On Stage: The Picturebooks focus on Motorcycles and Metal

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Picturebooks

Heavy rock music and motorcycles have been linked since the late 1960s. The link can be traced back to Peter Fonda’s motorcycle movie “Easy Rider,” which featured Steppenwolf’s song “Born to Be Wild.” The song’s lyrics introduced the term “heavy metal” – “I like smoke and lightning, Heavy metal thunder, Racin’ with the wind.”

The tradition of loud, powerful music teamed with loud, powerful bikes is being carried on into the 2020s by the Picturebooks, who will be performing on February 19 at the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684, http://www.chameleonclub.net).

The Picturebooks — Fynn Grabke and Philipp Mirtschink — are a German rock/blues duo whose music is on the heavy side They are equally immersed in the world of music and the world of motorcycles.

Currently, they are touring the started in support of their new album, “The Hands Of Time,” which came out this past spring via RED MUSIC. The tour, which also features The British Lion, began mid-January in Florida and the concert in Lancaster is the penultimate show.

The band began in the duo’s hometown of Gütersloh, Germany.

“We met at a local skate park,” said Mirtschink, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Florida.

“All my buddies were listening t band’s like Limp Bizkit while I was listening to Bowie, the Cure, Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop.

“We didn’t know each other. Then, one day I was wearing a Roxy Music t-shirt at the park and he was wearing a Black Flag t-shirt. We started talking and chose to hang out together and form a band.”

The Picturebooks’ first two records were “List of People to Kill” in 2009 and “Artificial Tears” in 2010. The band featured Grabke (guitar, vocals), Philipp Mirtschink (drums) and Tim Bohlmann (bass). Bohlmann left the group in 2010, shortly after the release of “Artificial Tears.”

“There was a third guy – but he’s gone,” said Mirtschink. “He kind of Yoko Ono-ed us. It had to happen. Phillipp and I had to go our own way after two albums with him.”

It was four years between “Artificial Tears” and the release of the “Imaginary Horse” album in 2014.

“We took a break,” said Mirtschink. “I didn’t listen to other music for two years. We got into motorcycles – I don’t know why.”

It was more than just riding choppers. The two friends spent time as gearheads saving motorcycles from the scrapheap.

“We started out with scooters and Vespas,” said Mirtschink.

“We always wanted to move up to Harleys. We started to build choppers and began winning contests.”

Together, Grabke and Mirtschink put their creativity to steel, grease, and carburetors building heavily customized Harley Davidsons while everything from classic rock and punk rock to garage rock and classic country blasted from the boombox.

According to Grabke, “Motorcycles saved our lives back then. They brought us back to music to be honest. After being a band for a long time — going through all kinds of stages career-wise — we reached a point where it didn’t feel right, and we felt the need to separate from it for a while.

“We kinda got lost in the desert, building and riding bikes. At home, we built a motorcycle garage next to our studio and we had a lot of time to think about music and the band and what we really wanna get out of it. It paved our way to where we are now.”

Mirtschink said, “We just focused on motorcycles for a purpose. We developed a different creative output. Creativity is a muscle you need to train, and we needed to rain our creativity. We now write songs super-fast.”
Video link for the Picturebooks – https://youtu.be/-17Zf-rcCjM.

The all-ages show at the Chameleon Club will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $23.50.

The Blue Stones

Another rock duo from a foreign country will be visiting Philadelphia this week when the Blue Stones bring their “Hidden Gems Tour” to MilkBoy Philly (1100 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 215- 925-6455, www.milkboyphilly.com).

Like the Picture Books, the duo — guitarist/vocalist Tarek Jafar and drummer Justin Tessier — create a stadium-sized sound in the studio and onstage. They are touring in support of “Black Holes,” their debut album which was released last year via Entertainment One Music debut.

“We’ve been friends since our early school days at St. Ann’s High School in Windsor (Ontario),” said Tessier, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Chicago. “We even played on the football team together.

