We come into this world alone and we leave alone. Recognizing this certainty, and becoming comfortable with it, is key to detachment and ultimately happiness.
Paradoxically, though we are individuals on a path built for one, it is when intersecting the paths of others that we are confronted with shared experiences designed to propel us further along on our road of self-discovery.
Exactly why people intersect and share a particular moment is often difficult to process, especially when this new found insight comes with great suffering. However, regardless of the seemingly unorthodox manner in which wisdom arrives, it is essential to remind ourselves that everything happens for a reason.
Exactly how the Moving Panoramas album, One, ended up in my inbox is rather straight-forward. But the timing of its appearance, and the chord it struck within me, was intriguing. Though I’m much more in favor of the concept of free-will, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the album chose me.
One is thick, dreamy, crunchy, ephemeral, anthemic and dissonant. The beautiful droning rhythms and lovely harmonies created by Leslie Sisson (vocals/guitar), Rozie Castoe (bass) and Karen Skloss (drums) are both nostalgic and haunting. There was something in there. Something very familiar, yet just out of reach.
I was about to take a journey into the mind of Leslie Sisson, the woman behind the Moving Panoramas project.
Citizen LA: Accepting that we’re truly alone in this world, regardless of the people around us, is a hard pill to swallow. The opening track “One” takes us down that path.
Leslie Sisson: That song was written right after my mom had passed away, which made me feel more alone than I’ve ever felt, but there is something about that aloneness that is liberating.
Citizen LA: I couldn’t agree more.
Leslie: She was very insistent about me not depending on anyone else, and that I should focus on myself. Some people might see this as selfish, but it’s completely a selfless thing.
Citizen LA: It’s important to feel secure being alone and awake. While on this path, however, we often miss things that pass right-in-front-of-us; just as you mention on the following track “Radar.”
Leslie: I was dating this guy who wanted to get married and have kids. And I thought, maybe I’ll hang up the guitar… but he decided that’s not what I wanted and he broke up with me. Later, I reconnected with an old friend, which ended up being a missed opportunity, because I didn’t know that he had feelings for me– even though everybody else could see it.
Citizen LA: As with real radar, things have ways of slipping through undetected.
Leslie: Yeah, kind sad. But it taught me something about myself.
Citizen LA: The album conceals bits of wisdom that come together to reveal a very personal history. In the track “Tonight” we learn about the importance of accepting things.
Leslie: There are many situations where developing a romantic interest may be almost impossible. But, though people in these situations can’t be “together”, they can take it for what it is and make it a very beautiful thing. If this person wants me for tonight, I’ll take it… but if they want me for longer, I’ll take that too.
Citizen LA: That’s a very practical and mature thing. Accepting where you are in life doesn’t mean that you don’t want something else; it just means that you understand the situation.
Leslie: Sometimes all you have is right there in a particular moment, and you must accept that tomorrow may not come.
Citizen LA: I listened to the album three times in a row, each time catching themes I didn’t catch before. It reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Fight Club.
Leslie: Yeah! One of my favorites too!
Citizen LA: I watch it over-and-over-and-over again. People say [in whinny voice] “It’s just about guys getting into fights”… and I’m like “Nooooo, it’s a METAPHOR, look beyond that stuff!!!” It’s full of hidden gems.
Citizen LA: Do you consider yourself a romantic in the bigger sense?
Leslie: Yes. The song “Always” has some of that and it’s the opposite of “Tonight”. That’s why they’re back-to-back. It’s when we find a moment that we want, forever. We don’t even have to move forward. Just keeping THIS, frozen in a moment.
Citizen LA: I love that. Like being at Coachella, hugging everybody… hmm… [beat] It may be weird to say I get nostalgic about that, but where else can you be surrounded by thousands of people who feel the EXACT same way?? I think it’s what religion tries to do.
Citizen LA: Understanding how we interact with people is essential, but taking on people as projects is never a good thing. The song “Magic” seems to touch on this, in one line that says “I’m not your magic wand.”
Leslie: Very recently, I was dating someone and we…
Leslie: Ok, here it is… he and I got drugged with PCP and kidnapped in the middle of the night, and later found out that this “kidnapper” was a murderer, but fortunately we got away at a gas station, escaping possibly death, and rape. That’s why I have PTSD. And, of course, all this happens while dealing with my mom’s death from an accidental overdose.
