Local Leeds: In The Middle with Team Picture

Team Picture are, in their own words, ‘a group of polite individuals living in Leeds’. What’s more, they’re pioneering an exciting brand of explosive psych and kraut than has seen them ascend, in my words ‘meteorically’, in their words ‘like a weather balloon’, already earning slots at Live At Leeds and Bluedot festival, despite only being officially together for around a year. They’re a band that seems to fizz with creativity, and it’s not just music-related, too. They’ve got their fingers in all sorts of multi-media pies such as a 16-page zine that’s being released for Clue Records’s ‘Clue Club’, in collaboration with the illustrator, Joel Burden. They’re also working on a ‘journalistic’ project, as well as collaborations with their ‘favourite taste-fellows from around the north’. It’s really refreshing to see a band embodying the Gesamtkunstwerk ideal, or ‘universal artwork’. Being involved with intra-artist collaboration, graphic design, multimedia projects, and more, can lead to an amazing realisation of artistic potential, and TP seem to be doing this. It’s a trite and hackneyed phrase, but with a band like Team Picture, it seems appropriate: they are certainly Ones To Watch. I thought about trying to cleverly integrating quotes into this interview, but I think their wonderful prose works best if it’s left in its virgin state, and thus I present to you our conversation. 

What’s next on the agenda for you guys?

We’re releasing a tune and curating a 16 page zine in collaboration with illustrator Joel Burden next month as part of Clue Record’s ‘Clue Club’ subscription service.

That sounds really interesting, how important is collaboration outside of the band to you?It’s something we’re really passionate about, and something that I think we’re trying to focus on more and more as things progress. Working with other musicians and artists outside of the six of us is inspiring and elevating.

Do any of you have any other plans outside of music, do you have your fingers in mixed media pies?We’ve got multiple digits knuckle deep in various media pastries. One of us is in graphic design, and the rest of us have a keen interest in pursuing a whole bunch of eclectic stuff. Our plans are pretty much at the sketch stage at the moment, so I don’t want to talk them up too much. Shameless plug alert: one way to keep posted on everything we’re up to is to sign up to our mailing list over at teampictureband.com, that way we can let you know once we’ve picked some plans out of the ether and turned them into something worth talking about.

You’re set to play Bluedot festival in July, how did that come about and have you played any festivals before? Do you approach festivals differently to normal gigs?I think it was something very boring like, someone saw a show of ours and then sent us an email and we obviously said ‘yes’ because Bluedot looks absolutely wondermint (plus science). I actually think it might be our first ‘real’ festival show. I have no idea how we’re going to approach it. We may try and up the science quota in our set somehow. Dressing as Carl Sagan maybe? I guess all you need is a polo-neck, seems reasonable.

Following on from that, do any of you have any pre-gig rituals?
We like to count each individual ceiling tile in whichever green room we find ourselves in, then have a group meditation session for 15 minutes. Then we huddle and chant our band jingle 5 times. Also: I always just feel like I want to piss myself and fall asleep. I think it’s my body’s way of trying to save me from potential onstage embarrassment.

 You guys seem to be on a meteoric rise at the moment, how long have you been going for?

Hey thanks for the meteoric comment. I think we like to think of it as more of a gradual ascent, akin to a weather balloon or what would happen if you turned all the gravity off and everyone just started floating upwards. We’ve been together for probably just over a year. I think our 1 year gig-aversary is coming up pretty sharpish.

 Wow, one year isn’t that much considering how much and how well you’re doing at the moment, that’s a pretty meteoric weather balloon. Is the band a full-time thing for all of you, then? Are you writing, gigging, recording all the time?

We have boring life stuff that we have to do so that we can buy food and washing powder and stuff, but we spend most of our time not doing normal person things working on band person things. We’re not necessarily interested in gigging and touring all the time at this point; we’re spending a lot of time working on new music and other projects that we want to get off the ground that aren’t necessarily music based, but are linked to TEAM PICTURE in one way or another.

What kind of things are you guys doing, other project-wise?

