Friday, September 07, 2007

 

The Dear Hunter - Interview with Casey Crescenzo

Artist Interview: The Dear Hunter
August 10, 2007

The Dear Hunter is one of those bands with one of those names, if you know what I mean. You love it, you hate it, you love to hate it or you hate to love it. The Dear Hunter is actually a character in a fictional story of the band's creation, and the band itself exists as an outlet for an ongoing - wait for it- six act, six album concept piece. Like a child of dysfunctional and divorced parents, The Dear Hunter is the brainchild of Casey Crescenzo, 23-year-old ex-member of emo favorite The Receiving End of Sirens turned do-it-yourself progressive rock one man show.


The Dear Hunter has had a lot of obvious, but to be fair, accurate comparisons to The Mars Volta (and sometimes more appropriately, Coheed and Cambria) in both music and history. Both bands grew out of dissatisfaction of members from a previous, less experimental band (The Receiving End of Sirens and At The Drive In); both original bands were considered on the line of (post-)hardcore/emo (though, in At The Drive In's case, unfairly so - they were not emo, I swear!), driving the exiled members to form a new band to nurture their own vastly more epic, insanely more ambitious prog-rock musical visions; both TDH and TMV make complex, off-kilter music that showcase good to virtuoso musical ability, music that is written in long form, sometimes solo-heavy format that compliment a story or thematic concept for each album; both have singer/songwriters who are seemingly choking on their own ego and self-satisfaction; both make really engaging, daring and worthwhile music.

The most noticeable difference among those superficial similarities is The Dear Hunter's ability to move seamlessly through a variety of musical styles and influences, their concept albums actually having a discernable concept and story where the music at least attempts to appropriately characterize setting, time, character and action – much more like a rock opera than a freak out cerebral concept album (though I'm not taking sides).

The Dear Hunter visited the WERS studio by special request of some of the engineers, though they may have been regretting their previous enthusiasm when the band arrived with the most equipment ever squeezed into a radio studio. The sheer size of the band's arsenal spoke directly to the scope of their ambition and the size of their music, and much like their music, though it seemed like a pain in the ass at first, the performance made the endless instruments, amps and peddles worth it in the end.

I sat down with band leader Casey Crescenzo for what turned into a lengthy interview to talk about the split with Receiving End of Sirens, the direction of The Dear Hunter and what the hell it's all about, Mike Patton and Bjork, and how to be indie but not emo.

WERS: YOU PERFORMED "The Oracles on the Delphi Express," and then "The Church and the Dime," and then "Meeting Miss
Leading." WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY THESE SONGS?

CASEY CRESCENZO: We were going to do the first song off the record, but we were asked to do the more, I guess, "indie" songs, so we decided not to do the heavier songs and, well, not exactly the softer songs, but the more quirky of what we play.

WERS: DO YOU THINK ABOUT RADIO SINGLES AT ALL?

CC: Not in the classic term, cause that implies that the label will be putting in a lot of money for it. But as far as a song to push, "Church and the Dime" - we actually filmed a video for it - as much as we can have a single, that would be it.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TAKING A SONG OUT OF THE CONTEXT OF YOUR CONCEPT?

It's tough because the record was really written as a record, even though it's obviously divided into songs, it's meant to be listened to as a whole. but it's kind of a necessity, but if i could make a video for the whole record I definitely would.

THAT BRINGS ME TO MY NEXT TOPIC. YOU'RE VERY AMBITIOUS...

Maybe too ambitious.

...I READ THAT ASIDE FROM WANTING TO WRITE THE BOOKS FOR EACH ACT AS A COMPANION THAT YOU WANT TO TRY TO PRODUCE MOVIES FOR EACH.

Definitely. I shot and am doing the video for "The Church and the Dime". Before I was able to be in a band making money i was doing computer graphics and editing in California. It's definitely something that i would like to do. I don't know if it's too ambitious; it's definitely not something i would take on my own like i do the recording and producing, cause i might enjoy filmmaking but i have no idea about the other 99% of what it takes to make a movie.

NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE DO, EVEN THEY MAKE MOVIES. SO YOU RECORDED YOUR FIRST FULL LENGTH ALL BY YOURSELF. SO HOW IS IT DIFFERENT WITH A BAND AND HOW DID THE BAND COME TO BE?

