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Alice Gee | 21/03/2024

Years before, Picture This band member Jimmy never would've thought that conversations with bandmate Ryan as he drove him home in his car would turn into a fourth studio album, aptly named Parked Car Conversations, transforming the chats into an emotional 16-track ride on the album. Since then, the band made up of Ryan Hennessy, Jimmy Rainsford, Cliff Deane, and Owen Cardiff have gone on to gain a hugely dedicated fanbase, an ever-growing bond between them, and have played shows all around the country, including supporting the Jonas Brothers and Irish rock artist, Rea Garvey next month. 


As they gear up for the release of Parked Car Conversations next month, the hit Irish four-piece takes HATC's Alice into their writing process for their upcoming album. They discuss the nerves and thrills of playing brand-new songs from the yet-to-be-released album right in front of lucky fans for the first time ever.  


ALICE: My favourite gigs are intimate gigs. I love it, and I feel you get a bit more for your buck when you go in. A smaller crowd feels more personal.


RYAN: We've heard that a lot this last week, actually. I've seen it a lot online after the shows everyone was like, ‘you can't beat an intimate gig’. Which is funny because I always, for some reason, just naively thought everyone loves the big spectacle of arena shows or the big outdoor shows we do, which people do, obviously, but I did see that a lot of people love an intimate show, but we love it as well.


ALICE: Do you get more nervous playing smaller gigs?


RYAN: Totally! This was really nerve-racking because we're playing new songs for the first time—songs that nobody's ever heard before, playing a new song for somebody off your phone, that alone is nerve-racking, and then having to actually perform it in front of an intimate crowd that standing right in front of you is really nerve-racking, but we loved it. 


ALICE: You can imagine with big spectacles, you kind of get used to everything being a well-oiled machine. Do you find that things go a little bit more spontaneous, too?


RYAN: You're so right. I would say in Manchester, for example, I ended up standing on the bar at the venue. That doesn't happen at big shows because more often you are a little bit removed. We had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage for shows, which we haven't had to do in years. But it's an amazing feeling and I think it's just cool for people to have the band walk through you and then get to the stage.  But yeah, it is just a lot more off the cuff and a lot more interaction with the crowd. Sometimes it feels like a stand-up sometimes on stage because you get heckled, you have to respond, you know? It's fun, though.


ALICE: Then, with bigger crowds and stadiums, how do you connect with a crowd of that level? 


RYAN: I think it's the music that's kind of the entryway into the connection for us because we have these big sing-along songs. The first song, the whole crowd is singing at the top of their voices. That's kind of where the connection happens, and you're in it quite quickly. There's no greater connection than that feeling of performing a song and the crowd singing it with us. From the first song, everybody's equally a part of the show and the performance. That's what we do anyway, you make the audience a part of the performance so that they're not just watching and observing a performance. They're a part of it by singing along and getting them involved, or it's just simple stuff like clapping or hands in the air or all of that stuff, letting them know that we see them and feel them. 

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We've always had a natural connection; I think no matter how big the shows are, I don't know why. I think maybe it is just the music and probably just how we are as people; we want people to feel seen and heard at our shows; it's not all about us, we're only there because of them. So, it's just a natural thing that we connect with audiences we play for.


ALICE: With a new album coming out, does that make you nervous when you're waiting for their first reactions? 


JIMMY: Yeah, it does, when you play a brand-new song, everyone becomes very attentive because they know they're hearing a brand-new song for the first time. Having that many eyes on you all at one time, or even people recording it and stuff, it can be quite nerve-racking, obviously because for us, we would obviously have played the song in a rehearsal room or played it in front of people; it's a mixture of different things.  It feels like a separate part of the show. You're delving into this kind of weird, unknown world. But we love it. And we've really loved being able to play the new songs off the upcoming album live for people because they are very live-sounding songs. They work really well in a live setting. That's something we have been told over our career is that our music is made to be performed live. So, with this album, it feels we bridged that gap a little bit. And [the new songs] are just very live energetic songs. They suit that mood. And I think the crowd can feel that. And thankfully, there's no real difference really between hearing all our new songs live and listening to them on the album. So, I think it's the perfect time to showcase it really.


