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Interview: Pictures Of Then
August 20, 2009
And The Wicked Sea, the sophomore release by the Minneapolis band Pictures
of Then goes firmly against the current strain of writing music to be
consumed in small, single-sized chunks. It is a full-portion of glammy ’60s-style
pop with touches of psychedelia and modern bombast, meant to be heard from
beginning to end. Front man Casey Call kindly answered some questions for
The Voice of Energy about the inspirations behind the band’s latest album
and making music in a town that spawned the likes of Prince, Husker Du and
The Hold Steady.
The record has a really cohesive feel – as if it was written as a complete
piece of work instead of in bits and pieces. Did you intend it that way?
It wasn’t as much of an intention as it was a realization. I wrote most of
the songs around the same time in my life and I think they just naturally
reflect where my thoughts were during that period and also where the band
was at as a whole. After we started making the album we began to realize
that there was a common thread that seemed to flow from song to song. We
didn’t really plan this. We just noticed that it existed so we embraced it.
This was when the whole idea for the album name really started to come into
The only real forethought we had in making the album was that we wanted the
songs to seem believable, not overproduced or contrived but just honest and
real. To do this we recorded all of the songs as live takes with all of us
in the same room, and we were very strict on one thing – if we couldn’t pull
it off live we didn’t record it. As we began to sift through all of the
material that we had to decide what songs would be on the record, I think we
started to become aware of a fiber that existed in some songs but not in
others. It’s really hard to put my finger on what that was exactly, but at
the time it was a very organic thing that came about in the studio, we
simply kept the songs that felt like they belonged and cut the ones that
So many of the songs feel like they are wrapped up in this idea that things
are awful now, but better times are just around the corner – where did this
I think the tone of this record comes in part from experiencing loss and
disappointment on a personal level and drawing parallels between that and
things going on in the world outside. When you lose someone close to you, or
you try and try to achieve something but it just seems like you never really
get anywhere, (or at least not where you expected), it’s easy to feel
hopeless. I often look at the world around me and remind myself that for all
of the great injustices that happen every day – there is also great beauty
and that life is a gift. Some of the songs on this album are definitely
permutations of the thought that no matter what loss or heartache I may
experience, there is always something to be thankful for if I’m willing to
Pictures Of Then is from a town that has a very storied musical legacy
(Prince, Husker Du, Soul Asylum, etc.). Do you take a lot of inspiration
from those local groups like that?
I don’t think we draw influence from any specific Minneapolis band, however
we are very aware of Minneapolis’s contribution to rock and roll. I think
the great Minneapolis bands of the past, and present for that matter, have
helped shape one of the most vibrant music scenes in the country. Our band
really feeds off of the energy of the local scene, so we absolutely have to
pay homage to the great bands that have come before us.
With the ease of access to music on the Internet and people’s short
attention spans when it comes to pop culture, does that make your job easier
or harder to make a name for yourself?
Being a somewhat newer band, we can’t speak about the “good ol’ days” of
distribution, so I’m not sure if we can answer whether it makes it harder or
easier to make a name for your band. While the Internet has certainly been
a huge help for us, nothing beats being out on the road and putting on a
good show. I feel like the bands that dwell on music being shared online are
being very shortsighted. The industry is changing, and you have to roll with
the punches. I think the bands that will survive the digital revolution
will be the ones that are flexible, and embrace change. While we’re
utilizing the Internet, we’re also banking on the fact that people will
always want to see a great live show.
What is next for the band–any plans you’d care to divulge?
Heading back out on the road is our top priority right now. This past
summer we stuck closer to home playing festivals like Summerfest in
Milwaukee and Des Moines Art Fest, plus focusing a lot of time and energy on
our home markets (Chicago, Minneapolis, and Des Moines) as we prepared for
the release of the album. With the summer festival schedule coming to a
close, and our album being official release as of August 4th, we are excited
to head back out on the road. Both West and East coast tours are on our
agenda, but first we’ll be hitting up some Midwest markets including
Chicago, Nashville, Austin, Kansas City, tentatively planned for November.