An Interview with Quiet Evenings [GOLDRUSH Edition]

We at the TOME... we're excited. Ya know why? GOLDRUSH is coming. It's mere weeks away now (September 16th & 17th at the Hi-Dive and Sputnik), and to get you all excited too (as if you weren't already), team GOLDRUSH (Tome+MagicTeepee+SpeakerSnacks = <3<3<3) wanted to give the artists we've invited to perform a chance to tell you their stories directly—about where they come from, their musical processes, ...what they had for dinner last night...—and so, without much further ado, we're presenting you with the first in a series of exclusive interviews and mixes from these wary road warriors who are coming far and wide to astound and amaze our fair city of Denver, Colorado.
First up is a duo of drone/ambient wonderment from the small town of LaGrange, Georgia called Quiet Evenings. Grant and Rachel Evans have been married and living there for the past three years, quietly (pun... sort of intended) building a massive discography through releases on their own Hooker Vision tape label, as well as nailing excellent full-lengths via the likes of Digitalis Industries, Preservation, and others. This interview was really special to me and one other very special person who helped compose these questions—miss Jamie Bryant who is my companion in crime, best friend, an excellent keyboardist and is damned cute, too. (Just click that link and tell me I'm wrong. I dare you.) We've both become something of obsessive fans of Quiet Evenings, Rachel's solo project Motion Sickness of Time Travel and of Grant's work as Nova Scotian Arms in the past 12 months, and it is our distinct pleasure and honor to have had the chance to ask them these questions and get to actually meet them come this September.
Quiet Evenings' latest full-length, Intrepid Trips, is a hypersonic voyage through deep evergreen forests, the crackling embers of a campfire, and outer-space that balances a slow pace with an incredibly intense inertia to evolve immediately, yet gracefully. Phased-out, super-maleable synths, delicately plucked guitar, chilling vocals and harrowing atmospherics make up the core of its modest half-hour run-length to achieve a monumental height in melodic ambience that Zen Effects calls "A total new age classic." We asked the two about their histories—both together and with their music on individual levels, their various sources of inspiration, and the virtues of isolation. If you don't live in the Denver area and can't catch them at GOLDRUSH this year, the group is also on the brink of its first-ever US tour, so scope the beauty at one of their many upcoming dates. Also, don't forget to cop the exclusive Quiet Evenings mix for GOLDRUSH fest which they've called "Smoker's Choice" (and requires a bit of preparation before listening...) after the interview! Enjoy!
For: William Basinski, The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact, Tim Hecker, Hobo Cubes, Aidan Baker 
The TOME: How did you two meet? What came first, Quiet Evenings the band or Grant and Rachel the lovers?
Rachel Evans: We met during my first semester of college. Grant was working on a short film and asked me to be a silent actor... I walked around in the woods, climbed a ladder and dug up a small box from the ground... that was the first day we really hung out. It was our first collaboration. I actually ended up doing the score for that video too.
Grant Evans: Quiet Evenings didn't come about until a year or so after we were married. I was never very comfortable playing music with anyone up until that point.
How long had you two been making music apart from each other before coming together?
R: I've been recording some version of solo music from the age of 15 or so.  Before MSOTT, I had Grant lay down a few guitar tracks, and even a few jews harp tracks, on some of my earlier solo recordings, prior to MSOTT.
G: I've been making solo recordings since I was pretty young. I started recording as Nova Scotian Arms in late 2007.
Were either of you classically trained or are you totally self-taught?
G: I'm self-taught. I took a few guitar lessons as a kid but nothing really rigorous... I've always listened to a lot of different types of music so I think that's been my training. After a certain period of being frustrated with playing music, I "untaught" myself all of the guitar lessons and kind of started from scratch. That's also about the time I became interested in keyboards and synthesizers.
R: I was classically trained in piano until high school, and started taking classical voice lessons about that time. In elementary school I played cello in the school orchestra for a really short time. Then, I self-taught (if you can call it that) myself drums, guitar and bass during middle school. And in college, one of my majors was music (composition for the most part).
When you write a song, do you have an idea of a story that you want to tell? It seems like the songs have a narrative quality (beginning, middle, end) despite their ambience. Is there a pre-determined structure you're trying to outline, or do you just jump in and see where the song takes you?
G: We never really have a clear idea when we start; at least as far as Quiet Evenings goes. It's always an exploration of whatever kind of mood we're in at the time. Of course, the intention is always pretty much the same: transcendence.
R: Yeah never really an idea in mind for QE, its always a little different. We don't really write songs either. It's more just a coming together of the two of us; not thinking about anything, but just being, and being together.
Nature seems like a really important theme in your music. What is it like outdoors in LaGrange, GA?