I wrote and recorded the music for the first record while i was still in The Receiving End of Sirens. I never wanted to put a band together while i was in that band cause i didn't want it to be the stereotypical guy in a band side project, and i didn't wanna make my band think i wasn't involved and dedicated. So it was just me in spare time, so having anyone else involved and expecting them to be somewhat devoted would be kind of tough. Things with that band fell apart for me and it was just a really good opportunity because all of the business people were still around and interested from the label to the booking.
It was kind of strange decision on who to involved - first i did a mass email to try and find people. then i started talking to my friends - everyone in the band is a friend of mine - and like with Luke, i called him and we were just talking as friends and i asked him if he plays keyboards, and he said 'yea' and i was like "do you wanna be in the band?", and he was like, "don't you wanna hear me play", and i said, "no, i would just really like to have a friend in the band", and he said "cool".

Having a band is much more inspiring and much more fun, and in a really good way more humbling cause you cant just sit there and let yourself go too far in your ego. you have other people around to check you, and other people to come up with things. there's somebody who can be there to say "that was really bad, do it again".

HOW MUCH OF THE PROCESS IS COLLABORATIVE OR ARE YOU MORE OF A CONDUCTOR?

For this record, i think every song expect for the songs written a few years ago as demos, all of the songs were written on the piano with all of us sitting in my apartment with me fooling around and someone would say they like something and we'd move on from there or call out an idea. It was more like being a conductor, but not nearly as much of a dictatorship, it was really collaborative. I was at the helm cause I had the most stubborn vision.

YOU RERECORDED A BUNCH OF THE DEMOS FOR THE NEW ALBUM - IT'S ACT 2, BUT SOME OF ACT 2 WAS RECORDED BEFORE ACT 1. WAS IT ALL WRITTEN OUT FIRST?

I had what was going to be the story of Act II, and i didn't know it was going to be Act II, but i had the story of what happens in Act II, and that's when i did the demos, and i showed some friends and then as time went on i developed it more and more and i wrote the story out in acts from 1-6. First from 1-4 and then from 1-6 reforming it and dividing it up differently. So after i wrote Act 1 i knew i didn't just wanna rerecorded all the demos, so i just picked the songs from the original demos that had a place in the story and had a place where i and the band was going to be at musically. the story was written and i just knew where those old demos would fit in and what i would have to write lyrically and musically to make it coherent from song to song and from act to act.

TALK ABOUT THE STORY AND THE NAMES IN THE THE STORY

The relationship of the name to the story is that the whole story is basically from the birth and the death of someone and everything in between, and then a little bit after. So Act I is the birth and IS basically focusing on this character as an infant and his Mother. Everyone in the story doesn't really have names - their names are more fitting to their places are in society or what they do, like miss leading and miss terry, or mystery. I don't like saying 'mystery' cause it sounds like she's a stripper. But they're both prostitutes, so their names are more kind of playful and flirtatious, but very obvious of what they are. And then there's the pimp and the priest, which is a single character, which is kind of a two faced - obviously, you can't be a pimp and a priest without being two faced. And then there's the dear hunter, and he doesn't really have a name but it's just what his Mom calls him early on because he kind of has to fend for himself and finds himself, i guess, hunting, but trying to do things for his mother and himself and trying to be the man of family, so she calls him the dear hunter and that's his nick name. But it's not his name or his birth name or anything too deep, it's just what his Mother calls him.

I DON'T LIKE ASKING PEOPLE WHAT THEIR INFLUENCES ARE, BUT THERE ARE SO MANY ASPECTS TO THE ALBUM MUSICALLY AND CONCEPTUALLY, WHAT WOULD BE SOME NOT-SO-OBVIOUS MUSICAL OR WRITING INFLUENCES?

I guess the not-so-obvious - because i guess when you hear the more vaudeville or ragtime parts you might think Paul McCartney, and when you hear the layered vocal harmonies you might think beach boys - but i would say that some of the stuff that maybe isn't expected - maybe it is, i dont know - would be more of Bjork and Mike Patton and Mr. Bungle and bands like that... and Jimi Hendrix, and bands like weather report, and Chick Corea. I think we all like to listen to as much as we can, even if we don't like it, we like to be well rounded. That would be the stuff that doesn't really show but really does goes into inspiring me to write, would be Bjork, is a huge one, and Mike Patton is definitely a second.

