Austin-based dream-pop quintet, Moving Panoramas is back with a highly anticipated forthcoming LP due out this Spring after their buzzy 2015 debut. Today we’re getting a glimpse of what’s in store for us, with the video release for lead single, “Baby Blues”. The track is an upbeat, shimmering pop jam replete with lead songstress Leslie Sisson’s soothing vocals (she has amazing range by the way! I would guess her spirit animal might be a hummingbird…) floating above hooky guitar riffs and driving rhythm. The band’s sound is simultaneously familiar and refreshing and the video is the perfect visual encapsulation. Starting with a dreamy boat ride over a tropical, watery vista, the viewer is taken on a hypnotizing , viceral adventure with the whole band, including their adorable chihuahua. By the end, the lines between fantasy and reality fade and we’re left wishing for warmer climes.
Take a peek below and read our interview with Leslie on the trials and tribulations behind the creation of the album and lead video.
1. Congrats on your upcoming new album! We’re excited for the release. What made you choose “Baby Blues” as the single?
Thank you kindly! We think “Baby Blues” has been the obvious first single choice since day one. While it’s not the oldest song written on the record, there’s one on the record that didn’t make it onto the first record, “Baby Blues” is def the oldest one the band has been playing live since the first LP. I recall trying to decide along with our label, Modern Outsider, which new song should be the first single so we started gauging crowd responses to new songs at shows. It was unanimous that “Baby Blues” got the heads moving the most. No crowd surfing (yet) but who knows.
2. I read that you ran into some unexpected road blocks during the writing and recording of In Two. Can you describe some of those road blocks and how they negatively or positively effected the outcome of the record?
Yes, we tracked this record in April of 2017 in hopes that it’d release in Oct of 2017. Right before we we started tracking, my health began to decline. Half of my hair fell out at a rapid rate practically overnight like a reverse mohawk, I was in frequent pain/weakness all over my body, couldn’t focus, had vertigo, extreme nausea, digestive issues, exhaustion, headaches, weight change, etc, until finally that summer, I had to undergo emergency surgery for an issue that could’ve been fatal and/or cause fertility loss. Turns out, a series of autoimmune diseases were causing my body to attack itself.
Luckily we caught things in time and I’m being treated for multiple autoimmune diseases now. This all definitely got in the way during recording and mixing and significantly delayed things. Sometimes I was so ill I could only spend a few hours in the studio at a time. It was challenging and can still be tricky as new autoimmune issues arise. They say autoimmune diseases travel in packs. But it could be worse. Just taking it one day (and disease) at a time and trying to take care of myself the best I can.
The upside of all of this is that our engineer, Louie Lino, best known for his work producing and playing in Nada Surf, had to go on tour with Nada Surf soon after my recovery. Thus, we turned to Danny Reisch to mix it, who helped bring out the bigger side of our sound with a fresh, spacey ear. Because of these delays, Matthew Caws of Nada Surf, was able to take a moment off from the road to contribute to the record too, which probably wouldn’t have happened had we pushed things out faster. Matthew’s been been a dear friend and inspiration during this band’s entire journey, so it was all worth it just for that alone. Patience is a virtue.
3. How has your sound evolved and/or matured since your debut in 2015?
Well, like Gremlins, this band has literally multiplied IN TWO. There are now 5-6 members on stage at a time verses the original trio, which has allowed us to expand our sound further and transition from dream gaze, to dream rock! We also added pedal steel which opens a whole new Texas-style galaxy to the spaciness. Really love where this new sound is going, especially since if you listen closely, you can hear the some honky tonk roots. Perhaps the next phase will be more boot gaze, haha.
4. Tell us about the concept behind the video. Where is this gorgeous paradise you filmed in?
This video concept stemmed from dreaming up summer themes. After all the initial 2017 delays, we were planning on making this a summer 2018 release, but things got pushed further due to logistics with other label mates’ release delays ahead of us.
I grew up with bad 80’s TV on constant rotation and my childhood was probably 25-50% on the water via my dad’s boat. One day, I was joking with our former keyboardist, Laura Colwell, that we were like Crockett and Tubs, sending her Miami Vice YouTube clips as inspiration. We’re both video editors and were working together at the time, so she dropped “Baby Blues” into a Miami Vice trailer I sent her and the rest is history. Except now, with Cara Tillman back on board, we’re more like Abba Vice, haha.
While not intended to be a direct 80’s vice rip-off, it’s more of a modern-day visor cap nod. The song is essentially about being hypnotized, perhaps by a person or an idea, so “Baby Blues” kinda became a metaphorical drug in the video, representing when things hypnotize you to the point where you’d drop everything for them to become reality. That concept is a recurring theme in my life on many levels and is why I’m sitting here sharing these words about it now.