Again, I don’t want to chat too much about stuff that’s in the really early stages of planning, but we’re hoping to organise something really special for September time. There’s also some gears turning very slowly towards the realisation of a journalistic project we want to get off the ground, plus band collabs with some of our favourite tastefellows from around the north (if we can convince them to get involved). Hey actually, one thing I can talk about is that we’re donating all of the funds from our recent 7” release via local label Come Play With Me to CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), which is a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. You can get involved at our Justgiving page, or buy a copy at a show. Here’s the link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teampictureband

When I saw you guys you produced a giant wall of sound, when you’re recording do you try and recreate your live sound or do you change things around?

I think it’s often more of a case of our recordings inform how we then perform the songs. There’s no set tactics though, I think we believe pretty strongly that live performance and recordings are two entirely different art forms, there’s not a huge amount of effort to try and keep everything consistent either way.

I saw that a new release of yours is being released on Major Leagues’s charity compilation for help refugees. Not that this is an overly political move, I was wondering how separate music and politics are for the band.
It was lovely for Major Leagues to ask us to be involved, and hopefully the compilation will go a little way to try and help out some other human beans. I think politics is probably more difficult to avoid than ever at the moment, but I don’t think it informs how we go about writing music. We spend a lot of time confused though. Everything is very confusing, and that’s actually quite inspiring.

Are any of you tech heads? How important is technology and gear to the band, or are they just means to an end?
We’re bona fide gear nerds. Much time is spent on knees, fervently twiddling knobs. The birth of lots of our songs has come about through certain combinations of equipment that’ve produced inspiring sounds. We certainly don’t have as much equipment as some other bands (I’m looking at you, Laminate Pet Animal), and there’s nothing particularly complex about our set-up, but embracing the transfigurative power of gear is all part of our ethos. All of our equipment has a fine layer of dust on it, and often requires some sweet talking (bashing) before it’ll work. I think eventually we’ll just end up merging with our stompboxes in a grotesque, Cronenberg-ey fashion.

Where did the name come from?
I don’t think it came from anywhere in particular, and what started out as a couple of words that we settled on quickly turned into a name that sort of sums up our ethos towards creativity. Inclusion, positivity, collaboration; these are all things that are really important to us, and that TEAM PICTURE seems to encapsulate pretty neatly. It wasn’t intentional though; I think we were just bored of trying to think of a name.

It’s interesting you mentioned collaboration, how do you guys write songs? How does a ‘normal’ song come about? Or does the process change around.
We usually dip into our vat of demos and work from ideas that we’ve individually recorded, then we flesh them out together over snacks and cat-stroking. There’s not always a set order though, we usually go through a whole bunch of different iterations of a song until we’re comfortable with it. We’re rampant tweakers. There are a lot of heavily clipped, largely unlistenable iphone voice memos recorded mid-jam sitting on our computers that we have to try and reverse engineer into actual music and not just aural soup. But sometimes we just settle on the aural soup.

Are there any albums that came out recently that you as a band collectively adore?
Ok, hold one while I ask everyone. Cool, ok, so some albums we liked that came out recently include Soft Hair’s self-titled release, those two albums that Thee Oh Sees released back to back, Mangy Love by Cass McCombs (been a big follower of his career and even the dad-rock vibes on the new record are rad), the Preoccupations’ album, Big Balloon by Dutch Uncles, The Album Paranoia by Ulrika Spacek, and the Lemon Twigs’ album was crazy too.

Those are all wonderful albums, especially Ulrika Spacek (they kinda remind me of you guys) and The Lemon Twigs. Is there any artist, dead or alive, that you would all love to work with, or tour with?

You flatter us with your Ulrika Spacek comment. I think we’ve all probably got a different idea of whom it is we’d like to collaborate with if we held dominion over all reality. I think musically, working with someone like Connan Mockasin would be hilarious and sexy, or bizarre Chicago-based production duo Univore would be a very glossy and exquisite experience. Maybe David Byrne would let us help him write a musical? Or we could put together a totally perverted multimedia live experience in collaboration with artist Joe Matt? Who knows! I’m just ideating.

Team Picture will play Bluedot Festival 2017 July 7th-9th. Grab your ticket here

Follow Team Picture on Facebook, or sign up to their mailing list here.

Will Ainsley

(Image: Facebook)

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