Alice: Do you guys feel that when you write, you make it for live performances?


RYAN: From a lyrical point of view I would say sometimes. It's not necessarily that you do it, but you kind of know it in the moment when you do it. You're like, oh, this is something that crowd of people are going to want to sing along to, or whatever it is just lyrically. I think if you think about the outside world when you're creating a song, you might contaminate the song, and it has to be quite personal.


JIMMY: You're totally right. And I was just thinking of something that I saw recently of Rick Rubin talking about how when you make songs, it should be for you, and the audience comes last. I think that's mental. I would actually think the opposite. I love making songs for people. Wanting people to love your song is an amazing feeling. It's not like you're desperately trying to get confirmation that the song is good. But that's the whole reason we love writing songs. And playing it for people is because we want this to be a shared enjoyed experience. And there's nothing more enjoyable than writing music, that you know people will love and people will get something from. It's about sharing. It's not about keeping it in. And if someone likes it from the outside world, and that's whatever you want to do.



RYAN: For me, I feel a song doesn't exist until people hear it. I remember I wrote a song for Jimmy for his wedding. And it was the first time I think I'd ever written a song that I hadn't shown him. It just didn't feel the song existed to me. Until he hears it. It doesn't exist. That's exactly how it is for an audience. I'm the same. I hear people saying, ‘Oh, I just make music for myself. And if people listen to it, then-’ Just fucking stay in your room then. Just don't release it. It's a shared experience. A song doesn't exist until somebody hears it.

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ALICE: I think the beauty of songs is that feeling when you listen to something and connect to the words in a way that says something you've been trying to say for so long, and that connection that fans get with it, I think, is the most special thing you can have.


RYAN: Absolutely. I think exactly what you just said hearing a song say something that you've always felt that you didn't know how to say. That's something that I've always felt over my life.


ALICE: How has it been approaching this new album, has it felt different in the approach, or have you followed the same sort of routine?


RYAN: I think it has been quite different from the others. I think it's evolved. Going into recording the album for me, I had a couple of goals, I wanted to be able to stand behind every single lyric confidently and know that I really did my best, not that I ever wasn't doing my best, but sometimes something has to fucking rhyme! But I didn't want that on this album. When it was finished and listening back, I was able to stand by that. We wanted to try and bridge the gap of how we come across live and how we are on a record. And that was a big goal for us. Like Jimmy said, I think that's something that we achieved on this. You're never going to be able to capture the live energy 100%. That's impossible, but I think we came as close as we possibly could.


JIMMY: Personality as well. I think it's so key. Obviously, when you bring out your first album, people say you've got your whole life to write that. It's actually just the rawest form of your personality coming through your music because you've never hard anyone telling you how to do it beforehand and finding that magic. Just saying, this is who we are and we're just going to translate it into music and enjoy it and also, we want to write songs that are relatable, and that people love. I think the most unique thing an artist or a band can do is showcase their own personality. Trying to sound like something else, is basically trying to change your personality, in my opinion.


ALICE: Do you find it that it's not just about the music, but also creativity in performances and that's where it's interesting, having this creative set and that's where your personality comes through?


JIMMY: I 100% agree with you. There's obviously a great thing about watching the band live and seeing them play the music but when you can add more creative and artistic ways of expressing the music, through physical format or visible formats, that just adds so much more to your performance. What is the film without the music at the end of the day? I'd say that half of the magic has gone the same way with a performance. If you can do some great visuals, have a physical set, and even have some choreography, make it a show. That's it, you want to have an all-sensory experience. It's like when you go see Coldplay? It's like walking out of the most emotional movie you ever watched, and it was just a gig!


ALICE: What would you add to the shows if you had the ultimate budget?


RYAN: Very good question! [debates between the boys commence]


ALICE: Would you have you flying from one of those trapeze things?


JIMMY: I think if you made it more of an actual show performance, or if a fan comes to the show and they know they're going to be filmed on that night, that's going to be every night, will be a different movie or something. 


ALICE: I've had Raye's My 21st Century Symphony live album on repeat, have you guys ever thought about doing live recordings of the shows?


