Moving Panoramas is a dream gaze project that will do anything but put you to sleep. The all-female group originated in Austin. Their lineup includes songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Leslie Sisson, drummer Karen Skloss, and bassist Jolie Cota Flink.
Sisson describes the music she creates as “panoramic” or wide-ranging, meaning it encompasses a variety of different sounds. The end result? Spacey, mystifying songs with dreamy vocals.
Story by Marilee Bodden
Moving Panoramas has a concert on Friday, Nov. 19 at Cheer Up Charlie’s and an acoustic set on Nov. 22 at Hotel St. Cecilia’s Feast Day. They will tour with Matt Pond in December. The group recently played at Sound on Sound Fest and will be releasing their second album later this year.
ORANGE sat down with Sisson to discuss her backgrounds and prospects for the group.
How did you first get into music?
My mother played piano and my father was in a country and blues band, so we always had instruments around the house. In preschool our music teacher wrote a letter to my mom and said “I think your daughter needs to take music lessons,” so I started taking piano in first grade. Then I joined my school band, played the flute and along the way picked up the cello. Somewhere in my teenage years I started playing guitar and joined my first band at 16, and the rest is history.
How has music shaped your life?
It’s shaping my life now in that it’s kind of changing my career path. I studied film and art. I have a master’s degree and and worked for a decade in television, but it’s been really hard to balance that with music. I never planned on music being something that could be a career— more of just a pastime.
What’s your creative process like?
It usually doesn't take me more than an hour or so to write a song. I have a lot of mini, tiny pieces of songs that I always thought I would bring together, but most of the songs that are recorded and put out are songs that were written in a very short amount of time, kind of impulsively. Just the other day, I was cleaning my house and I had a melody in my head, so I decided to jot it down. In an hour I had a brand new song with words, structure, arrangements— everything. It’ll be on Moving Panoramas’ next album.
I do have a country band (Rated Exes) and those songs are more conceptually based. I’ll have an idea for a title of a song and write the words and music after that– which is a little more challenging. I wrote a song called “Whiskey’s the Reason” and gave it to my country band and we wrote all the arrangements and parts to it. I gave the exact same song, just a little bit faster and with less swing, to Moving Panoramas. We wrote a song based on the same structure, lyrics and melody. Both creative processes were totally different.
From where do you draw your influences?
My roots are based in country-western honky tonk music. I had no idea that there was anything other than country music as a kid because it was all I listened to. My dad was in a band too— those roots are where a lot of my influences come from.
I’m usually influenced more by my friends’ music and word of mouth than anything else. I’m very inspired by the Austin music scene. I’m just trying to take in all of that and make something new.
With whom (living or dead) is your dream collaboration?
Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, Johnny Cash, Keith Moon and Trish Keenan.
What are some difficulties you’ve faced as an artist?
The main difficulty I face with being an artist is trying to balance finances with my art. That basically means trying to find a job that can allow me to be flexible enough so that I can also have the time and energy to also work on music. I never went into this thinking “I’m going to make money off of music” but I also didn't go into it thinking “Crap, being in a band is going to keep me from getting a job.”
I’ve been struggling lately with trying to find part time work or work in the field I have my degree in that I was flourishing in before I was in a band. That’s my biggest struggle right now— balancing life with music. It’s worth it, but it gets very discouraging sometimes.