Citizen LA: My jaw just hit the floor.
Leslie: Did you not know that??
Citizen LA: No.
Leslie: I’m not sure how far you dug.
Citizen LA: Honestly, for this interview, I did zero research. I wanted to get everything from the songs… you know, we don’t have to continue with this—
Leslie: It’s ok… So this song is about the guy that I was with when we went through this nightmare together. Afterwards, we were scared to leave each other, so we were stuck. In general, this song is about people that stay together for the wrong reasons. That’s why the song says “I’m not you’re magic one… I’m not your magic wand” the one that’s gonna fix you.
Citizen LA: I feel that I’m on the edge of an “ah-ha” moment.
Leslie: The story continues with the song “Word,” which talks about what was going on in my mind during the trauma. When the kidnapper said the word “DRIVE!” it was my moment to get away. And I did.
Citizen LA: The lyrics refer to something that’s “about to give away”?
Leslie: My life.
Citizen LA: Oh…
Leslie: “Let me go! I want outta the car! Say the word.” [beat] On the other side, it’s about how easy it would be to take a lot of drugs and just give in.
Citizen LA: The song mentions getting away from something bad, but also potentially running to something that’s bad. There always seems to be at least two perspectives to each of these songs.
Leslie: Yes, there are many layers to these songs. Some are hidden pretty deep.
Citizen LA: Super-heavy themes… and now, with the backstory, it’ll forever change the way I listen to the album. I feel lucky to have you open up like this.
Leslie: No problem. It’s good to talk about what happened.
Leslie: People that go through things like this often say that they feel like they’re in a bubble, separated from the rest of the world. The song “Believe” was very first song I wrote after the trauma and talks about this feeling.
Citizen LA: The lyrics in this song are particularly evocative, “Every turn makes time freeze… it’s easier to make believe.” It’s like a sad lullaby.
Leslie: I was completely dysfunctional. I felt like I was outside of the bubble, like at a zoo looking in at all the animals and people safely inside. But the other perspective is that when animals are in captivity for a long time, and are set free, they often want to go back in because that’s what makes them feel comfortable.
Citizen LA: There’s no doubt that trauma can leave you with a sense of isolation, as though no one understands you.
Leslie: I felt like everyone was in this safe make-believe bubble world, and I wanted back in, and nothing that I could do could fix that.
Citizen LA: Interestingly, the last song called “Harmony” seems to refer to a healing process, yet we hear all these dissonant chords.
Leslie: That song is about relationships that don’t have harmony in them.
Leslie: My mom and I were going through a massive case of dissonance. At one point, I ended up carrying her 80 pound body into the emergency room on Christmas Eve.
Citizen LA: That’s… tough.
Leslie: She always said these traumatic things run in our family, and that someday something would happen, and I’d understand. She was right, but I didn’t understand until it was too late. The song tries to find peace and harmony in all that.
Citizen LA: I guess just like in life, harmony and disharmony are intertwined.
Leslie: We end the set with this, and feel her presence as we let the song go on for 10 minutes. I’m not very religious, but there’s something spiritual about it.
Citizen LA: Who knows if it’s Karma, or whatnot, but these life-changing events are an important part of your path… and it’s ok, ya know? Not only is it “ok”, but it’s actually awesome because that led to this album.
Leslie: I’ve never had anyone go though the album song by song, this was great!
Citizen LA: It just had to be done. It was definitely an eye-opener. So, what’s coming next?
Leslie: The next record will have more of these layered, ying-yang stories. At the end of the day, I’m learning about myself. My path happens to be a difficult one, the longer road…
Citizen LA: It’s longer, but fulfilling.
Leslie: It’s more scenic… THAT’S for sure.
One is a beautifully conceived album, peppered with metaphor and mystery, which requires active-listening and plenty of processing time. An uplifting ode and an unsettling requiem, its musical depth and insightfulness is a result of the courageousness of its lead creator and the empathy of her talented band-mates. This is one of those albums where you salt the tub, decanter a well-aged red wine, light a candle, and float along in harmony.