JIMMY: We have made some live recordings and videos we put up on YouTube, which have been really amazing. We've never actually made a decision to film a live show and actually do it as a proper release. But I think it's definitely something we are going to do in the near future for that exact reason that you said, our live show has crazy fans, and there's a lot of energy,capturing that properly with an actual film crew, I think it's something we're going to do. I'm surprised we haven't done it.


RYAN: I'm surprised we haven't either


ALICE: Thinking about intimacy in writing, how has it been getting to those places where you are so intimate, and you're kind of baring your soul and for people to take it however they take it that must be nerve-racking in itself?


JIMMY: Ryan is obviously the main writer of the band, but I just want to reference, actually, Parked Car Conversations and how that one came about. Ryan and I were on a writing trip together on an Airbnb down in Ireland. Ryan had mentioned that title to me the night before. He said, I want to write something called Parked Car Conversations and me being oblivious half the time, I didn't realise that it's actually about our relationship, that we spent a lot of our early years in the band, I'd drive Ryan, home in the car, and we'd sit in the car and plan the whole future of the band in the car. But then, as it went on, and Ryan started actually writing the lyrics the next day, it became very, very emotional, even between the two of us, me and Ryan, delving into a very personal thing about ourselves. 


I think, having that key when you're writing a song, that if from the get-go, it's already about something very personal and emotional, people will relate to that a lot easier. Because it's just very raw. And having that kind of rawness where we're thankful that Ryan can do that because [Ryan] can write something very quickly, but very raw and very genuine. I think that really comes across to the fans. I think when you're genuine, writing a song, it has real personal weight behind it. It's very easy for fans to get involved. I'm a fan of a lot of artists, obviously and I've had extreme emotional reactions to songs because I know they come from a personal place or I know what they're about. So, I think that's, for me, that's kind of the foundation and fact that Ryan writes lyrics and listening to what Ryan has to say a lot of the times, and as a fan. I can kind of feel how, wow, that's something really, really personal. Yeah, it's a lot easier to relate.


ALICE: Do you ever have it where Ryan writes something, and you don't realise you're feeling that way? 


JIMMY: Totally. And again, I'm talking about me. It's a great skill that Ryan has, which is exactly what you said there. Being able to say things using your vocabulary and words to bring someone to an emotional state, you know, is a great talent. And you know, that is already a great talent to have when you pair it with an emotionally driven pain, a part of our conversation, and you could relate instantly. I think everyone can relate to it because everyone has had that thing. I think it's taking the simplest thing and using music and your lyrics to try and transfer it into this otherworldly thing. That's the grey area of magic that no one can figure out.


ALICE: You guys travel all the time with one another. So, there must be that inherent kind of moral support, can you read each other like a book?


RYAN: I think I can read all of you. Because we've just spent so much time together, you know, and continue to do so. I think it's good that we're all very different from each other, you know, four very individual people with different traits. And that kind of helps, actually, because there's not a lot of clashing that happens. We all fit into our own, our own place. And there's always just an underlying, unspoken togetherness and support among us. You don't always have to talk about it. You don't always have to say, I'm here for you, or I know you're going through something. Sometimes, it's just a feeling that you get when you're that close as a group. And that alone is comforting enough. Sometimes without having to talk about something. 


ALICE: What's something that lights you up?


RYAN: Thats a very good observation because I think people do joyful things but are not present. So,  they're somewhere else in their mind. So, they're not actually enjoying this joyful experience that's happening. I like dancing. I love being on stage and getting to perform that. That's a very obvious one. But I also have been going to a lot of Northern Soul nights. Just dancing all night, no drinking. It's just a really nice atmosphere that's created on those nights. There's just something about moving your body that's just joyous. I think, whether that's exercise or performance, or dancing, or whatever it is, there's something about the movement of your body. That just feels great. Just gives me a lot of joy.


ALICE: One of the things that I did in the PTSD therapy pathway was I learned was this weird, way to dance. I felt like an absolute tit, I'm not going to lie, when they made us do it in front of everyone. I don't even know how to describe it, but it's really good for your nervous system, and it actually worked!


RYAN: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It's just fun. You feel like a fucking idiot sometimes, for sure. But that's what's fun. Yeah, it is just about embracing it. Jimmy dances all the time. 


