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The Picturebooks Prepare Take To Road With ‘Imaginary Horse’

Courtesy photo

When it came time for The Picturebooks to record a new album, the band decided to retreat to a place that was familiar—guitarist and vocalist Finn Grabke’s garage. Filled with motorcycle parts, tools and other familiar trappings, the room also offered Grabke and drummer Philipp Mirtschink plenty room to stretch out. That allowed them the chance to capture the sound of the room, which made for a much airier sound on the record.

“We put up two microphones in front of us, like 12 feet away from us and just played live the way we always heard it," Grabke explains. "It turned out to be the perfect way to do it because it sounded just like we wanted it.”

Much of the new album, Imaginary Horse, was inspired by time the band has spent in Southern California over the last few years. Grabke says that seeing the United States firsthand was much different than he imagined it back home in Germany.

“When I was a child I thought America was a mixture of New York and Texas," he says. "It had all these towers and then on the ground people would all have guns and drive pickups. This was childhood, I didn’t know.”

Visiting Southern California—or SoCal as Grabke calls it—served as a kind of pilgrimage for him and Mirtschink. They’re longtime skating enthusiasts and being in the birthplace of the sport was particularly inspiring.

“We met through skateboarding we got to music and doing this kind of music through skateboarding," he says. "And all that stuff happened in SoCal, so it was always a dream. That’s a common thing to say, ‘It’s a dream to be out there.’ But it’s a different kind of dream that we’re talking about here. It’s not like we’re trying to be movie stars.”

Both band members build and ride motorcycles and continue to skateboard to this date. Well, most of the time.

“At the end of the day we’ve got to play a show, so we can’t break an arm and say, ‘Let’s cancel the whole tour. Just because you were being stupid.’ That’s why we try to avoid skateboarding and riding motorcycles on tour,” he says.

The group’s current tour is its second stateside and Grabke says that travelling in the U.S. has brought some surprises.

“You guys just work differently," he says. "As a band, when you play in Europe, especially in Germany, there’s just some things that are normal for every club and every band. You will always get catering. When you come there you will have lunch with everyone who’s working there, all the crew, and all the people working on the show. After that you start setting up. There’s a before show dinner and an after show dinner. If you get used to that it can bug you if you go to another country. And here it is more like, ‘Yeah, well, see what you can find.’”

And, despite being on the road back home and here in the U.S. for much of the year Grabke and Mirtschink remain the closest of friends.

“There’s basically nothing that can separate us, we hang out every day, even if we’re not on tour," he says. "Our girlfriends hate it because they’re just, like, ‘Can’t you guys just hang out with us.’ And we’re like, ‘Can’t we just hang out all together?’”

Imaginary Horse, the latest release by The Picturebooks, is out October 7. The band performs at Rock Island Live with Skychief Friday night.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.