Some albums are meant to be listened to as whole pieces, designed to catch you and hold you suspended in sound until the needle slips off the last groove. Luminaries & Synastry by Motion Sickness Of Time Travel is one of those albums. Its everlasting arpeggios and layers of vocals wash around your head, over-taking thought without ever seeming intrusive. It is a quiet album, filled with uneasy beauty that puzzles as much as it charms. It drifts around, in no hurry to impress or shock, just waiting for you relax and let it take you out of your head for a short while. Rachel Evans is the woman behind the music and she is from La Grange, Georgia, where she lives with her husband Grant Evans (who works under the Nova Scotian Arms moniker) and works in a library during the day while being a full-time graduate student for library science in the evenings.
Working from a small house way out in the countryside, the space and depth of the music goes some way towards representing the isolation in which it was made. As well as MSOTT, Evans and her husband play together as Quiet Evenings and run their own label, Hooker Vision, which specialises in small runs of tapes and other defunct formats. Over email Evans gave us a quick insight into her life and work.
Can you tell me a little about how you got started making music? Have you always been drawn to the kind of music you're making now?
I got started making music at a very young age, taking various lessons and being surrounded by my mom's cassettes of church music. I wasn't at all drawn to the kind of music I make now until after I met my husband, Grant. He really introduced me to ambient and electronic music. I'd say it wasn't until 2007 when I really started to listen to this type of music, and even then it took me a while to really get into it. Now that's all I listen to.
You have a pretty extensive history of playing instruments and taking lessons but a lot of what you do seems to operate outside classic music practice and theory. Does your own musical training affect or inform the way you make music now?
Well the whole point of MSOTT when I started recording under that name was to break away from all of my musical training and to approach music in more of an improvised way rather than a composed way. But in hindsight, I can really see how my training has influenced my sound. Especially in the vocals. I always hated choir and voice lessons more than anything else, but I really feel like some of that choir experience has subconsciously made its way into my music.
Has moving to the countryside changed things for you?
Yes, definitely. I didn't even really care for my own music until we moved out to the house we live in now. Before, we lived closer to town and there were a lot more distractions as far as sound goes (sirens, traffic, etc.). Out here at our current house, being surrounded by trees we really only hear insects and birds and the sound of wind blowing in the trees. It's perfect inspiration, and completely calming. It's almost like ambient "music" is playing all the time out here.
Your voice seems to form a very central part of your music as MSOTT, was this a conscious decision?
Well at first my goal with MSOTT was to make the voice less central by making it more integral (if that makes any sense). I wanted to take it from being the focal point to being a background instrument. Then somewhere along the way it became the focal point again. I guess I can't fight it, but it's always a struggle for me... how up front the voice is in the mix.
What kind of experience would you like the MSOTT live show to be? Do you approach playing differently to recording?
I hope that an MSOTT live show could be as similar of an experience as listening to the record. Ideally, a live performance would be a slightly better experience (if I could have my way with a great projection going on at the same time... but that's not always possible). I try to approach both live shows and recordings the same way, but it's very difficult to do. I do so much layering in my recordings that's really difficult for me to pull off in a live setting by myself. But I think I'm getting a little better at it each time...
The music scene in Georgia has always seemed, to me at least, to be particularly varied and kind of extreme in it's own ways. It seems like musicians there care a little less about what others think of them. Do you think this is the case or what has been your experience of making music in Georgia?
Well, I'm not really that fond of Georgia's "music scene"... It continues to disappoint me for the most part. I don't know much about musicians not caring about what people think either... I think it's just a little easier for musicians in places like this to "not care" as much because in real life people really don't care as much (at least in my experiences anyway). It really makes things like this interview seem totally surreal. It's almost like making music is a secret for us... even though it's not at all.
With Quiet Evenings, you've said you want to remove all "pop" influences from what you're doing. Is there any reason for this kind of divide between QE and MSOTT and does one project influence the other much?
Yes, I really make a conscious effort to keep my "pop-ier" influences out of Quiet Evenings' sound. QE has always been about exploring new approaches and textures for both of us. My pop influences are more my influences alone, and aren't really shared by Grant. I'd say Quiet Evenings (at least for me) if more influenced by the music I listen to now than it is by my earlier musical influences. We've both always wanted QE to be distinctly different, and of course separate, from both of our solo projects. Our solo projects are more personal expressions. QE is a joint expression and really reflects the two of us together rather than separate.
How did Hooker Vision come about? You describe the label as specializing in "obsolete formats", do you think this is important and is there any non-aesthetic reason for it?
Grant founded Hooker Vision a few years back. Only in the past year or so have I become more involved in label operations. It was initially for us and our close friends to release music on, but over time its really evolved. The success of our own music has brought the label a lot of new love, and we've recently been able to break into vinyl. Focusing on our favorite formats (which happen to be "obsolete") is something we both love. No piece of music sounds the same on different formats... each has its own unique qualities. We grew up on certain formats and they have a special place in our hearts and ears.