Rachel’s Garage Classical
Heathen rock for strings goes on regional tour
By Mick Jeffries
“Describe your sound.” It’s a question that causes most any musician to involuntarily flinch and they’ve all heard it enough. But Louisville’s Rachel’s seem like a band that deserves the question. That’s because it’s not everyday that lilting string-based chamber music is executed with such deftness by a bunch of reformed heathen rockers.But when it comes to describing the Rachel’s sound, violist and founding member Christian Frederickson is as stymied as anybody. “We always hoped somebody else would save us from indeterminate dithering about our sound, actually. The best description I’ve ever heard was ‘Garage Classical,’” Christian laughs, somewhat dodging once again The Question. Speaking of the pristine nature of the Rachel’s sound, Christian notes, “Our daily life is not so tidy and classy. Rachel’s is kind of a deflection of who we are.”
Elevator up. It’s a long way from the subterranean passages of bands like Shellac and Rodan to the aether occupied by Rachel’s, Louisville’s 3-7 member post-rock avant-classical darlings.
Christian Frederickson on viola, Rachel Grimes plays piano, and Eve Miller plays cello
Frederickson notes the weaving course charted by members of Rachel’s over the years. Most of the ensemble has, after all, a rich history playing with a host of beneath-the-pale bands, public and otherwise. Frederickson, a recently transplanted Louisvillian, notes the pervasive tendency of area musicians towards multifariousness: “There’s a lot of secret music going on in Louisville. Just people in their bedrooms, maybe making masterpieces. Most of them, we’ll probably never even hear.”
Of course, Rachel’s is happy to be among the audible, if softly spoken: “We have an almost unaccountable success,” he notes wryly. “The fact that Rachel’s exists is a surprise, and that people find us appealing is a wonderful surprise.”
The band has played widely in the United States, generally touring with five to eight members. This time out, the group is touring as a trio, the same incarnation that recorded Music for Egon Schiele in 1996. From the antique packaging to the melancholic arrangements, it’s a suspended landscape of unfolding drama, rich like a sunset, brooding as a departing storm.
Schiele is the reigning masterpiece of Rachelsness, a shimmering sonic portrait based on the early 20th century Austrian artist. Schiele’s drawings were often powerful visions of human form and explorations of sexuality, imbued with an intensity similar to Gustav Klimt, a contemporary and friend of Schiele’s. Rachel’s captures the tone impeccably. The music recorded by Frederickson and bandmates Rachel Grimes (piano) and Wendy Doyle (cello) is breathtaking and splendid, evoking longing, passion, and a host of other intimacies.
“This is actually the first time we’ve ever toured in support of a particular record,” Frederickson notes. “There is a new record in the wings, but we wanted to keep the momentum from last year’s Selenography, so we opted for a short regional tour. Some members were involved in other projects, though, so the three of us decided to tour and perform Egon in its entireity, since it was recorded as a trio anyway. It was just the pragmatic thing to do.”
It also allows the band to play without amplification, since the balance of instruments is easier dealt with in a trio consisting of viola, cello, and piano. “Viola versus drums is not a fair contest,” Frederickson judges.
Rachel’s will be appearing at the UK Student Center’s Center Theater on Saturday, March 25 at 8 pm, sponsored by WRFL-FM. The bill is shared by Shannon Wright, who will be performing her songs from her critically-acclaimed album Flightsafety. Both Rachel’s and Shannon Wright record for Quarterstick Records. Tickets for the show are available at CD Central and at the door for $8.