Irish band Picture This hope to pick up where they left off after playing last show in Dubai before pandemic

Popular group in lockdown together recorded special version of new single ‘Troublemaker’ for UAE fans

There was a strange feeling in the air as the four members of the Irish alternative pop band Picture This took to the stage at the famed McGettigan’s venue in Dubai in March earlier this year.

The pandemic was closing in, travel restrictions were being imposed, performing live was becoming a challenge and the band’s manager had warned them to be careful about having too much contact with the crowd.

There was also the somewhat ominous matter that they were on the line-up for the sold-out, two-day event alongside their compatriots, The Coronas.

As it turned out, it was the last gig that Picture This played before the coronavirus (not The Coronas) brought live shows to a halt, and forced the foursome Ryan Hennessy, Jimmy Rainsford, Owen Cardiff and Cliff Deane into lockdown immediately on their return home to Ireland.

“There was a weird kind of feeling about it,” Hennessy, the lead singer, tells The National. “I like to get into the crowd sometimes or reach out to the crowd, so it was weird because it’s not a very natural thing,” he explains. “The natural thing, for me anyway, is to get into the crowd. There was that little bit of stand-offishness, which was very different for us.

“But it was a great show and I’m glad that we got to finish on a great show like that, that we weren’t just plucked out of nothing,” he says.

Since then, Picture This has been performing as often as possible over the internet as part of virtual events such as the One World: Together at Home concert, on the RTE Late Late Show and a remote live session for their label, Republic Records.

Together in lockdown

Ryan Hennessy and Jimmy Rainsford of Picture This playing in Birmingham, England, in January. Photo Getty Images
Ryan Hennessy and Jimmy Rainsford of Picture This playing in Birmingham, England, in January. Photo Getty Images

Most bands are having to do so from their separate homes, but Picture This is a bit of a rarity at the moment in that they have been in lockdown together for the seven weeks since restrictions were introduced. For them, though, being shacked up as a group is not an unfamiliar experience, because they have been touring solidly for four years.

"It’s something we’re very used to,” Hennessy says. “We’re used to being in close proximity in a tour bus or in a hotel or wherever, so it’s quite similar to what we would’ve been doing anyway, really.

"We’re just always in each other’s pockets, so, for, us it’s nothing really that new."

I don’t know how quickly people are going to go back to trusting that kind of contact with other people.

In fact, the experience has been positive, as the isolation has allowed them to concentrate on producing new material. But, as Hennessy explains, the creativity comes and goes in waves.

It was hard to be inspired, he reveals, when they were unable to experience the world, meet people or be stimulated by new sights. “But we’re in good spirits,” he assures. “We’re aware that this is a necessary thing to be doing, so we’re kind of getting on with it as best we can.”

Rainsford, the band’s drummer, says they are accustomed to recording everything “on the go” anyhow. “I have my little studio setup that I use,” he explains. “It’s basically a laptop. Actually, it’s the laptop we’re talking to you on.”

Picture This seem to be weathering the lockdown well, but they admit they're itching to head back out on tour again. These seven weeks, the lead singer reveals, have been the longest they have gone without playing a live show since they formed.

Hennessy says he hopes to pick up where Picture This left off, saying that another show in Dubai couldn’t come soon enough. In the meantime, at The National’s gentle urging, they recorded a special acoustic version of their new track Troublemaker, released on April 17, for their fans in the UAE. “It’s always our favourite place,” he says. “As soon as we have any opportunity to get out there, we just go. We love it.”

Rainsford wholeheartedly agrees, describing the Emirates as a special country in which to perform, and the Middle East as a magical place in the world for culture and for people. “The UAE, especially, is becoming such a hub of people from all over the world, but I feel like sometimes it doesn’t get the love of live music that it should,” he says. “So to be able to play there is always amazing for us.”

We hope to see you as soon as possible.

With the severe disruption that the coronavirus has caused to all industries, including music, Hennessy expresses concern that fears over the virus could change the nature of future shows.

“I don’t know what kind of dynamic we’re going to be going back into,” he says. “We always have a big, rowdy crowd because of the big, anthemic songs we play.

“I don’t know how quickly people are going to go back to trusting that kind of contact with other people. I hope that it doesn’t take away from that magic and the togetherness of a live show.”

He still has hope, however, as he predicts the music scene could bounce back with a “renaissance” after the pandemic recedes and that there would be a steep rise in demand for live shows.

Then, to their fans in the UAE, the singer says: “Stay home, stay safe, look after one another as much as you can and we hope to see you as soon as possible.”

Updated: May 12, 2020 11:27 AM

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