In Conversation with Inner Travels and Sunmoonstar (December 2017)
Sunmoonstar and Inner Travels released new albums back in September on Inner Islands, Rainbow Springs
and Sea of Leaves
(respectively). I, Sean of Inner Islands, got to chat with Natasha Home (of Sunmoonstar) and Steve Targo (of Inner Travels) about their lives and musical work.
Inner Islands: What have you two been inspired by lately?
Natasha Home: Hi! Well we just had a big storm here in Florida. Some time off was inspiring, and I spent one night playing with modular synths listening to the storm outside. I kept thinking the power would go off then it didn’t, and i guess that I was worried I’d lose everything I was creating, or maybe just accepting that it could be lost. We were very lucky with the storm, there’s allot to be grateful for this week!
Steve Targo: Hi, everyone! Glad you’re OK, Tash!! Probably the biggest sources of inspiration for me lately are the Yamaha CP, Korg Volca FM, William Allaudin Mathieu’s albums Streaming Wisdom & In The Wind, Scott Fitzgerald’s Bamboo Waterfall, the “Relaxation & Meditation with Music & Nature” series entries by David Miles Huber (thanks for the tip, Kyle Landstra!) and the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki.
II: Yes, I’m really glad you’re ok too, Tash! And it’s interesting what happens to a creative practice when there is something on the line or there are these very present factors that are outside of one’s control. Embracing, or at least try to work with, the chaos…
NH: thank you! Ah Steve that all sounds like so much fun to have those instruments! I recently started playing with the Prophet ‘08 :)
II: Do either of you feel like the particularity of your synths guide your hands at all during the creative process? Like you might feel more inclined to play one sort of melody on one synth than on another?
ST: That's a good question, Sean. Until recently, I was a one-synth-at-a-time person. One synth, one song. With a Blofeld, that’s not really an issue, but it can be a challenge with the Volca FM. Such challenges can be rewarding. But I tend to forget that each synth can be used as an instrument in an orchestra, and how assigning each one a certain role in a session can really expand my ideas.
How do you like the Prophet '08, Tash? Did you use it on Rainbow Springs?
NH: I am loving the Prophet 08! I started recording with it recently and am drawn to the sequencing processes, I love playing with the mathematics and the randomness and being able to let go of the composition. Actually for Rainbow Springs I focused myself away from sequencing, I practiced parts before I recorded them, chords and melodies on a yamaha synth, the SY35, two sequencers, the qy70 and qy100 with my Alesis Micron to write patterns and craft my own sounds as accompaniment. So I’m finding that if I let the machine write the melody my experience of intuitive memory is discovering emotion outside of myself that I can relate with. Lately and especially in Rainbow Springs I’m enjoying writing parts challenging myself to perform intuitively written pieces rather than push buttons and turn knobs to find out what will happen. I can’t say which process has more feeling, I’m interested in modular experimentation now too, so I’d say I’m inclined to work with emotion, everything else is open =)
II: Do you think either of you would be able to translate your albums, Rainbow Springs or Sea of Leaves, into a live setting?
ST: I’ve never played a live show, but I would assume I could perform Sea of Leaves. At the moment, my focus with music is on making and releasing recordings.
NH: This may be my ideal (Steve you are really living the dream!), to eventually be able to just focus on recordings alone, as I am currently writing a live set and wondering if practicing will ever be as interesting and as fun as improvising.
In previous albums I did allot of sculpting in the mixing process to write songs. In Rainbow Springs I had live performance in mind, also the album is inspired by a particular place, and I’d like to play the songs there. We’ll see!
II: Well, I would love to see both of your albums performed live! Tash, what makes live performance interesting and engaging for you?
NH: I love improvisation, also I love pop so something inbetween which probably just comes out as ambient happens when I play live, and I also DJ regularly and love the live performance aspect of mixing, maybe this love for random creative moments comes through in my music too. Community and good times are probably my favorite things about playing out, especially conversations and after parties. Ever since I moved to Gainesville and started working with Elestial Sound I’ve been loving the live music experience even more. Gainesville inspired the songs and album title because we have a great community here and are surrounded by wonderful nature. For me live performance can be engaging with the community and listening to nature or recording, everything just kind of feels live to me about art. Meeting friends online and sharing our music is also a live performance vibe in a way sometimes ;)
II: When did you two start writing longer pieces (10+ minutes)? And how do you feel your way into the duration of a piece?
NH: I started recording long pieces early on for experimentation, also I listened to albums when I was starting to get into recording that have continuous tracks and some kind of theme, like Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, White Noise An Electric Storm, Water Bearer by Sally Oldfield, also I was really into techno and experimental electronic music early on from going to dance parties.
ST: The first song on Nourish is almost 12 minutes long. It was recorded while I was making Garden Music, and I believe that’s the first time I had a song longer than 10 minutes on an album. Ultimately, I play or just let the synths go as long as I continue to feel something, or until my instinct tells me it should stop.
II: What can we look forward to from you two in the new year? And what are you two looking forward to yourselves?
NH: I’m saving for a fretless bass for my next album :)
ST: A new album, Yonder, will be released in the next few months. The album is dedicated to my mother, Christine, who died in February. She loved our vacations in northern Wisconsin and Canada, and over the years, she took many beautiful photos during those trips. Some of them appear on the Yonder cover, which I’m excited for people to see. And there are lots of sounds on the album I haven’t worked with before which I’m excited for people to hear!
What I’m looking forward to most next year is hearing new music from you two. Rainbow Springs and Faces of Love are two of my favorite albums right now, and I can’t wait to hear what you both create next.