IN SONG WRITING OR EXPERIMENTAL STUFF OR THEIR PRODUCTION?

I'd say everything. A big thing for me that Mike Patton does is he's really comfortable with his voice and doing anything he can with it... making any sound he can to fit the music perfectly, even if it's not words. That's something that I'm trying to be more comfortable with, is that if i sing a certain way and it sounds comfortable, not worrying about the way that it sounds, just knowing that it fits and knowing that I'm comfortable with it. Thats another thing that Bjork does too, she's so open with the way she sings, and so expressive. And aside from the that, Bjork's music, the arrangement of Bjork's songs and the production, it's so varied from album to album, especially an album like Vespertine from Homogenic.

HOW MUCH OF A WRITER ARE YOU? HAVE YOU DONE ANY WRITING BEFORE THIS? WAS IT JUST SOMETHING YOU JUMPED INTO BECAUSE OF THE MUISC OR THE MUSIC CAME FROM THE STORY?

I think it's because when i had been writing lyrics i had been more comfortable writing them in, not story form but story telling. A lot of the lyrics in, I guess, the scene today, are, i think the only word is 'emo'. it's all like a bad view of teh world and victim this, or something like that, and just like i like movies that takes the audience out of whatever they're going through and take them somewhere better, i like the idea of music doing that and the lyrics doing that too, and that being somewhat fictional and somewhat fantasy-driven makes me wanna write. And i had never really done any formal writing, i'd never written anything really other than lyrics and music, and i just started getting into it a few years ago.

HOW CLOSELY DOES THE MUSIC FOLLOW THE STORY? DO YOU EXPLORE MORE MUSICALLY THAN LYRICALLY?

I'd say it's a pretty even mix. When we wrote this record it was almost like we knew scenes almost, like what a song was going to try to show. There would be sounds and melodies and allusions to other songs musically that we would use to paint the picture, then the lyrics came really easy because the story was already there sonically, so writing them was just a matter of choosing which words to use to express it without trying to be confusing or trying to be smart.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE LIVE SHOW? IS IT ALWAYS AS COMPLICATED OR IS IT MORE COMPLICATED?

it gets a little more complicated. It's going to get more complicated because i'm thinking of not playing guitar anymore and getting another guitarist and doing more keyboards and stuff vocally. It can vary from night to night depending on how we feel. It might be a really good night and we might decide to try some new things which would involve using a lot more of what we have, but their might be some nights where we just want to do what we're used to and not veer too far from that. I think we all wish it could be a lot more, but it's tough being at the level we're at, playing the sized stages that we're at. We had a cellist for a little while but we had to decide against having that person joining the band, because at the level we're at it's hard to have 6 people on stage with the amount of stuff we have. So until we get to the level that hopefully we can be playing larger theaters, or at least opening for tours like that, we can't really afford to have the kind of show that could match our records, which is kind of a let down for us but hopefully not a let down for anyone else.

IS BEING ON AN INDIE LABEL TOO CONSTRAINING? DO YOU HAVE MAJOR LABEL ASPIRATIONS?

It's weird because being on an indie label is almost like an excuse to have trouble and a good excuse to fail here and there. The disclaimer is that i really do love Triple Crown and the people that work there, but it's almost like being the retarded kid playing baseball, in that people are routing for you but they know that where you're at you could never go too far. The real part of it is that indie labels don't have a lot of money, and when you're a band and you take care of your end of making music, like that's what you're responsible for, and the label is responsible solely for money - putting money behind you, getting your record in places, making sure you can live on tour because you just spent the last 6 months making a record and not getting paid any money to do it. It's tough when you know that that label, their means don't extend very far and you start trying to cut corners. Like the piano i play i bought for 350 dollars off ebay and it's in horrible condition and it sounds pretty bad. if i could have spent even 1000 dollars, i could have gotten something that really would have lasted. That goes for everybody. We're searching through the couch to figure out how much money we have to get pieces of equipment that we need. but then at the same time, if you're on a major label you don't have any excuses; if you haven't packed out 2000 seat venues within 6 months of your record release then everyone's upset at you. So the good thing is that when you're on an indie label, even though your means might not be that great, you have people who totally believe in you and it's a slow build as opposed to a flash in the pan. So i like where we're at. It definitely gets frustrating sometimes when there's things that i know we just can't do that aren't very extravagant at all, even as far as getting t-shirts. But, it's strange because anywhere you go there's gonna be problems.

