?”

Do you feel this one is more mature than your previous albums?

Ryan: “It’s definitely the most mature I would say.

“All the albums really at their heart are about love, I think, and always will be because it’s the thing I’m most interested in in the world from a lyrical standpoint.

“Love is my favourite thing in the world.

“There’s a lot of hurt that then leads to growth that happens when you’re involved with people, whether it’s friendship or relationships or even a relationship with yourself.

“I think it’s really about love and about connection.

“They’re probably the two main themes.”

It was in 2015 that Ryan and Jimmy recorded the song Take My Hand and put it out to social media.

It had soon amassed four million views.

The band were then to play their first show at the Grand Social in Dublin but when that sold out in under 30 minutes, the gig was moved to the Academy.

They became the first band to ever sell out that venue with their debut show.

This was the beginning of Picture This.

Ryan says: “It was a whirlwind.

“I know a lot of artists and people don’t like the ‘overnight success’ label but I think for us, it really was that kind of thing.

“It just kind of took off out of nowhere.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting it, I didn’t know that people were going to want to hear the music or have any interest in us as a band or as people.

“So it was like every day it was a new surprise.

“It’s still like that.

“You never really know how a song’s gonna react or how an album or a tour is gonna go, so it’s like every day is like a real blessing when you get to keep doing what we’re doing.

“In the beginning if you had told me that we were going to go and play the 3 Arena however many times we’ve played it and do all that kind of thing and release albums… I never would have believed it.

“So it definitely has been a whirlwind and still is.”

Jimmy adds: “Everything has exceeded our expectations to be honest.

“Everything that we’ve ever done, and you’re always on the crest of that wave.

“You don’t know what’s about to come.”

Ryan: “For me releasing our first album actually was just a big thing, because like I’m saying, I just never expected that.

“I remember the day of releasing that and that going number one.

“It was just an amazing feeling.

“I think that was the moment where I felt like we were a real band for the first time.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, we have an album out’. That was a big one.”

Jimmy: “Being signed to a record label, all these things you never thought would happen to you.

“You think they’re going to be very glamorous and then when they happen, your life doesn’t change immediately but gradually you see everything else change around you and then all of a sudden, you’re five years into it, ‘Oh my God, my life really did change’.

“It’s endless, every day something can happen.

“And me personally, I have to be ready to appreciate it because otherwise you’ll just let it go by.”

The story of how you came together, first Jimmy and Ryan playing together with the other members joining after and then that buzz building around you so early on.. Was a lot of it chance in a way?

Ryan: “I think it was.

“Yeah, a lot of it is by chance really when you think about it.

“Even just because we’re four people from the same town that are in a band.

“That was the way it was back in the day but nowadays, it’s not.

“Bands and groups are very put together.

“It’s very rare you find nowadays a group of people that grew up in a tiny town and went on to do something like this.

“So I think a lot of it is by chance really and I think that’s part of the longevity as well: We all have a deep understanding of each other because of where we’re from and the type of people we are.

“It would be different if we were thrown together from all corners of the world, I think.

“There’s just a certain authenticity that comes with being from the same area.”

Jimmy: “Us three (himself, Cliff and Owen) knew each other from very, very young.

“We were playing music but not professionally and then when Ryan came along singing out of nowhere, we just kind of took him and said, ‘Right, let’s do it’.”

“I had no choice,” Ryan jokes. “Kidnapping more like”

The band built up to the album release with some intimate shows for small groups of fans both in Ireland and around the UK.

Things taking off for them as suddenly as they did means that such small shows were a stage they feel they missed out on.

“We kind of skipped that when we first started,” Jimmy says.

“But for us to be able to do that again, it’s amazing to go back to smaller venues and actually meet people.

“It’s hard when you’re paying big venues, you don’t actually get to meet the people.

“It’s kind of like you’re onstage and they’re there.

“But we will actually get to meet fans and we want to do it because I think that’s sometimes missing a little bit in the music industry.

“There’s a million other ways you can connect with fans over the internet but actually seeing someone face to face and speaking to them, I think, is still some of the best things to do.

“And to be able to do it all over the UK and Ireland is a dream, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

Ryan: “I think people connect with the music a lot and it has a lot of meaning in their lives.

