Photography: John Johnson

Once upon a time there was a band from Liverpool who wanted nothing more that to spread joy throughout the land. They had tried and tried to master their melodic enchantments, locking themselves away with various tools and instruments that they had acquired from far away lands. One warm spring night, when there was but a single cloud in the sky, they set about casting a spell on the local townspeople, forever filling them with joy. Then one band member noticed a man in the distance walking towards him, who he knew held wonderful powers and could do great things. This is no fairy tale. This is the story of PICTURE BOOK and Seymour Stein…

“It baffles my brain every time I think about it. It’s insane,” beams Lorne Ashley. He has every right to be beaming – his band has just been signed a five-year deal with one of the biggest names in music, to his Blue Horizon label. Sitting alongside band-mates Dario Darnel, both natives of NYC, and Gretta Bech of the Faroe Islands (but grew up in Singapore and Portugal) the band is coming to terms with the realisation of a dream.

Acting out the moment of realisation, Dario’s reactionary scream resembled a Star Wars sand man having a particularly good time. Dario, “It’s all we’ve ever wanted to do, say we’re in a signed band. We’ve been jamming since we were in the womb.” Scan forward a few weeks and the band have recorded an EP in a studio used by Radiohead (due for release in this month) and played to a crowd of 2000 in Williamson Square, plus started work on their album due out in 2011… let the hysteria begin, right?

“The first thing he said to us at the meeting was that he wasn’t going to make us superstars, that we determine our own destiny,” says Dario. While these are wise words, they are also carefully chosen and articulated. “Scott Cohen, one of his partners, told us a story about some dude they signed in the 80s who got messed up on crack and coke, then tried to sue Seymour for $1 million for not making him a superstar.” “We know we have a lot of work to do ourselves to make things happen,” adds Gretta.

“I had more fun on that stage knowing that we were playing for our careers. The managers were doing the talking so not to upset our mindset, so at no point did we feel any pressure.” Lorne Ashley

It’s obvious why Stein fell in love with the band They simply want to give you the time of your life. They’ve created perfect moments of dance-pop that are as edgy as they are beautiful, drawing on vast musical backgrounds. “The thing we hate the most is going to watch a band who look like that stage is the last place they want to be. I nearly vomited over myself when I saw The XX at the Kazimier,”” says Dario before Lorne adds: “What’s wrong with bringing the party back?”

So, to that fateful night when Stein first laid eyes on Picture Book. The threesome were playing for Sound City 2010 at the Hague. Lorne stepped for a last minute fag before unleashing his band’s electronic arsenal. “We heard rumors he was coming to the gig. It was our first taste of hype as well because I checked Twitter and lots of people were already saying ‘oh my god, Seymour Stein is here to see Picture Book’,” says Lorne. Right, now go and play the gig of your lives.

If that was pressure, or what would be pressure to the rest of us, then the following night was something else. Stein’s partner, Richard Gottehrer, came to their gig at Static Gallery to provide a seal of approval. As the band set up, Stein steps up (yes, on stage in front of the crowd) and tells them they need to play their best three ‘numbers’ first because his partner was running out time – surely enough to bring on bouts of panic and general heart explosion. That wouldn’t be any fun though – and not Picture Book’s style.

“I had more fun on that stage knowing that we were playing for our careers. The managers were doing the talking so not to upset our mindset, so at no point did we feel any pressure.” Where many would have buckled under the wait of such legacy, Picture Book practically wrote their own name on the contract.

Watch out Liverpool, the UK, and god knows where else. When Seymour Stein steps in, you know something is about to change…

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