San Jose alternative-indie band Picture Atlantic was scheduled to play Fresno back in August. I had a nice email interview with the band’s singer/guitarist Nikolaus Bartunek all set to go in advance of the show … Then the show fell through and we all did a big “Womp, womp.”
I can finally run that interview. Note: Some parts have been edited for timeliness.
Tell us a little about what the band has going on now.
Right now the band is pretty busy with shows. We’re at the point again where we are traveling out of town and trying to play out of state as much as possible. But we’re also working on new music, which we’ve had the chance to share with our fans on a couple occasions. Pretty soon though, we’ll be dropping a brand new music video. [The video for “Edgewood Road” was released Aug. 20]. I’m curious to see how that will go.
The band plays in the vein of MUSE/Coldplay and the like. I hear those influences. There’s also an underlying punkiness to a song like “Twist” and I sense some post-punk influences. Not at get all genre specific, but is there a particular sound you are trying for? How do you describe your music?
We don’t try to aim for a sound if we can help it. I find that can severely limit our music, let alone music in general. In my opinion, for bands, by the time you finally are able to hop on a bandwagon you realize there is no longer a horse attached. Chasing a sound can end up being a goose chase. In terms of describing our sound, that is probably the hardest thing to do, only because, how I perceive our music is so much more different than I think people on the outside perceive it. Sometimes we’ll get these very bizarre parallels to our music from blogs or magazines, and I never would have in a million years thought we sounded like that band, but someone else seems to think we do! It’s actually a very cool thing. Kind of like “If I see the color green, does another person see the same color I am seeing?”
The band started when you all were fairly young and you’ve been playing a half-dozen years or so. How has the band changed from the early days?
So much has changed. If you had a month to conduct interviews I might be able to describe it. At skin level though, primarily, I think we have cut down on our band size and our approach to writing and our sound. Less is more is very much one of our mottos. Instead of being a bulky, but powerful boxer, we’ve gone for agility and finesse.
This isn’t your first time in Fresno. What’s your general take on the bands you’ve played with and the scene here?
Fresno has a long history for us. We’ve been playing here since 2006 or 2007 at least, and the city has very much has changed music-wise. We’ve played with some great bands, and many bands that aren’t my cup of tea at all. However, the scene, in my humble opinion, has really seemed to suffer immensely in the past two or three years. The caliber of bands coming out of Fresno seems to have declined, and I think a lot of really great bands have left Fresno for the Bay Area or Los Angeles. I have hope in Fresno though, it sort of reminds me of a scrappy dog who keeps getting up to fight!
Picture Atlantic played some big time shows (opening for Cold Play, playing BFD, etc.), but then you play these all-age shows at places like Victory Cafe [or Tokyo Garden in this case]. How does it feel to step out in front 1,000 fans, as opposed to several hundred?
We’ve been insanely blessed to have had the chance to play for some huge acts, and I can only thank God for that at the end of the day. And even when we play for a couple hundred people, I feel insanely blessed too. It’s kind of like swimming in a pool when it’s warm, and swimming in a pool when it’s cold. They are the same thing, but your body reacts differently to the atmosphere. The big shows we’ve played have a great energy to them, but people feel so distant. Small shows really make my night. Sometimes we’ll play these tiny shows in Santa Cruz, or where ever, and there are 60 people crammed into a tiny little cafe. Those are always the more punk shows for us.