“They like telling us those stories, and that’s amazing.

“It’s not that we’re celebrities.

“It’s that the band is a celebrity and people love the music that it brings out and we love being a part of that.

“I like that relationship.”

Have there been specific pinch me moments of meeting famous people? What did I hear about you being Manchester United fans and getting to meet some of the great former players?

Ryan: “We were at the Liam Miller Foundation charity game down in Cork.

“Myself and Jimmy had asked for tickets because we just wanted to go to watch the game and then our manager came back and said, ‘Well, they’ve given you tickets and asked do you want to actually play at the night?’

“So we did. We went and played a couple of acoustic songs.

“But we were standing in the hotel waiting for them all to come in and they just all kind of walked in in single file: Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Roy Keane.

“It was the first time I’ve ever felt that feeling.. I felt weak, my body.

“I felt full of adrenaline just by seeing somebody.

“It was crazy so I think for me, that’s always one I go back to in terms of the pinch me moments, it’s always that Man United team because they were who I had on my bedroom walls at home for my whole life. They were my idols and still are so that was incredible.

“We had a great night out with them in the end so it was great.”

You ask for a football on every rider, isn’t that right?

“At least we used to anyway,” Cliff says.

“Until we had like 500 footballs.”

Owen says: “I had a giant box in my mother’s shed at home just full of footballs.”

Ryan: “They went to my football team in the end.”

Ryan lives in London while the other members of the band are based in Ireland.

Ryan, who has lived in London three years, says: “The thing with us is we have a base here and in Dublin so it’s like you don’t really live anywhere.

“We’ve spent so much time in the US, it felt like home for us for a while but we definitely have a great affiliation with the UK.

“It’s been really good to us.

“After Ireland, it’s been so good to us.

“I love it.”

Jimmy, who did live in London but has since returned home, adds: “It feels like a little bit of a second home.”

What was the pandemic like for you? Were there ups and downs or did you just try to carry on as best as you could..

Ryan: “I think there was ups and downs and carrying on through, but it was actually- I know it sounds a silly thing to say but it was really good for us in many ways because it allowed us to slow down and kind of figure out what we wanted to do for the next lifespan of the band when the world was going to come back.

“We wouldn’t have slowed down otherwise because we were just on autopilot: Playing shows, releasing music which was great, but it was a nice kind of reflective period that we had.

“And then obviously it was difficult for all the obvious reasons as well, at the same time.

“I think I’m kind of grateful for that time in a way because it did allow us to kind of reset.

“Yeah, it was a reset that I think was needed and we probably wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for that.”

You ran into Noel Gallagher somewhere. Weren’t you recording in the same studio or something?

Ryan says: “He was in the studio across the way.

“We were working in a studio for a while in Kings Cross and he owned the studio across the way.

“In the vocal booth, there’s a window so I’d be going in to record vocals and you’d see his driver pulling up and dropping him off.

“It’s just crazy because he’s one of my idols.

“We had a song that we thought he would sound good on so we put the song on an iPod and we went across the street and gave it to his driver and said, ‘Can you hand this to Noel? Ask him to play on it’.

“And two days later Jimmy went back over to the driver and asked if he played it for him and he said, ‘Yeah, it sounds finished to him’.”

Jimmy: “I never got the iPod back.”

Ryan: “Yeah, he still has the iPod.

“It was a very polite no, I have to say.

“It was very professional.”

Someone else we have interviewed and that you have been working with is the Irish- born and Ealing- based Etaoin.

“She’s amazing,” Ryan says.

Jimmy adds: “Yeah, she’s a great artist.

“I love Irish talent and supporting Irish talent and it’s everywhere you go.

“We’re always trying to help.

“As much as people have helped us out, we always try and help out people.

“I think it’s important to do that.”

Regarding future plans Ryan says: “We don’t plan on stopping anyway.

“We plan on doing as much as we can and progressing as much as we can because that’s what we want to do.”

Jimmy: “We never know where we’re going.

“We’re just along for the ride really and we’ll take whatever comes.”

Along for the ride in a parked car.

Parked Car Conversations is out now.

Picture This play London on their European tour in October.

For more information, click here.

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