G: LaGrange is a sleepy haven of pine trees and kudzu, situated around a lake that's connected to the Chattahoochee River. There are some nice hiking trails and places to camp but most of the year, it's too hot to enjoy any of the beautiful surroundings.
R: Yeah, I like LaGrange outdoors during the fall and winter, but summer and spring (and last year most of fall too) it's impossible to enjoy it without being eaten alive by bugs. But inside it's not so bad. There are a lot of big, open windows in our house with lots of natural sunlight, so the nature is always "inside" with us. It's like living in the trees. 
Speaking of LaGrange, how did you two end up there? Do you ever feel isolated, or are you happy in your place there? What kind of advantages/disadvantages go along with living there. Also, how does your environment affect your sound - do you think Quiet Evenings would sound different if you lived in…*cough*…say, Denver?
R: I'm not originally from LaGrange. I moved here to go to college in Fall 2006. I love our house and our woodsy surroundings in LaGrange, but that's outside of town. We're pretty isolated as far as people like us go, but the advantage to not really having "friends" in real life is that we have a lot more time to work on music and things like that. I'm not so sure we'd be quite as prolific with recording and music if we had something better to do on a friday night (or any night for that matter). I think our environment has a lot to do with our sound. We found something special in our sound when we moved out into this house in the woods. We're really interested in moving out of the south, but I'm kind of afraid of what kind of change that will bring to the sound of all the music we're making. I think environment has a lot to do with it. I haven't been to Denver yet, so I can't really judge the difference in sound.
G: My parents moved me here when I was around 4 years old, so I've been here pretty much my whole life. Everyday I have sort of conflicting feelings towards where we live. On one hand, I really enjoy rural living and the slow pace of life. But on the other hand, I'm painfully aware of the things we're missing out on. That's part of the reason it's been so rewarding to meet so many like-minded individuals, who might be in similar living situations, through the internet. We feel like we're a part of some kind of community; no matter how abstract it may be. Our surroundings definitely have an impact on our sound but I'm interested in seeing what a potential move could do for us.
We love your art as well, videos, record covers, Grant's blog… do you feel like your music is a reflection of the art, or is it the other way around?
G: Thanks! I don't necessarily believe that either is reflective of the other but I do see my music as an extension of my work in the visual arts. For me, the two have always been inseparable.
R: I have a hard time calling myself an artist... but I definitely feel like my videos are a reflection of the music. They're sort of what I envision when listening to something; it's me trying to re-create that.
Rachel, do you ever make a music video before writing the music? Or do the videos always come after?
R: I generally make videos after writing (or hearing) the music. But I don't always listen to the music while making the video. So I'll pick the audio track first (most of the time) and then compose the video based on my "vision" of the music, then I'll pull the music in and check it out. Generally I love the way they work together and that's it!
When you started, did you instantly know that there was a musical connection? What worked, and what didn't work?
G: When we first started QE, we used to jokingly refer to ourselves as a Selected Ambient Works cover band... Not that we were actually trying to recreate any of those tracks. It was just the idea of creating these abstract environments and really exploring them that we were interested in.
To each of you, what's your favorite piece of gear? Do you use different equipment for recording vs. live performances? What specifically could you not live without?
G: Tough one... I'd say that my current favorite piece of gear is my Roland Gaia. It's such a versatile synth. I'll be playing a Korg R3 on the road though, since I'm not as attached to it. We have a few different live and recording strategies so all of the equipment we use at home ends up being played live, at least once, and vice versa. We get bored with a certain approach fairly quickly and have to change things up a bit... As far as gear that I couldn't live without, I'd have to say my tape players. Making tape loops is an extremely meditative process for me, from assembling to recording to playing back. I need that in my life.
R: My favorite piece of gear is definitely, hands down, my Space Synth! It’s this ridiculously large, but surprisingly light-weight mini synth that I bought used at Switched On when we were in Austin, TX for SxSw earlier this year. I’ve never seen anything else like it. It’s got a couple crazy sounding oscillators in in with some clunky knobs that are super sensitive (which is really nice!), plus an optional photo cell that lets you play it like a theremin, not to mention an awesome picture of a space ship on it... it’s pretty much my favorite piece of gear of all time (that I’ve ever owned). I usually use the same gear for both live shows and recording, but for Denver I’ll only be able to bring one of my synths. And like Grant said, we like mixing things up quite often, so we’re always rotating what gear we use for both recordings and live sets. I guess the piece of gear I couldn’t live without would have to be my Dave Smith Mopho. It’s always the first sound I start with no matter what project I’m recording for. It’s got such flexibility.
