Louisville, KY trio Rachel's rose from the ashes of Rodan with 1995's
Handwriting (Quarterstick) LP, which introduced the startling craftsmanship
of pianist Rachel Grimes, violinist Christian Fredrickson, and bassist/guitarist
Jason Noble. The band has transformed from the confining box trios into more of
a collective adding and dropping members for each successive album they've
released. 2003 saw the release of the group's fifth LP, Systems/Layers (Quarterstick),
a carefully-crafted collaboration with NYC ensemble SITI Company. The
mainly-instrumental LP highlights the lives of eight individuals over the course
of a single day and utilizes field recordings and subway noise. Rachel's is also
set to release the eighth and final EP in Three Lobed Records' Purposeful
Availment EP series, which will consist of the brand-new, 18 minute-long
track "Technology Is Killing Music."
I recently spoke with Rachel Grimes as the collective was knee-deep in an early
spring tour and busy preparing for the debut of the first full performance of
Systems/Layers with the SITI Company, scheduled for March 17th at the
Krannert Center in Champaign-Urbana, IL.
Rachel's is planning to play March 17th with the SITI Company, could
you talk a little bit about how the working relationship came about both with
Systems/Layers as well as the upcoming live performance?
SITI Company has done a number of productions for Actors Theatre of Louisville
over the last 10 years. Since it is the hometown to several of us, we ended up
meeting each other over there after one of their gripping performances. They had
been using of some of our recordings in various shows and for their training.
Once we met in person, it just seemed to click and in no time we were in the
room together responding, making music. We attended several of their summer
workshops at Skidmore College and a residency at Utah State University.
Systems/Layers grew out of that space and time together.
Rachel's has been called "ambient music" or music you could play in the
background and easily forget about, does that seem more of a put down of the
group's work or do you tend to ignore press/reviews?
I suppose our culture at large has made it seem like there has to be "music" on
all the time, mostly in the background. We hope that our music engages people –
but we can't reach everyone. We do look at the press we receive, have some
laughs and groans and try to take it in stride.
Rachel's has grown into more of a collective over the years, was that always the
plan? Do you enjoy the collective atmosphere or would you rather play with a
smaller group of people?
Rachel's has always been somewhat amorphous – functioning like a project at
times, a band or chamber group at other times. It kind of depends on the nature
of the song at hand or its origin. Really, we are not all that rambling – kind
of 3 main songwriters, 6 total musicians most of the time. We ask other string
players or clarinet or whatever to join us for recording sessions.
How important is improvisation when the band is playing live or recording? Is it
more relevant to live performances?
We have always tried to keep open to the music of the moment. I would say once
we get recording, there isn't much improvisation but things happen live to spice
How is the music written? Does everyone equally share writing duties? Does
everyone have a say?
Jason, Christian, and I are the main songwriters. Sometimes we bring a fairly
finished piece to each other; sometimes we just have basic ideas. We make demos
to try things out and eventually get together to practice and flesh it out. We
try to keep it open for group consensus.
You claim at the official site that you're planning on playing music from all
six LPs as well as several new songs for the upcoming tour. Was that a conscious
decision by the band before the tour was created? Are you currently working on a
We have been playing songs from almost all our records on this tour – it just
feels right. We have a brand-new EP on Three Lobed Records as part of a
subscription series which will only be available on this tour. It contains a lot
of material that had been part of the Systems/Layers recording sessions,
all made into on seamless, 18-minute track.
Do you have any side/solo projects you've been working on?
Most of us have been playing in other groups. Violinist Eve Miller plays and
tours with Matt Pond PA, drummer/keyboardist Edward Grimes plays with Seluah and
Jason plays with Shipping News. Christian and I have both given solo concerts in
the last year performing a mixture of classical and original material. We also
play in other ensembles for extra work, like orchestras or as session players
and even in restaurants.