We shot it primarily on Lake Travis in Austin, TX, in the 100+ degree summer heat. Our drummer Jody’s generous boss (Asa & Vanessa Christensen) and co-worker (Rick & Syria Holley) loaned us the boats. Some were cameos, while others hid behind the cameras on the boats. A million thanks to them and to our pedal steel player Phil for the dope sparkle keytar loaner via his wife Chris’ band Qzars.
When my dad saw the final cut, he was like, “I love it! Doesn’t really make sense, but it’s a music video. Are y’all referencing Breaking Bad?” Haha, not directly, but perhaps that was an unintentional subconscious nod too… except with a much happier ending.
5. Leslie, I read you directed the video yourself. Can you tell us about that process? Is this your directorial debut?
Ah, yes, I did direct this little beast. Guess it’s not my directorial debut, though. I co-directed/edit all our band’s videos prior to this one and I work in television when I’m not doing music. I’m primarily an editor these days to pay the bills, but my undergrad and masters degrees are in film and video art, so I have a number of music videos and short films under my belt over the years, not only for Moving Panoramas, but also for friends’ bands and past bands I’ve been in like The Wooden Birds and Matt Pond PA. I’ve also worked as doc/reality director, producer, shooter, editor, etc in the past, always hustling to fill in the gaps.
It was challenging to direct this thing full force for a number of reasons. Austin was in a rare summer-long rain season, so finding the right date on a non-stormy weekend was hard to wrangle with the boat loaners, shooters, and bandmates. The shooting days were insanely hot and humid and after a few hours in the sun, so I’m impressed my bandmates don’t hate me after that, especially with all the silly running I made them do.
Not to mention, my time is spread pretty thin between working full-time video gigs and managing the band that it’s like squeezing in a third job taking on projects like this. But, someone’s gotta do it. I think this video concept seemed too ambitious to all the directors I reached out to before finding the right shooter who wasn’t afraid of shooting on boats. I did also have to reach out to an editor friend, Luke Pinon, to help build the rough cut with a fresh set of eyes so I could multitask the single release prep and then circle back finish up the final cut of the video in time. Whew, makes me tired just thinking about it.
Realistically, it’s probably smarter for me to hand off these duties to the pros so stuff gets done in a timelier fashion, which is what we’re hoping for the next video to get it out along with the next release, knock on wood. I can’t do it all, and I don’t usually want to, but the upside is it’s fun telling these stories through videos, even though the videos are usually unrelated to the songs. Self-directing a video is a cool perspective to share though so I hope people enjoy that specialness of it too.
6. How did you keep the camera so steady on that little fishing boat? Are the live portions of the video from an actual show? And whose cute Chihuahua is that?
Ha, well, that crazy camerawork was a combination of super fearless boat shooters and quick edits. Thank goodness for Sean Daigle who shot the boat footage and Dallas Cloud who shot with the drone. Those guys shoot for a living and were key to making this thing possible, DIY guerrilla-style. Can’t thank them enough.
Yea, originally those moments where Cara and I get Baby Blues’d were supposed to be the two of us floating in outer space on a big blow-up pegacorn boat with the Chihuahua (I even got the pup an American Girl doll boat to space float in, haha), but as time constraints and green-screen limitations would have it, we opted for some dreamy foreshadowing live footage that our friend Erik Mauck shot of us this summer at the Hot Summer Nights Fest in Austin… also in the scorching heat. There’s more of that live footage we’d like to share at some point too. Just beautifully shot and really brought the final touches of this crazy video together.
And that cute Chihuahua is my little four-pawed soulmate, Hazy the Hazel Hazelnut Sisson. She’s been a cameo in all of the Moving Panoramas videos and has toured all over the continental US/Canada with the band, including escaping a backstage festival trailer once and being scooped up by a Flaming Lips member, followed by getting glitter pets from Wayne Coyne himself. So whenever you see a Moving Panoramas video, you can play “Where’s Hazel?” in all her glory and glitter… hey, guess there’s another subconscious “Baby Blues” video nod with the glitter and confetti, thanks Flaming Lips.
7. Do you have any other previews planned leading up to the album release?
Yes, we’re releasing at least one more single, if not two, before the In Two LP hits on 2/22/19. The plan is to at least have another music video or two accompanying those tunes, if time permits. The exact release dates are being worked out as we speak. If this next video falls in place as planned, it’ll be a really fun one too. Fingers crossed.