What is in your tape player now? Favorite new artists? Favorite old artists? What other types of music inspire you besides other ambient/drone? Artists that you are most influenced by?
G: Currently listening to Straits of Maize by Tricorn & Queue. Essential summer listening. Most of my favorite new music is being released almost entirely on cassette. I've really been digging new tapes from Afterlife, Hobo Cubes, Innercity, Grasshopper, Peat Raamur, Pulse Emitter, just to name a few... Some older favorites include: Steve Reich, Miles Davis, Burzum, The Orb, Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, Cluster, The Butthole Surfers, UGK, Talking Heads... We usually listen to rap music or old girl-group stuff before we record QE. We NEVER listen to drone or ambient or whatever before recording. I think I've been influenced the most by people like Stan Brakhage, William Burroughs, Andrei Tarkovsky, William Basinski, Marcel Duchamp... 
R: Grant and I share the tape player and all our tapes, records and cds too, so over 90% of the time I’m listening to what he’s listening to. Favorite artists I’ve been into recently include JLK and Love Cult, in addition to everything Grant said. Probably my all time favorite artist would be Valet. A couple of influences for me include Kaija Saariaho, Sylvia Plath, and Maya Deren. Grant got me into Stan Brakhage in the past year, and he’s become a huge influence for me visually.
What are you reading? What are you watching? Favorite books/comics/movies/music videos?
G: I'm currently reading the complete fictions of H.P. Lovecraft. I really wish I had read more of his stuff much earlier in life. I'd have to say my favorite book of all time is either The Book of Laughter and Forgetting or The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Kundera is just incredible. I recently got the latest installment in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and was a little disappointed. I usually love Alan Moore's work but I feel like it might be time for Leagueto be put to bed. That being said, it is one of my favorite series of comics from recent years. I haven't been watching as many films as I used to... We've been watching a good bit of Kenneth Anger recently. My favorite film of all time is a bit harder to decide on... Probably Stalker by Tarkovsky or The Seventh Seal by Bergman.
R: Grant and I share our book collection too, so I’m usually reading something he’s recommended. Right now I’m reading H.P. Lovecraft too. Probably my favorite book of all time would have to be The Unbearable Lightness of Being too, hands down. As with most things I end up loving, I owe Grant for getting me into Kundera. Seriously, the best book I’ve ever read. As far as graphic novels go it’s a tie for me between Black Hole and the Promethea series. With movies (again, we share all of our collections) I’m watching whatever Grant’s watching, so Kenneth Anger has been in heavy rotation. And for favorite film of all time I’ve have to say it’s a tie for me between Closely Watched Trains by Jiří Menzel and Two Or Three Things I Know About Her by Godard.  Both are so beautiful, I could never choose between those two!
How much of your time goes into your label, Hooker Vision vs. how much you spend on your music? What inspired you to start the label? Also, you've predominantly released cassettes over the past couple of years, and it looks like you're just starting to put out some vinyl. Do you see a transition to exclusively vinyl releases coming, or will you always put out tapes?
G: We try to put about 50/50 into both. Sometimes that's impossible and one takes precedent over the other but the theory is half and half. We started the label mainly as a means for releasing our own music but quickly discovered that there were lots of people, operating in a similar fashion, who we wanted to work with.
R: We’re really excited about releasing more vinyl, but I don’t think we’ll ever exclusively do vinyl. We love tapes too much! It would be ideal if we could release an equal amount of both, since we appreciate both formats so much.
Any special plans for your set at GOLDRUSH?
G: Can we get some interpretive dancers or something? 
R: What he said, PLUS badass projections. Also, I read somewhere that Denver has more dispensaries (of you know what) than it has Starbucks... this is part of the plan too.
What other bands/performers are you excited about for the festival?
G: I'm looking forward to seeing CVLTS. I'm not really familiar with a lot of the other bands...
R: Definitely looking forward to The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact.
What did you guys have for dinner this evening?
G: We had some vegetable burritos with lots of nice veggies from the local farmer's market.
Interview by Crawf and Jamie

Smoker's Choice Mix

An exclusive GOLDRUSH festival mix by Grant and Rachel Evans of Quiet Evenings
1. Three 6 Mafia- Ridin'N Da Chevy with Lunar Miasma- A Thousand Suns
2. Goodie Mob- Black Ice with Cliffsides- Convergence
3. Tru- Smokin' Green with Mist- Mist House
4. UGK- Pocket Full of Stones with The Away Team- Skymud
5. Eightball and M.J.G.- Top of the World with Duck Dive- Quasar Vision
6. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony- Budsmokers Only with Electroluminescent- Opening Day
Audio Stream/Download::

August 3rd, 2011