Do You Feel O.K?, the latest release by Picturesque on Equal Vision Records, is continuing in a direction like many other artists on the label. Picturesque has more in common with blackbear than with Ray Cappo’s Shelter from 1991.
Duh. It’s 2020 and way past post-hardcore. They are quietly a new brand of DIY, producing and recording without a strong boast for their self reliance or multitasking skill set. Even with disregard for categorization, vocalist Kyle Hollis is a person in tune with his feelings. He and guitarist Zach Williamson explain the latest album and their mindset toward making music.
“Now it’s all kind of water under the bridge,” Hollis says, recalling the album’s themes. “I mean, everything during the time that all this stuff happened, of course it was sort of an emotional turmoil or something that just really weighed on me. But whenever we were writing it, at a later point, everything was comfortable.”
“It was already dealt with,” he expands. “So, I just kind of had to get, like, back in the headspace of it for recordings and all. But, as far as writing, it’s just kind of another song at that point because it’s already been done. It’s just all recollection at that point. Once you’ve already coped with it, I’ve already put up barriers to where it shouldn’t affect me as much anymore.”
They wrote the songs over three years from sessions in California, living and breathing the lives that would ultimately become an indelible mark in time with the record, which they finished with original drummer Cole Clark at Sightglass Sound in Lexington, Kentucky.
“That’s what Kyle was talking about,” Williamson says. “Once we got to the recording process, some of these songs were a year or two years old for us. So it was really like diving back in and making it fresh again. We’d lived with them for a long time, and we kind of knew what we liked and didn’t like about them—what needed a fresh perspective and what we really wanted to lock in forever.”
He details how some songs happened quickly.
“Yeah, ‘Day by Day’ was written in the 11th hour. We wrote that on the last day of writing before tracking. I think we wrote that and kind of walked right in and laid it down. I think our engineers had already left for the day. Kyle, Dylan and I sat in there and tracked it all.”
As a lyricist and a songwriter, Hollis keeps things straightforward and records his daily life.
“Just kind of whatever I’m feeling at the time,” he says. “Anytime that I’m upset or just have something that’s like weighing on me, I come home and I open up my recording stuff and sit down with it and record what I can. Then of course, I take it to the guys. So, it just depends, like getting laid off as an essential worker. I was pretty pissed, so I started writing some more stuff around that, which sounds ridiculous, but it’s just a little bit of whatever I’m going through at the time. And right now things are peaceful, slow, so I just write songs about literally being bored.”
They aren’t afraid to mix their roles in music or the band without calling what they do DIY; They just do it all themselves and strive to avoid labels. Hollis feels more like a “hype man,” less like a vocalist. Williamson thinks of himself less as a guitarist and more as the band’s producer.
“Man, I don’t really write guitars for the band, honestly. I don’t,” Williamson says. “Kyle and I are a vocal team. I kinda operate in a producer capacity where the guys and I trust each other a lot. We all trust each other a lot. I guess I kind of tend to steer the song creatively and vibe-wise. I make a lot of suggestions to the overall production, you know, tweaks is what I do, and a lot of vocal melody type stuff. Dylan is kind of like the one-man guitar show; I don’t even think of myself as a guitar player. I was telling James, our drummer today, I was like, ‘I forget that I know how to do that.’”
“It’s a skill I learned when I was like 13, and I haven’t gotten any better or worse at it,” he says. “It’s just something I’ve been able to do. And so I never even think of myself as a guitar player. So now, I work more of a production capacity.”
On the current trend of music, their latest record fits in comfortably among other albums from Equal Vision Records. Like Tim Henson of Polyphia, who volunteered that he is a producer whose playing comes first, yet nonetheless a producer.
“Guitar first, the instrument, I think a little of both, things that come straight from your hearts and hands, your mind—those tend to be the best things.” Henson explains. “We kind of just do like really intricate trap beats. We just play them on real instruments.”
Picturesque exists very much in this vein of multitalented and continually learning musicians who write, play, produce, and execute their vision with little regard for boundaries between roles. They are using quarantine time for creativity, from experiencing new things in life to banging out new riffs, to becoming more proficient in Logic Pro X. The importance isn’t solely on one thing, it’s on a message as a whole. Once that tale is told, Hollis is on to writing the next thing and Williamson is on to building, producing, and performing. He’s also using isolation time to physically construct a studio in his renovated attic for smaller projects.
“As soon as I get up it up and running, I’ve got the time to do it,” Williamson says. “I’ll probably be working on music myself and, who knows, the band, if we decide to do an acoustic cover or something like that we all have the means now to just kind of bust it out. We have the time now, we could do it super fast right now, ’cause we have the time to do it. I’ve already gotten a phone call. They want us to start working on some other projects right now. So, I mean, I’m sure it will be back to work in the studio really soon.”
Picturesque carries a fresh, white-hot torch. They are DIY in a youthful, tech, and quarantined way. The tools and the toys used to make music are getting infinitely more cost effective and higher quality. Equipped with stronger ways of communicating— FaceTime, Thunderbolt cable, and Bluetooth rather than soup cans attached with string, XLR, or tiny telephone cables— they’re not forwarding the post-hardcore genre; they’re separating the rockets that put them in their space, and continuing to take the shuttle to new heights, an orbit they’ll find in Williamson’s attic studio.
Purchase a copy of the album here.