YOU SANG IN THE RECEIVING END OF SIRENS, RIGHT?

I was one of three vocalists. I actually was the guy who did more of the screaming, and i had never screamed before that band and i never really want to again.

HOW IS IT BEING IN CHARGE OF YOUR CREATIVE VISION COMING FROM BEING IN THE OTHER BAND

The difference is that this band started with me saying that I'm in charge and it's my creative vision. But shortly thereafter, with that as the foundation, collaboration came really easy. I feel in a lot of ways more collaboration in this band than there was in the last band. it's just about getting out in the open that i have a very focused idea of what i want the band to be, they all compliment that and they seek that out instead of seeking out ways to try and combat it. So, i do have this set thing that i need, but in the last band there was no direction from anyone and no set plan or theme behind what we were doing so it was pretty chaotic, and when we would try to write egos between everyone would just be flaring, myself included. But it's totally different now, everyone understands each others egos and flaws and strong-points and everyone plays off of everyones positives instead of tearing away at everyones faults. It's much better now, and being in charge of things has just allowed me to be more comfortable with not being in charge of things, if that makes any sense.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE PROGRESS OF THE STORY FROM THE FIRST ACT TO THE SECOND ACT, AND WHAT/WHEN DO WE HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO THE NEXT ACT?

The first one is the foundation; the first act's importance isn't really in the first act, it comes back later and is more alluded to later, you understand how they affected this person later on in his life more than they affected him then. The second act is basically focused around adolescent love and naiveté and ignorance, and all of that, and that will basically be the end of that. There's not going to be any more records about love or girls or anything like that.

WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT ThAT COMING OFF AS BEING 'EMO'

You know, I actually never thought about it, and then a lot of people in a non-offenseive way said 'that's so emo' and that's fine I guess. I never meant it that way so I'm very comfortable with it being whatever anybody wants to take it as. But singing about girls and about being taken advantage of and greed can be very emo, because it's not very worldly, it's very selfish...

TRUE, BUT AT THE SAMET TIME THAT'S WHAT ALL ROCK OR POP MUSIC HAS BEEN ABOUT FOREVER, BUT EMO TAKES IT TO A PLACE THAT CAN BE DEROGATORY

It's tough because the record is from the perspective of someone else in reality, it's not really my personal beliefs or experiences - it's based on some but it's really more about what's going to help the story. So at that point in the characters life it must be very emo for him, it's a very selfish time and very much a time that when everything is figured out that he would look at things very selfishly. So, i don't know. I don't know if it even gets to the point of being emo because it's blatantly selfish, everyones opinions are blatantly selfish. i don't make any attempts to be genuinely upset, or have the character be in the right. I don't give any excuses for him being selfish, its just the way that that is. And the next record - the only way i can explain it is that it's going to be a lot about war, with no real dealings with what's going on today, it's not like a social commentary on today. It takes place in a war, and as cliche as it is, it's like the war on the outside and the war on the inside are simultaneously being fought.

IS IT A SPECIFIC WAR?

It's World War I

DOES THAT TIME PERIOD HAVE SIGNIFICANCE?

I just really liked that time period musically and visually, and the culture is really inspiring. From art work to everything, and that war especially, just because it was that point in time right before technology was really taking off, so things as far as we're concerned today more primitive. So there was a lot more physical than there was mental things going on, so that was really something i was interested in. And it was back when wars were still wars, not like they are today; the trench war fare and mustard gas are kind of spooky and interesting to me and I wanted to explore that and it was perfect time because it's right at the end of where this story took place.

IS IT IN AMERICA OR EUROPE?

I don't really know. I've always kind of said it took place in France and the boy was French, probably because i was thinking of french prostitutes. But i don't really want to give it a place because i feel like then there would have to be too much done to show this is why it's France. But I would say the closest place that it feels like is France.