JIMMY: There's no shame, and I don't get embarrassed.


ALICE: If you could pick any genre of dance to do, what would it be?


RYAN: For me, it's Northern Soul


JIMMY: I love disco, 70's style music. It's just fun because it just feels it's on a loop.


CLIFF: For me, joy is a good coffee in the morning, but there are a lot of things I find change the older you get when it comes to your needs. When I was younger, I wanted a lot more things. And I find the older I get I don't feel I need a lot of things. But one thing I do for myself is when we go on tour. The first few days are probably just about getting settled in. And then once you get settled in, it's an amazing feeling that you can just go forever, and that is something that I absolutely love. Once you kind of kick into the rhythm of it all.


ALICE: What's it like being on tour together?


JIMMY: To be honest. We're not crazy. We've had some crazy times! You know, we've done some stuff! But nothing too crazy. We don't drink that much. None of us do drugs and never have, so that's a lot of craziness immediately dead.


We're very close to four of us. We're good friends. And it's like being on holiday with your friends all the time. Everything's a good idea. You can't say no to anything. It's because you feel like children and the whole world is at your doorstep. You know when you're a child, and you get a ring for free or here's a cinema ticket or here's food. And when you're in the band, it's exactly the same thing. Here are free tickets to that. Here is this, and you're just living very much in the moment. And I understand why people want to go on tours and experience that. Now there are times when it's a bit shit, and you don't sleep, but ultimately, it's the camaraderie between the four of us, I think it's great. It's a very key factor to our success I think.


RYAN: Yeah, absolutely. It's very cliché as well but walking on stage with the boys is when I feel some of the most camaraderie I've ever felt in my life. Because I feel for solo artists who have to walk on stage alone. I know they have musicians and stuff, but it's not the same as the four of us walking on as four equal members. I just feel there's just subconscious support and togetherness that we have, and I just feel so safe. I'm on stage with the boys, and there's a beautiful sense of camaraderie that I feel really intensely. 


ALICE: It's also that shared experience that's really personal.


RYAN: So true. Because there's a lot of stuff. All of the experiences we've had and my favourite experiences in my life have been with us. It just wouldn't be as special if I did it by myself. We were only saying recently I was in LA without the band recently and it was just- we have had such amazing times in LA and some of our favourite memories are from there when we've been together. And then I was there by myself, and it just wasn't as fun. Then Cliff came out, and it became a little bit more fun. [being in LA solo] It just wasn't the same. There's an amazing kind of magic and sharing experience with other people that just makes it more meaningful.


Picture This' brand-new album, Parked Car Conversations, is out April 26th!  


The band is set to play some UK festival shows and outdoor shows in Ireland this summer. 


Their headline UK & European tour starts in October. Tickets are on sale now.


Words Madison Drew

Photography Chloe Maylor

Styling Chloe Oldridge

MUA & Hair Stylist Gracie Jai Cox

Styling Assistant Amelia Connolly




Ryan, YSL 3 piece suit, SYLK. Shirt, Dior. Shoes, Sylk. Rings, Underground & Rat Betty. Cliff, Blazer, Allsaints. Trousers, Allsaints. Silk Neck scarf, Soho scarves.

Jimmy, Leather blazer, Allsaints. Shirt, Allsaints. Trousers, Allsaints. Shoes, Dr Martens. Owen, Shirt, HODO Trousers. HODO Jumper, Vintage SYLK store

Ryan, Leather jacket, Vintage SYLK.Trousers, Balmain SYLK store. Shoes, Underground. Cliff, Cardigan, Allsaints. Trousers, Zara. Jimmy, Jacket, Allsaints Trousers. Shoes, Dr Martens. Owen, Trousers, HODO Waistcoat. Jumper, Vintage SYLK Store. Trainers, Converse.

Ryan, Shirt, Rowing Blazers.Jumper, Marni. Trousers, Balmain SYLK store. Shoes, Underground. Ring, Rat Betty. Cliff, Jumper, Rowing Blazers. Trousers, Zara. Shoes, Dr Martens. Jimmy, Trousers, Armani. Cardigan, Zara. Shoes, Dr Martens. Owen, Shirt, YSL. Jacket, Levi’s Jeans.

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