Team Picture talk walking cats, Psych and Art Rock

Team Picture

Team Picture’s stock is growing with new album The Menace of Mechanical Music getting a lot of acclaim, we caught up with guitarist Josh McCarthy to find out more.

We first came across Team Picture from one of those kind of circuitous routes. Like those internet wormholes you find yourself descending as one link leads to another and then another, and before you know it you don’t really remember how you got there.

What we do know is the band get Track One (Back To Bay Six) on the Leeds-centric compilation Come Stay With Me and Lucy Jowett of Dead Naked Hippies cited the band as one we should be listening to right now when we spoke to her a while back.

So, that’s good enough for us. If Lucy says they’re good, then they’re good.

The band’s track on Come Stay With Me is an infectious piece of dance / indie disco / synth pop. It’s a great introduction to the album.

On the strength of Back To Bay Six, we decided to check out Team Picture’s most recent release – their first full length album – The Menace of Mechanical Music. The title in itself is intriguing and that, too, set us off on a dig around Google. But we’ll get to that later.

Part Kate Bush, part The Cure, part Stealing Sheep and, obviously, quite a lot Team Picture the album is a sophisticated piece. It ducks and dives around soft vocals, synths and sparse guitars, but all the while keeping you intrigued as to what comes next. It’s a classy piece of work.

Here’s what Josh had to say on the phone:

P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?

Josh McCarthy: I’m currently walking my cat around my garden. She’s mainly an indoor cat, but kind of more like a dog, really. She just follows me around. It’s one of those rare moments when you want to get out of the house – here’s a reason to do it.

P3dro: I first came across you band on the Come Stay With Me compilation, so tell me a little bit about the band.

JM: We’re from Leeds, although 4 of us are actually from Wakefield. We released our first song in 2016. We’ve had a few line up changes since then. We’ve released a bunch of independent singles, in 2016 and 2017. Then we released a mini album called Recital in 2018. Then, last month we released our debut album – The Menace of Mechanical Music. We did that through our friends, Clue Records.

That’s a quick bio – all the major bullet points of what we’ve done.

P3dro: Is there any kind of ethos behind the band? Any kind of style? Anything you’re trying to say?

JM: It depends – song by song – we’ve kind of been on a musical journey. When we first started, “psychedelic” was a fashionable word to describe music – we were a bit more guitar based. Now we’re a bit “softer”, we’re a bit gentler, here and there.

We’ve experimented with texture a lot and we’ve tried to be as broad with our various different influences as possible.

We’ve made a concerted effort to try not to fit in.

P3dro: Doing a little bit research, I saw one website described you as an “Art-Rock” Band. In a sense, all music is art, but does that [description] make any sense you at all?

JM: It’s a kind of funny term. In my mind, it usually means a bunch of white kids, making music that’s kind of unfashionable, but doesn’t neatly fit into any category. Really, it could mean anything. As I said, “psychedelic” was a fashionable term a few years ago; it seems like in a lot of music journalism people like to fall back onto terms like that.

The arts are massively broad. It could mean anything. So, who knows? I’m not gonna start shouting from the rooftops: “Please don’t call us Art-Rock, or whatever”. But when you think about it, it is quite a weird term. All music is art.

P3dro: Well, it’s people looking for pigeon holes.

JM: I’m not against that, necessarily.

Team Picture

P3dro: If you think the term “psychedelic” applied to the band when you were younger, do you have any have any favoured description, now?

JM: Usually, we just make up silly terms. We don’t really stop to think about how would you describe [our music]. Last time, I think we described it as “Lurch Pop”. There are a bunch of tracks on the album that have an internal Lurcher on there. It seemed like the best way to describe it.

But I’m not super bothered about coming up with a super-iron-clad way to give someone an [indication] of what to expect.

P3dro: How did you get involved with the Come Stay With Me compilation?

