Imaginary Heartache: An Interview with The Picturebooks

German duo Fynn Claus Grabke and Philipp Mirtschink created The Picturebooks after meeting at a skate park and went from band practice in Fynn’s attic to performing at festivals such as Riot Fest. Their first full-length, Imaginary Horse, is quite literally the introduction of their career as they had no prior musical background. After three straight years of touring the record, they saw that their greatest opportunity was to write about those experiences. 

“We see Home is a Heartache as a sequel of Imaginary Horse,” Grabke said about their second full-length record. “Home is a Heartache means that when you’re away from home as much as we are, home becomes nothing but an ache, a memory; a place that pretty much only exists in your head. You make it better than it actually is after a while and you are disappointed in a way when you come home and it’s not like you wanted it to be.”

A major subject matter addressed on this record is the panic attacks that Grabke developed while on tour. The song, “Inner Demons”, came from the attacks that affected him both on and off stage. While discussing his attacks with Mirtschink , the song came out of a first take, completely improvised recording session. Grabke describes the improvisation as a concept they frequently use to create their music. “It makes the whole writing process a lot faster but it’s also kind of hard for me because I say what I feel right there and then and can’t hide my feeling behind nice lyrics,” Grabke said. “It’s probably the most honest way to write.”

Despite being relatively new to the music industry, their taste in instruments is far from a beginner level. Neither of them knew how to play a single instrument before creating The Picturebooks but have since invested in obscure vintage guitars and an even more obscure drum set. Mirtschink's frequently used instrument is what he calls “The Ratsh-Ratsh Thing” and is described as a long stick with oddly shaped bells – a description used frequently because the actual name of the instrument is unknown to them. Mirtschink's drum set also includes a few self-created instruments and not a single cymbal. For Grabke , his thrift store finds include an old Gibson ES125 that got smashed into Mirtschink's face at a show in Brooklyn and was repaired by Korn’s guitar tech. 

When they aren’t recording or out on tour, motorcycles are another one of their shared passions. In a barn right outside of Gutersloh, Germany, their recording studio is in between the skate ramp they built outside and a garage to build and repair their bikes. Their small area of paradise has given them not only the opportunity to perfect their skating and their music, but has branched into opportunities like working with companies like Thunderbike Customs and Harley-Davidson. “Building a custom bike is like writing a song in a way,” Grabke said. “You decide what color, what gas tank, what kind of handle bars and all that stuff. With music, it’s kind of like that too…I guess it’s just a nice and different creative out and input to have between all this touring and songwriting.” 

Home is a Heartache was created from never-before-experienced moments that inspired the duo to stick with this new adventure they’d found themselves on. There is no plan B for Grabke and Mirtschink – the combination of skateboards, motorcycles and musical instruments is all they need.