In Conversation With... Picture Parlour
Words by Angelika May
Photography by Anya Rose
There’s a sentimentality that comes from hearing a sound that dominated so much of your youth. That soulful indie sleeze, with placeholder lyrics and twisted cliches is what first got me interested in music, especially growing up, “up Norf”. Picture Parlour (Courtney Love’s new faviourte band) are going against the grind, rejecting the beckoning calls of the post-punk scene and instead rejoicing in the theatricallities of indie rock. Comprised of Katherine Parlour (vocals, guitar), Ella Risi (lead guitar), Michael Nash (drums) and Sian Lynch (bass). With a presence as large as their Chelsea collars, they are worth every bit of the hype surrounding them. Picture Parlour quintessentialy encapsulates what Radio 6 dad’s would call “proper-music”, an ostentatious front-woman with cryptic lyricism and a kick-ass band to solidify her vision. I sat down with Picture Parlour before their gig as part of “Gemma Bradley Presents”, to discuss vintage shops, Taylor Swift and the age old question of “is it masculinity, or is it just confidence?”.
Your sound has been described as “cinematic” and “nostalgic”, what sort of impression are you wanting to leave on your listeners?
Katherine - I agree with the nostalgic sentiment, it’s especially true in Ella’s lead guitar, which is led by an emotive sound. The blend between fiction and reality is something I like to evoke. We also want the audience to leave with a swing in their step.
Michael - A sense of connection.
Ella - To induce a shared experience, rather than showing off for twenty or so minutes, we want people to get involved.
Sian - When we’re on stage together, there’s an undeniable energy, which I think translates well to the audience.
Speaking of connection, how did you guys all meet?
E - I met Kate in Manchester through a mutual friend and connected on socials. I went round to hers and I didn’t leave for three weeks. We wrote “Moon Tonic” on the first date, once we started we just didn’t stop. Then we moved to London, poached these guys *points to Michael and Sian* off the internet and instantly had a connection. Kate and I, had some of these tracks for over a year and a half, so there was the ambiguity of whether the songs would translate well to live. Luckily it was the perfect storm. I choked up as soon as I heard the first few notes of “Norwegian Wood” because they just got it, they got that nostalgic sound we were aiming for.
M - Even though we’ve only been playing for a year, it feels like we have known each other for fucking ages. I can call them up if I'm having a bad day, if my breakfast is terrible, or something along those lines.
Coming to Michael and Sian with songs ready to go, was there a reservation of what can and can’t be changed?
S - From day one, Kate and Ella were very open, they said “you can write over the bass lines” or change whatever you want. It’s great to be given that space.
K - Personally I was anxious about bringing in new people to the project, as I was worried they wouldn’t understand the vision, which for me is very strong as it comes from within. But they just did.
One thing that seems to be catching attention, is this great “show-womanship” you possess and a large focus on your gender. How do you feel being praised for being a strong, female-fronted band?
K - I mean we are. That is a true statement. Whether that’s compliment is a difficult thing for me to understand. On the one hand perhaps it’s because it’s less common, but on the other hand, it isn’t really, look at the likes of; Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett… I could list off so many. Interestingly enough though, I am always compared to a man.
Well, so were Patti Smith, Janis Joplin etc -
E - Is it really masculinity? Is it not just confidence, women unashamedly taking space. It’s interesting because the tendencies they are comparing your “show-womanship” to, society doesn’t often attribute to women, so the mind immediately thinks, “oh it’s like this guy” because people like to create boxes.
K - St. Vincent is someone for instance who I look up to, she’s contemporary, she’s sexy because of how powerful she is. In my opinion, being powerful is a feminine quality.
Speaking of women in rock, Courtney Love recently scouted you, what’s been the aftermath of her sharing your music on her platform?
M - Mad.
S - Madness.
K - Courtney Love has single handily made our career - no I’m joking. She’s incredible, it’s an honour. We’d had an influx of interest, we were doing okay before but -
E - The social media following went up quite a bit after that.
K - I think it solidified our space on the scene.
Katherine and Ella, do you find that the Northern music scene has been a considerable influence on your own sound?
K - Undeniably.
E - Manchester and Liverpool was where we both started to find ourselves, musically.
M - We are all products of where we grew up (Michael grew up in Wales). When I play the drums all you can hear is Tom Jones *Michael performs a lovely rendition for us*.
K - Johnny Cash got me into music, but when I would write it was Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks and Nick Cave that we’re very inspiring for me, and Taylor Swift.
S - I didn’t want to be the one to say it, but The Beatles. My dad taught me how to play guitar, which is what I started on, so that’s what he would teach me.
Whats your favourite Beatles album?
S - “The White Album”
K - *whispers* “Stg. Pepper’s.”
E - My grandad played that album in the car when I was a “baba”.
M - Ella’s grandad is fucking dank.
E - He had a huge influence on what I listened to, Tom Waits, Tom Jones. For guitar though, I would have to say Albert Hammond Jr. I have another, but I’m not going to say it.
Oh come on, Kate said Taylor Swift.
E - Okay fine Green Day.
K - Look, you can give Taylor Swift shit but listen to the ten-minute version of “All Too Well” and then say something.
You’re always impeccably dressed, what’s your favourite vintage shop?
M - Beyond Retro.
K - I have two, one in Paris, neither of them are accessible but people need to know. The one in Paris is “Hippy Market” and the other is “Jet Rag” in LA.
E - Pop Boutique.
S - Beyond Retro as well or, I used Vinted and Depop a lot.
Well there you go Beyond Retro, you have a sponsorship deal coming in.
What can we expect over the next couple of months from Picture Parlour?
K - Loads more shows, London and around the country. Festivals, we’ve just been announced to play Neighbourhood Weekend, all of these are in our Linktree on our Instagram. Hopefully over the next couple of months we will be releasing a single with a music video! Lots of things in the works.
More from Picture Parlour here
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