YOU RECORDED THE SECOND ALBUM REALLY QUICKLY AFTER THE FIRST, WILL YOU BE KEEPING UP THE SAME SPEED?

Well i'd like to. I told the label i'd like to be able to release a record every 6-12 months and they kind of laughed at me because bands have an 18 month record cycle. So the next record might not be out, but there's going to be a lot of stuff in between. Like we're probably going to do an EP of music that isn't necessarily Act-related, so then maybe we can let ourselves breathe and spend a lot of time on the next record.

www.thedearhunter.com

Labels: , , , ,


 

Artist Interview: Pressure Cooker

Artist Interview: Pressure Cooker
August 06, 2007

Most people don't draw many connections between New England, an area full of rich white people, and Jamaica or its culture (unless you're counting its tourist spots, which are also filled with rich white people). In fact, New England and New York had one of most surprising and impressive wealths of talented ska bands of the music's third wave in the 90's, from punk/ska to traditional roots and rock steady, the roots of which stem right back to Jamaica in the 1960's. Anyone who knows anything about New England ska should be more than familiar with scene mainstays Pressure Cooker. The problem is that in 2007, most people don't know anything about New England ska, and there is barely a scene left to mainstay on.


Pressure Cooker was and thankfully still is one of the best ska/reggae bands this side of Kingston, which is saying a lot, especially around 1997 when the band got their start.

With an unfortunate dip in the national embrace of traditional Jamaican ska music - a precursor to reggae, popular in 60's dancehalls, though much closer to reggae than the commercial forms of "ska" popularized by No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in America - what is it that keeps Pressure Cooker so dedicated?

"Reggae music is so diverse, it depends on the style you like, but there's something about this style with the horn rhythms and rhythm section, it's something that we all love - love to listen to it, love to play it, and love to promote it," says singer Craig Akira Fujita, "I just pursue that sound. I love it."

Pressure Cooker's main musical influence is the incomparable Jamaican originals, The Skatalites, and it shows in their composition and recording style. "The roots of most of our stuff is the 60's and early 70's rock steady stuff: very acoustic, classic melodies." But 10 years is a long time to commit to the style of a music that some would (wrongly) say is "dead." As long as the material is good and the high-engery live shows keeps things rocking steady, this band is in it for pleasure of the music. "One of the keys to our longevity, and keeping it interesting and fresh for us, is that there's this never ending well of new material that keeps coming. Not only that, but we continue to perform a lot of live shows, and to develop ourselves as musicians, and how we play together as musicians. Everybody is committed to this."

When it comes down to it, the live experience is what Pressure Cooker is all about, in recording and performance alike. They call their sound "organic," saying "we have a focus on what we want it to sound like, and a lot of the time that means using older techniques," the same techniques and equipment used by their 1960's heroes. And like their Studio 1 predecessors, when they record, they record live. But more than that, they perform fantastic live shows, of which they say they've "had the pleasure of creating a dancehall vibe for people so they can really just relax and really let go of their whole pressure, it's like we're cookin down their pressure," a connection to their band name that the singer swears he had only just thought of during this interview. I ask the questions that get the quotable answers. You're welcome, WERS.

Ultimately, despite the ups and downs of whatever semblance of a "scene" there is, Pressure Cooker says "we have our own thing, we're proud of it, and we wanna do it for the people that love it and are inspired by it," as they are themselves. They're not writing "the ring tone song" just yet, and they're not trying to win any races. They are, however, expertly holding down a great sound like few others are these days, and I for one appreciate it, and so should you (I'm talking to you - the one in the Bob Marley shirt).