“When we were in university, we decided to jam. It was almost by accident. We started playing together late 2009. Our first shows were bar gigs in Windsor in 2010. We started writing serious music in 2011.”

The band’s first recorded output was “The Blue Stones EP” in 2011.

“We always just did EPs to attract attention,” said Tessier. “The first one was about 10 years ago. Technically, ‘Black Holes’ is our first full-length.”

The Blue Stones have wide variety of influences ranging from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to Kanye West and the other ‘Stones,’ the Rolling Stones.

“Our influences come a lot of ways,” said Tessier. “Our music has changed a lot since we first started. Our goal always has been to make the kind of music we like to listen to.

“With us, songwriting is back-and-forth. Tarek writes all the songs and lyrics. He’ll start out with a melody. Once he fills out the basic song structure, we start working on it together.

“We just finished recording 11 songs at North of Princess Studio in Kingston (Ontario). It will come out as an album eventually but we’re going to drip-release songs along the way.”

Video link for the Blue Stones – https://youtu.be/h95STxWYTL0.

The show at MilkBoy Philly, which has JJ Wilde as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12.

Anna of the North

A few days before the end of last October, Anna of the North released her sophomore album “Dream Girl.”

Last week, the versatile Norwegian rock/pop artist arrived in America to begin a month-long tour to support the album – a tour that visits Philadelphia on February 18 for a show at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

With the ability to span genres, Anna of the North is one of the most promising music talents to come out of Norway in years. She released her first album – “Lovers” – in 2017. The title track appeared in the 2018 Netflix film, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.”

The two albums are instantly recognizable as projects by Anna of the North, whose real name is Anna Lotterud. But they are also distinctly different from each other – like kids who are obviously siblings but totally unlike each other in looks and attitude.

“I recorded ‘Dream Girl’ a bit of everywhere,” said Lotterud, during a phone interview last week just after she flew in from Oslo, Norway.

“I did some in London, some in L.A. and a lot in Norway. I spent about two years making it. I began working on it in November 2017 and it was released in October 2019.”

“Lovers” is still attracting listeners’ attention having garnered more than 200 million streams. The record’s word-of-mouth success culminated in the title track taking off via a surprise sync in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and is still streaming over 100K times per day — nearly a year after the film’s release. The tune made the top 100 charts in 171 countries.

“It’s a bit bi-polar with my albums,” said Lotterud, who grew up in Gjøvik, Norway and later spent a year in Melbourne, Australia studying graphic design.

“The songs on the first album were more together – with one sound. The songs on the new album are all over the place.”

On the first album, Lotterud was one of the two original members of electro-pop project Anna of the North. “Dream Girl” was made after she split from her long-time musical collaborator/producer Brady Daniell-Smith, with who she had formed the project in 2014.

“When I started writing for the second album, it was my first solo project,” said Loterud. “You could hear the freedom in it. It’s an important album for me.

“I learned a lot. I tried different things. I wrote songs in different ways. I was free and didn’t have to stay in one genre. It’s colorful and it’s a journey.

“When I started writing the songs, I was more happy. It was an interesting time in my life.

“Working as a duo, you have different ideas and you have to respect the other’s ideas. This one was freedom for me. No-one could tell me what to do or how I should do it.”

Lotterud is like the mother of very different siblings offering a diplomatic reply when asked which is her favorite.

“I love both albums,” said Lotterud. “Now, I need to find a middle ground. I need to find where I am now.

 “This is my second time to tour the states, but it will be my first time to play a show in Philadelphia. It should be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.

“In my live show, I play a lot of songs from both albums. I play the biggest songs likes ‘Lovers,’ ‘Thank Me Later’ and ‘Dream Girl.’ I won’t be playing any songs I’ve written lately.

“I am always writing. I have to write. That’s the best part of being a musician.”

Video link for Anna of the North – https://youtu.be/83nYuUfIpfE.

The show at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.

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