Chris Crisci, the lead singer and only remaining original member of The Appleseed Cast, has a tip for first-time listeners, which is to disregard the first seven full-lengths and instead dive right into the band’s newest album, this year’s “Illumination Ritual.”
“I am extremely happy with how [it] turned out. I think it’s our best work,” he said. “If someone was not familiar with us, then that’s the album I would want them to listen to first.”
For him, the reasoning is simple, and it’s that each new album is, or at least should be, an accurate representation of the band at the time of its release.
Overall, it’s true that the album is not such a vast departure from the trademark post-rock sound The Appleseed Cast has developed over the past 15-plus years, but it is–at least in the mind of Crisci–much more pure, both in the way it was made and the final product.
“We started by recording some improvisational playing. From that, I went through and picked out parts I liked and we developed those ideas, wrote changes. Some of the songs came about that way,” Crisci said. “Other songs started with just drums playing to a guitar part. Again, I picked out beats and sections that I liked and then built songs from the drum tracks. It was a fun way to write and record, kind of all at the same time.”
In regard to the drums, anyone familiar with the band’s repertoire will notice the larger presence of percussion on “Illumination Ritual,” something that was absolutely intentional with the addition of Nathan Wilder as drummer. Not only that, but Crisci noted that the overall goal for the band was to write an album that “is energetic, chaotic, noisy, stripped-down in production and instrumentation, [and] has flow and progression.”
With a lineup that changes on every album–the current includes Nathan Whitman and Taylor Holenbeck as well–one might think that The Appleseed Cast struggles in making consistent music. However, it’s exactly that change that keeps the music steadily evolving.
In addition to a rotating membership, the band has also relocated a few times, although what effect that might have had on the music, Crisci can not accurately detail. What he can say is that the current location of Lawrence, Kan., suits him well.
“Growing up in San Diego was nice. It is such a beautiful city, and I do quite often miss it. It’s also extremely expensive and it’s impossible for me to live there,” he said. “Before living in Lawrence…I lived in Los Angeles and Chicago. At the time I was sick of the hassle of big cities and I wanted to slow down. Lawrence is a beautiful little college town, very artistic community, easy to live in. I still live [in] it after 15 years.”
Though The Appleseed Cast formed in the late 90s, Crisci has been playing guitar since 1986, and he shared that the music from that period had a large influence on developing his musical style.
“The bands I was into at the time ranged from classic rock, like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, to hair metal bands, to punk bands, to pop radio stuff. At the time, pop radio was nowhere as bad as it is today. Fleetwood Mac, the Police, the Cure, U2, Tom Petty, whatever. It was usually pretty good. As I got older, I moved more toward the punk rock, but I’ve never been a one-genre person. I don’t think most people are,” he explained. “I was big into Fugazi, but also loved bands like Dire Straights and Front 242 and Wall Of Voodoo and Van Halen. All over the place, but I think bands like Fugazi were the ones I wanted to play like. When “Joshua Tree” came out I feel like that also had a huge effect on me. I spent a good three months obsessed with that album. It might be the first album that I really delved into the production of it. I can only listen to so much U2 anymore. They really lost me, but in 1987 or whenever that was, I was…loving it.”
Today, Crisci insists that it’s a lot more difficult for him to be impressed by new bands, citing Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s 1999 album “Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada” as the last album that “captured” him. More recently, however, he said he also enjoys the music from bands like WU LYF, Youth Lagoon, Pissed Jeans, Deafheaven, and Des Ark.
Currently, The Appleseed Cast is on a six-week-long, mostly European tour with June Miller. Interestingly enough, Crisci credited John Szuch, the founder and owner of the band’s first label, Deep Elm, as one of the reasons why the group is still doing what it’s doing.
“[It’s] no secret that John an I did not see eye to eye on occasion. But I think it’s important to put this in perspective. If there was no John Szuch, it is very very doubtful that we would be playing Berlin in 2013,” he clarified. “When we started out, we knocked on doors and no labels wanted us. John came along and knocked on our door. Since that time, despite our differences, he has helped us whenever we were in a bad situation, and on a personal level, has always been a kind person. It’s very easy to recall a few instances where I had a fight with him about this or that, but maybe it’s that now, being able to step back from that, I really appreciate what he did for us.”
However, truth be told, Crisci is grateful for the whole package, both good and bad, to the point that it all blends together.
“There is so much reward. Finishing a song or a record, playing shows, traveling, it’s all rewarding,” he said. “The process of all of those things are the challenges. Being away from home, freaking out before shows because of anxiety, rewriting song lyrics 20 times before being happy with them. Staying up 48 hours straight to finish a mix on time. I don’t know what is the best or worst.”
The Appleseed Cast will play at Privatclub in Berlin on Saturday, Nov. 2. The show begins at 20.00.