For their in studio appearance for Local Music Week they played songs "Bully" and "Refugee" from their most recent album, and debuted a new song called "Miss Understanding" from their new batch of tunes which they are very excited about releasing in the near future. In the meantime, look out for their frequent live shows, which should not be missed by fans of any style of reggae, ska, or just plain good music played well, even if you do have a Chingy ring tone on your phone.

www.pressurecooker.net

 

Artist Interview: Andy Palacio

Artist Interview: Andy Palacio
August 07, 2007

Andy Palacio, Belize's most popular musician and passionate cultural preservationist, visited WERS with his band, the Garifuna Collective, to drop some knowledge on a subject of which most American's are completely ignorant - namely, who he is and what he's doing. Andy Palacio decided after involvement in a literacy advocacy program, that the Garifuna language and culture had been experiencing a rapid decline since European colonization. It would be his mission as a social activist and musician to direct his music to the preservation of his culture, a culture which can be found in Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala to name a few. Beginning with a style of dance music called "punta rock", Andy moved forward with his collaborator and producer Ivan Duran to combine the indigenous roots music of the Garifuna culture with African and Latin rhythms to create an infectious style of very danceable, very socially and traditionally conscious soul.

Andy and the Collective flawlessly performed their wonderful music from the recently-released new album called Watina, a landmark for Belize and modern Garifuna music. The music is the best possible combination of West African, Indies and Latin influences, a sweet and consuming groove that is so catchy it makes you want to sing the lyrics composed of a language you didn't even know existed. One of Andy Palacio's cultural goals is the conservation of the Garifuna language, so all songs are sung in traditional language in an attempt to spread awareness and pride in the culture. Palacio says the "deepest meaning comes from success at home," because "every time a child that is 5 years old sings "Lidan Aban" that is helping to keep the language alive, and the vocabulary in motion, and keeping it active." He has personally experienced the disconnection from Garifuna identity that the young are affected by, and he is working hard to reverse that.

From his brilliant new album, the band played the aforementioned "Lidan Aban (Together)," the Honduran-composed, up-tempo song about the preservation of natural resources versus development in a Garifuna village in Honduras called "Miami," and the title track from the album, "Watina."

Andy Palacio continues his quest as official Cultural Ambassador and Deputy Administrator of the National Institute of Culture and History in Belize to instill cultural awareness and protection, fighting for important issues through his genuine and beautiful music.

Bostonians will probably be surprised to know that there is a sizable community of Garifuna people who originated in Honduras and Guatemala living in Boston. The music of the Garifuna Collective is uplifting, soulful and mesmerizing, one of the few artists to come to the WERS studio that had most of the control room wanting to dance.

www.myspace.com/andypalacio

Labels: , ,


 

Artist Interview: Special Teamz

Artist Interview: Special Teamz
August 06, 2007

Hip-hop supergroups in Boston are even rarer than super hip-hop groups in Boston, but Boston hip-hop supergroup Special Teamz covers all the bases and stands tall in the underground. Comprised of Edo G, the Godfather of Boston hip-hop, multi-award nominated Jaysaun and former leader of The Kreators from Dorchester, young but angry overnight success Slaine, and deejay Jayceeoh, Special Teamz represents all different points in Boston, old and new school, and the best of the city.

Their style and lyrics are about as subtle as their self-promotion for their upcoming Duck Down Records debut release, Stereotypez, but with good reason. After debating over different record label contracts, Special Teamz proved they weren't all hype and no substance by passing on more money for a home at indie favorite Duck Down, also home to Boot Camp Clik among other greats, where they knew they'd fit in perfectly, a company that knows the music, the scene and the business, just like they do.

Highlights of their appearance at WERS were the new track "Get Down" and the new-never-before-heard-anywhere debut of "Three Kings," a Young C-produced gem with a beat constructed from a renaissance-style sound, definitely worth checking out.

Music is what brought the Special Teamz together over all parts of this diverse city, says Edo, and their debut Stereotypez is a reflection of what they see Boston as everyday. But if you're planning on downloading the new album, the group has this to say: "Stop downloading, you're taking away from the game. It won't be right unless we really support it. If ya'll tired of hearing that crap thats on the radio that's not from here, that's not a representation of who were are as Bostonians, as New Englanders, lets support ourselves and make the radio play what we want. Stereotypez is a dope album, we put a lot of time into it, we didn't rush it, we searched for the right beats and didnt just slap it together. It's 80-90% new material since we got the Duck Down deal, it's dope." Sounds dope.

The new album will be in stores September 25th, and there will be a special release party for it featuring them, Dre Robinson, Boot Camp Clik, and then some - if you're a hip hop fan this will be the place to be to support the best in local and underground hip hop from Duck Down and Special Teamz.

www.specialteamz.com

Labels: , , , , ,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?