Ireland’s Picture This was the biggest surprise for this writer back in 2018. I had heard some of their music in passing before, liked it, but never really fully dove into their discography. Then one day, I get an email that they were planning on releasing a new album and dropped the first single, “One Drink.” So I gave it a shot, and never looked back from it.
The band has been around for just a few years and have a ton of room left to grow and continue to push themselves, but their accomplishments are nothing short of impressive all the same. They perform massive shows back in their home country, and even recently did a 5-night performance at a 15,000 cap venue in Ireland — something that had never been done before.
At the time of my first contact with the band back in October, they were just announcing MDRN LV, which has since been officially out for about four months now. With all of their success back home, they’ve continued to grow more and more into the United States and even recently wrapped up their first headlining tour here. I had the chance to catch up with them before their show in Columbus, Ohio — following up on our first interview together — but had even more to talk about.
Check out our interview below, where we discuss MDRN LV, their success in the states, and how quickly fans can expect new music.
You’re about two weeks now into your tour of North America. How have the shows been?
Ryan: They’ve been great. They’ve exceeded our expectations, we didn’t know what to expect. We’ve played some spot dates in the U.S. before — like L.A., New York, Nashville, Boston, just places like that. But we’ve never come to places like [Columbus, Ohio] and it’s been crazy seeing people actually showing up in these places. It’s been amazing.
I’m sure exploring all of the cities for the first time is an adventure? I’m sorry Columbus isn’t more exciting, it’s very different from those cities like New York City or L.A., all of those bigger cities.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s great because you don’t know what to expect. I personally don’t look up the cities before we get there, because I just would rather get here and see it [myself]. I do like the heat here, though — it’s nice and warm. I like it.
It’s your first headlining tour over here. It’s of course a different market for you, in comparison to being home, and one that you’re certainly still breaking through in. Do you prep for these shows differently?
Ryan: No. We try to approach all of our shows in the same way. Obviously it’s scaled down when you get here because the shows are smaller, but besides that no. It’s kind of the same setlist that we did in Europe, the U.K., same energy and same everything. It’s just scaled down.
The fans are different. The fans are just different characters. They’re a lot more — they listen, but they’re still crazy, but they still like to listen to the music. Whereas back in Ireland, it’s just one big party. Here they’re really attentive, but also equally as crazy which is nice.
Crazy in what ways?
Ryan: Just the energy they have and how into the song they are — they’re like screaming the words back in your face. It’s really cool. They’re a different type of fan. There’s some girls following us around [on tour] and I sang “Never Change,” like the drop down chorus part to her in two separate cities. By the time we got to the third city, I saw her in the front row again and was going to sing it to her again, and I took her hand and she actually had “Never Change” tattooed [on her arm] and she didn’t have that the two shows before.
Yeah, that’s really cool. Obviously you mentioned these U.S. shows being more scaled back and intimate, so seeing stuff like that is sweet.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s a cool difference to Ireland. Ireland is like, playing a festival every day because it’s crazy big. Here, it is kind of cool to see the white in people’s eyes and have a personal connection with us.
I gotta ask, though, you just did a 5 show run back home where, 15,000 people every night came out to see how. I’m sure that was a milestone for you guys right? That’s a crazy thing to accomplish.
Ryan: It is crazy, it’s never been done before. It feels like it never happened, in a way, when we look back on it now because it was just — we were in a dream state for five nights. It was just so intense, we had built up to it for so long, it was a long time coming and when we were finally, there, it was just crazy. It couldn’t have gone any better than it did, so we’re super happy with it.
It was kind of a good — it was good to come and do this [U.S. tour] afterwards, because it would have been very hard to come down from that week. It’s good to get back to reality and play small clubs, I think the timing was right.
Success for you guys back home was pretty fast, right? Your first show sold out pretty quickly and got bumped up. It’s been interesting to watch from over here, so I’m sure it’s been crazy to live through it.
Ryan: It is, it’s crazy. It’s just a wonder we haven’t stopped since we started. You have to always reminds yourself that America is a lot bigger than Ireland, it takes a lot longer. Ireland is a very small country with a small population. This place is just so vast, and there’s so many places you have to play. It’s something we really enjoy, we love playing to 50 people and having to win a room just as much as we do playing 5 nights in an arena.
Your tour here is, of course, in support of MDRN LV, which came out just two months ago. How does it feel now that it’s finally out, it’s been out, and everyone has been able to digest it?
Ryan: It felt amazing [to release MDRN LV]. It’s our favorite thing: releasing new music. It’s the best feeling ever. It was great that it was accepted so well by our fans. It’s slightly different musically — sonically it’s a different, and that was a bit scary. But people just really accepted it. We aim to please our existing fans and gain some new fans, and that’s exactly what happened so it worked out very well. It made choosing the setlist for live shows interesting, because usually we just played the album and that was it, but now we have two albums.