JM: One of the first releases we did was through Come Play With Me [the label that released the compilation]. They have done, and still, split 7″ releases. The whole ethos of their releases is to try and pair bands that are not necessarily similar in sound, so you end up with a split 7″ where one side is quite different from the other. We released a song called Back To Bay Six on a 7″ with Come Play With Me in, I think, January 2017. Tony [Ereira] who runs the label has been a really big supporter of us, pretty much since our inception. He also runs Clue Records, who we have released through.

He’s been really important in our development, so when he asked us if we wanted to contribute a song to the compilation, it was a no brainer. And then, our friend Chris, who had helped us record some bits of Back To Bay Six – one day during lockdown, he just sent us this absolutely banging remix, which was completely unexpected. But it lined up really nicely, so we thought that should go on the compilation.

It’s a nice full circle kind of thing, because we released the original song as a 7″ with Come Play With Me and now there’s a mad dance remix on the compilation.

P3dro: Tell us about the album, we take it that it was studio recorded pre-lockdown.

JM: Yeah, it was actually done January / February 2019. We sat on it a bit to make sure everything was going to be right with it – the aesthetic of it, the imagery, the artwork.

The Menace of Mechanical Music

The name of the album is inspired by an essay by John Philip Sousa, a marching band leader, from 1906.

P3dro: Yeah, we’re aware of that [we Googled it before speaking to Josh]. It’s an interesting juxtaposition because as we understand it, at the time, composers of live music weren’t getting any royalties from recorded music. Is that a comment on things today like Spotify and Apple Music?

JM: We’re not necessarily trying to make any kind of grand statement about the evils of the music industry or of automation. I kind of think we should tentatively embrace all kinds of technical developments that we experience in the way we interact with music.

There is a pretty grand discussion to be had about the possible evils of how we now consume art, and whether this ultimately benefits the artist, but we were more interested in bringing the aesthetic of the essay to life; the vaguely apocalyptic way that Sousa discusses his fears, or the frankly pretty funny imagery he brings up in the essay.

John Sousa illustration

We worked with an artist called Louis Byrne to bring these images to life in a way that mimicked Heironymous Bosch’s triptych ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights‘ – and it was that which we found most inspiring about the whole thing. One man’s terror at what the future of culture holds, and the way that translates from his idea of what is idyllic, into what his idea of hell might look like.

Relatable, I guess, even if I do think Sousa kind of comes across as sounding like a bit of a gatekeeper type figure. It’s more of a study of the man’s brain that it is the socio-political content of his essay.

P3dro: How has lockdown been for you? Have you been creative, or just sat in a corner, quietly sobbing away?

JM: Err.. Kind of both. I was really creative during the start of lockdown, but then it began to slide a little bit. Now, we’re basically out of the other end, we’re back in our practice room and we’re cracking on with what we were doing before lockdown.

P3dro: Are there plans for a new album at any point?

JM: We are probably going to do a lot of demos – because we can’t do gigs – we’ll record as much stuff as we can, probably with a view to releasing something next year – a second album, but maybe with something preceding that.

And there’s a tour in March [2021]. We’re trying to work out the logistics.

Team Picture Tour

P3dro: Are you confident these dates will happen?

JM: I think if live music isn’t sorted out by March, then when the hell will it be sorted out? There’s only so much sustaining of venues the Government can do without live music being a thing. I will be surprised / horrified if we are not doing these gigs in March.

I don’t know when we will be back, but I will be really surprised if it’s not by March. I could, of course, be completely wrong. And, maybe that will be it. But, I can’t see it not happening.

This year’s a write off in terms of performance, so let’s just get on with other stuff.

It’s a kind of opportunity in a way. I know it sucks not to be able to tour, and make some much needed money from gigs and stuff. There is an opportunity to bring a completely new focus. That’s tentatively exciting.

P3dro: Can you recommend a band or an album that you think we should be listening to right now?

JM: There’s a really good musician who I’ve been listening to a lot called Negative Gemini. She’s got an album called Bad Baby – you should all go and listen to it. It wears a lot of hats and it wears them all really well.

P3dro: Anything else you want to tell us?

JM: I feel like I should do some kind of shameless plug here. But.

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