Four boyhood friends kept looking up, no matter what, and eventually grew to be men. Now they're pictureshow, a lowercase quartet of madmen and lovers.
Whenever and wherever they play, a string of devoted fans follows. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds can be seen bobbing their heads to the beat as well as getting worked into a fist-pumping frenzy only to be brought back down by melodic interludes effortlessly chasing a cymbal crash.
"It's individuation, when many are doing something, other people do it with them," explains redheaded guitarist and vocalist Scott Higgins, 26. "It's letting go."
Nic Powers, the other guitarist and vocalist (also 26), started letting go at an early age.
"I was taking piano lessons when I was younger, and I actually hated it at the time because I was forced to do it," he says. "It wasn't something that I asked for. I was more interested in making my own stuff up, and I didn't like having homework.
That's not any fun for me. I actually got grounded because my piano teacher told my mom that I was making up my own stuff. I wasn't playing what I was told to play, and I got grounded."
Powers cocks an eyebrow and smiles.
But he continued writing his own stuff anyway, consequences be damned. Powers met his future bandmates later in high school. Each was playing music, just not with each other.
"I actually had three years off, of not even playing music, right before this band got together," Powers says. "I guess I had a bad taste in my mouth about it or something. I just stayed away from (playing music) for a few years."
He adds sarcastically, "And then I met Scott, and it was magical."
Drummer Matt Alcorn, being four years younger, was still in junior high, but eventually his stick-shattering talents were recognized. Bassist Glen May, 25, joined up later when Powers began to incorporate piano into the repertoire.
The old Sunflower Coffee Shop was the site of pictureshow's first show during the summer of 2003. Their debut CD, rags in kerosene, had been brewing ever since (the disc hit shelves late last year). They hope to embark on a tour once the weather gets warm again.
If they could choose to tour with anyone, it would most likely be a band among the likes of Wolf Parade, Rogue Wave or some other Sub Pop group. But for now, the band is selling albums at local record stores and also via cdbaby.com.
Pictureshow managed to record a full-length album and secure a solid practice space and a manager without the contributions of major corporate labels. In their twentysomething struggle to survive, May credits the old adage, "Keep your eyes on the prize."
Pictureshow's prize is to be career musicians. They want to support themselves completely off the industry and not become rich and famous ... though that wouldn't hurt.
If the band does sign with a major label, and said label wanted to redistribute rags in kerosene and give the boys a $4 million contract, they'd absolutely do it. But what if the label also wanted to make major changes to the music in order to make it more radio-friendly or more suitable for "younger" audiences?
"If we had a producer we were working with, then we're pretty flexible," Higgins says, remaining good-naturedly optimistic. "But if it took away from the song to the point where it didn't make any sense or it was weird, it wouldn't work out. We'd just be like, 'Hey, what about this new song we got? Check this out.' We'd work with them some way."
The rest of the band laughs with Higgins.
"I like how it feels when you've done something original, that moment when you realize the song is done," May says on a serious note. "I don't think we'd ever sacrifice the integrity of the music."
They stay true to being human, too, with all of our flaws and good graces bundled up into only one soul. Their music contains ecstatic bursts of glee coupled with frenetic beats receding into beautiful and morose reverb-drenched serenades. A moment later they'll provide a balls-to-the-sky punch in the face. Higgins poses a theory.
"We do kind of have a dark side," he says, "but we have a light side, too. When you listen to our music, you feel both. It's like Jungism — not being afraid to walk with your shadow. We carry ourselves that way because we have that potential to be all over the spectrum. So we write happier stuff. We're not afraid to go into that stuff because we're ..."
"The rollercoaster," May chimes in, finishing Higgins' sentence.
"Yeah, it is like a rollercoaster," Higgins concurs. "But I'm glad we can actually go into those different spaces, because we've all been there and we're all a little nuts and we're not afraid of that."
PICTURESHOW (myspace.com/pictureshowmusic) play Cooper's on Main Friday with The Invitational.