8. How is it being an Austin band? I feel like the city has changed so much over the past few years. Has this effected the music scene at all?
If it weren’t for Austin, this band probably wouldn’t exist. I was living in Brooklyn when I stared this project and the other original bandmate at the time, Rozie Castoe, my former music student in Austin, was coming to NYC to work on tunes while I was trying to sell her on moving there. We even had a drummer up there we were working with in upstate NY, but he had a crazy busy job and was spread too thin when we decided to start recording in Austin. I’m originally from Dallas and went to college in Austin so I came back to Texas part-time to be with my family after my mom passed. Austin was the only place I could seem to book real shows, so eventually it was inevitable to come back home full-time after being welcomed with open arms vs paying to play in NYC.
More growth in Austin means more opportunity and demand for music in a city that flourishes and feeds off its music scene. We just hope the city can figure out how to help keep its musicians in Austin without them starving and moving away. Unfortunately, the cost of living has increased and we’re losing treasured city/music landmarks/venues way too frequently now because taxes/rent has gotten out of hand. As long as I’m playing music, because of the thriving and supportive scene here, I don’t know if I could live anywhere else, so I’ll try to figure out how to make it work financially. It’s pretty special here and I’m eternally grateful for the Austin love we receive.
The reason I left Texas was because I couldn’t find work in my field here, so I moved to NYC for nearly a decade and was able to find work in TV/radio. As Austin grew while I was away, these opportunities, while still pretty slim in Austin today, also grew enough for me to come back and find enough work when I needed to. I miss NYC but I don’t miss the winters there. I’m a southern girl and the older I get, the more I wanna be somewhere in a tropical shirt and shades. Hopefully this video will help warm folks up this winter, ha.
9. Will you be touring this year? If so are there any cities in particular you’re excited to play?
Well, we timed the February LP release right before SXSW so if touring SX in March counts, then yes, haha. We’re working on some regional dates around the release in Feb but we’re releasing near SX because we need booking help. All the pieces of the puzzle are in place except for that one factor. We’re hoping that between now and then and perhaps during SX when folks are all in one place, we can get closer to figuring that part out. We haven’t booked any tours yet and are in the process of pitching for support and festivals for the spring/summer after SX. Scares me a little to plan a release without a tour booked, but if all else fails, we’ll hit the major cities again like we did last time, at least.
10. Is there anything else on your mind you’d like to share with our readers? Confessions or secrets? ;-)
Oh, ha, well, this record is full of secrets, confessions, and even secret confessions, especially the track “Baby Blues”… but don’t wanna spoiler alert before the credits roll. ;)
I will take a sappy moment confess that I’m really proud of our band for doing what we’re doing and how we’re all one big loving family right now. Bands are hard, I’ve been in more bands than I can count at this point. And at the end of the day, no matter what, I’ll quote an old bandmate, Andrew Kenny, when he says no matter what happens, it’s all about that 45 minutes to an hour on stage that makes everything worthwhile. I personally have never had the chemistry, loyalty, support, and laughs with anyone I’ve ever played with as I have right now with this Baby Blues crew of Moving Panoramas. So a big Texas-style cowboy hat tip is in order to this team: Cara Tillman, Jordan Rivell, Jody Suarez, Phil McJunkins, and of course, Hazy Sisson. There’s a lotta love in this super special gang and we can’t wait to share what’s next with y’all.
Thanks so much for the “Baby Blues” love and video premiere, AudioFemme! We heart you longtime!
Speaking of credits… how ‘bout some “Baby Blues” music video credits to boot:
Director: Leslie Sisson
Cameras: Sean Daigle, Dallas Cloud, Erik Mauck
Editors: Leslie Sisson, Luke Pinon
With: Leslie Sisson, Cara Tillman, Jordan Rivell, Jody Suarez, Phil McJunkins, Captain Rick Holley, Deckhand Syria Holley, Erica Shamaly, Holly Nixon, Captain Hazy the Hazel Hazelnut
Ski Boat Provided by: Asa & Vanessa Christensen
Sailboat Provided by: Rick & Syria Holley
Keytar Provided by: Qzars & Chris Nine
Hazy’s Stylist: Laura Colwell
Special Thanks: Weldon Sisson & Dave Anderson at Zoo Music
Music Produced by: Leslie Sisson & Louie Lino
Engineered by: Louie Lino
Mixed by: Danny Reisch
Mix Assistant: Max Lorenzen
Mastered by: Erik Wofford
Single/Album Art: Cristina Beretta
Label: Modern Outsider
Licensing/Publishing/Rights: Rough Trade/Bank Robber/BMI