More songs to choose from, and you have to cut some out.
Ryan: Yeah, we found that really tough to choose the setlist. We were kind of doing that on the fly in Europe, trying to figure out what’s the best thing to do, but we got there in the end.
So how did you pick what ones to cut?
Ryan: It was just whatever felt like ourselves. Personally, on stage, what songs felt right to play, because the fans are great and react to every song pretty much equally, so it’s hard to tell what the fans want. We just know what felt right.
You mentioned the new album being different, and I think it is in some ways. Certain songs make it an eclectic release, something like “One Drink” or “Life of the Party,” some of those things are different. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of stuff — it’s not like jumping into the country realm or something like that. So, I’m sure it’s important for you guys to keep pushing yourselves to be different every time.
Ryan: It’s very important. We’d all say it’s a mixture of a conscious decision and a natural progression. We’re just naturally going that way with our sound, and we also consciously said “It’d be good of we did something different.” Now we can, for our next batch of songs, be any sort of sound because we’re not tied down to that first acoustic-rock/folk thing or whatever people described the first album as.
So, doing something different for the second album means that now we can release whatever type of sounding music we want to. And, just as creative people, I think it’s nice to do something different.
Going through the process, and this is kind of a basic question, but I find that sometimes you never know what you’re going to get out of this. But, when you’re writing or recording a song, what is your process for it? I’m sure you’re not intentionally thinking “Oh, we want so and so to sound like this,” and then it just flows naturally.
Ryan: It does. I write the lyrics and melody myself in the back of an Uber, in my bedroom, or in this tour bus and I’ll just send it to Jimmy. Jimmy now has a mobile recording setup in the back of the bus — a laptop and a keyboard, that’s all you need.
It’s a good start, right?
Ryan: Yeah, for sure. It’s how we like to work: on the fly, so it works for us.
Jimmy: It’s very different to how we first were doing it. I didn’t have portable setup, and when we were first starting we weren’t touring a lot, so it was easy to just go into the studio and work there. But now due to the fact that we’re away a lot but still want to be doing it as much as ever — there’s a lot of free time. Like 5% of your day is on stage, so it’s good to be able to still keep the creative juices going even when you’re traveling a lot.
Absolutely. You gotta kill the time somehow, right?
Jimmy: And some of the most creative ideas can come to you when you are in the most boring situations. Driving ten hours across the states, you see amazing things and you can be creative very easily.
So you mentioned the lyrics and melody come first, then you sit in the back of the bus and go from there.
Ryan: It’s great for me because I’ll come up with an idea and send it to Jimmy and then he’ll disappear for three hours.
So you get rid of him for a bit.
Ryan: I’m like “What the fuck is he doing?” and then he comes up there hours later and has a full song.
Going back to MDRN LV, is there a song off of that record that you’re most proud of having done and put out there?
Ryan: For me, I always going back to our song “Everything or Nothing.” Because it made the record by the skin of its teeth, Jimmy saved it. We had an old acoustic-rock, slow version of it and I didn’t want it to be on the album because it didn’t sound the same as the rest of the songs. But Jimmy was just relentless, he just loved the song so much. He took it back and said “Alright, let me make it sound like the rest of the album” and he did. I think it became all of our favorite. It just has this special connection to all of us.
Jimmy: I think it’s one of the flagship songs from MDRN LV. I think it — yeah, it was always one of my favorite songs from the first time Ryan sent me a voice recording. I think it’s a good closer to the album, and it’s one of our favorites to play live, too. There’s a lot of passion in that song, a lot of energy, so I just love that song. I’d fight for that song all day.
It’s good that you did.
Jimmy: Yeah, I had to take some huge risks to try and get that song on the album. We got it eventually, I got my way.
I’m sure it’s hard to fight for something like that when everyone is against you, but you knew it was going to work and it did.
Jimmy: Yeah, sometimes you have to be extremely head strong about things when you know something is right. You have to go and follow your gut. A lot of people, especially in a creative environment, if you start listening to what other people think, you can immediately start thinking differently. But if you have a gut reaction and gut feeling that something on your first impression, you should always go for that. That’s how everyone else is going to feel when they hear it the first time, too.
Ryan: It sucks because Jimmy is always right.
That’s what we’re learning here, right?
Ryan: Well, it’s true. I’m always like “I have a song, but I don’t really like it” and he’s like “Just trust me” and then two weeks later, I’m like “I fucking love that song.” Every time.
I’ve talked to a couple artists over the years who have mentioned that sometimes it’s tough, and to kind of what you said about going with your gut, that sometimes you can overthink a song so much that it’s not even the same song you had originally. In this case, it worked out, but sometimes you can take a great song and overthink it and then you don’t want it anymore. I’m sure it’s hard to hit the point of just being done with it, and taking a song for what it is.
Ryan: It is. I think the key is just keeping it simple, we don’t ever overcomplicate anything. Between the four of us, there’s no egos and no one gets offended if you don’t like their idea or you want to do something. It’s an open dialogue which helps the process.
We’ve never had a struggle to do a song, “Everything or Nothing” is kind of an exception. Usually it’s quite a fast process and we’re on the same wavelength. That song just had to be re-done to sound like the rest of the album, but it worked out perfect.
It did. I think that was the second song you released off this record, right?
Ryan: Yeah it was. It connected so well and that surprised us — as far as me, anyway. It just connected so well that I’m delighted. Lyrically, I thought that people might not get it for some reason, because it came from a very personal place for me, but people really latched onto that song. It is a staple for MDRN LV.
You mentioned that song coming from a very personal place. For you, as a creative person, is there anything that’s been really hard to write about? Or is it all just kinda out there?
Ryan: It’s all out there. I’m not — when it comes to writing a song, I’m not afraid to share exactly what’s a direct reflection of my life. I’ve never been afraid to put what’s going on in my life into a song. It’s a cliche thing to say, but it’s very cathartic. If you find it hard to talk about it, you can put it in a song and then you don’t have to talk about it.
Earlier you mentioned that you guys have a lot of free time here. Have you started putting songs together for the future?
Ryan: Yeah, we could do another album now if we wanted to. We have enough stuff. But yeah, we’ll have new music quite soon — sooner than people expect
Ryan: Yeah, we just have so much. There’s no reason for us to not put it out there, and we’re really excited about it.
Jimmy: I think it’s the constant flow of like — for us, there’s no point where it’s like “Alright, we have to start making the album.” It’s been going since the day we actually finished MDRN LV, the next day it was onto the next songs. I think it’s like waves and you get to the point where you have to release this song. That’s kind of how it works for us. Like Ryan said, we do want to release music soon because it’s just the new way of doing it.
Yeah. Fifteen years ago, it might have been more along the lines of putting out a record, not recording for a year and a half, and then forcing yourself to do it. Maybe the label what’s a song or record in a month and then you have to push through that. But obviously the music industry is so different than it was many years ago.
Ryan: It’s crazy the way people consume music now and the way we all consume music. As soon as you listen to an album, you’re looking for the next one. But we like that, we create so much stuff that we’re ready. We’re the ones going to the label going “Are you guys ready” and that’s how we like it.
People consume so much it’s just a never ending stream. I saw recently that one of the guy from Spotify said that they upload 40,000 songs a day to Spotify and that’s an insane amount. It’s so hard to keep up with that, and it makes it a fast moving industry.
Jimmy: Holy shit.
Ryan: It is. I think it’s because people create their own music so easy now. It’s all done on a laptop, so someone is in their room and they can just upload it to Spotify and that’s that. It’s easy.
It’s all for the best, right? I mean, you can go the Post Malone route: put it out there and just let them come to you.
Ryan: It’s a good thing and a bad thing that there’s so much music. It’s great that people are creating music, it’s very healthy. But it’s a very saturated market, it’s hard to breakthrough all of that. Just even for me as a listener, like when I’m trying to find new music — it’s like you have to listen to a lot of shit before you get to the good stuff.
Of course there’s new music Friday playlists, but that’s 20 some songs a week, right? 40,000 songs a day, 20 a week coming back to you, what the hell is that? They’re not even guaranteed to be good! So, as a creative person, I guess you just write the best you can and see what sticks.
Ryan: I like that kind of pressure of having to have new music all of the time. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who would falter during that or don’t like that, but it’s just the way we’ve been from the start. We really haven’t finished writing music since we started. It’s just always been like that. We don’t go away like Jimmy said, we just write songs all the time and then select our favorite 10 or 12.
How do you cut it down to 10 or 12? I guess you let Jimmy do it, right?
Ryan: It’s really tough, one of the toughest things. For me, choosing a setlist and choosing a track-list for an album are the toughest things because I genuinely love all of the songs, we all do. So it’s really tough to leave a song out. For us, we released “This Morning” and “When We Were Young” last year, and we didn’t even put them on the second album, and that was a bold move in a lot of people’s eyes. But, it’s because we just had these songs — we felt for our fans, for them to get an album of 12 new songs would be amazing. I’d love that as a listener. We can be cutthroat when it comes to it, but it is tough to choose and boil it down.