The Dear Hunter
By Dave Schwartz
Photos by Sally Schwartz
Congratulations on the new record. I havenít received a copy of
yet, but I have listened to it online through your record
company. This is the first time that Iíve heard of The Dear
Hunter and Iím very impressed. What can you tell me about the
Casey Crescenzo: I hope this record is
what every band hopes for, a maturing of the music and concept.
This all started with me making demos on my computer. Eventually
this grew into a full band and a more fleshed out project. This
is the first real record done as a band, by the band and not
just me recording with the help of friends. So this record feels
the most complete to me of anything that weíve done to date.
DB: In research for this interview I read
some of your past interviews. You commented that working as a
solo artist is functional, but that working as a band was more
CC: Absolutely. Itís really easy when
youíre working alone to let almost anything get by, not to have
any quality control, itís a good and bad thing. When you have
other people around, you can get a more realistic opinion of
what youíre creating. With the group approach itís easier to be
coherent than it is when youíre alone. Especially when the
people around me are my friends.
DB: Itís been two years since the release
of "Act II, The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms.
Leading," that seems like a long time. There was eight months
between the first record, "Act I: The Lake South, the River
North," and the second record, "Act II," but a two year wait for
the "Act III, Life and Death." What was the reason for the
CC: "Act I" was an EP. When I convinced
the label to let me do an EP before a full-length, it was based
on the fact that I really just wanted to do an "Act I." I
already had a good portion of "Act II" written, I just wanted to
have a shorter record that was musically a starting point. I
wanted to spend a little bit of time developing a sound. I was
coming from a different band and it was a little shocking being
on my own. I didnít want to just jump into something that the
record label was going to put money behind. I just wanted to
have something that helped me discover what kind of music the
band would be about. I did the EP pretty quickly while I was
still in The Receiving End of Sirens. Once I was out, I finished
it up with my family playing some of the extra instruments. I
assembled a band right at the tail end of making the record. I
think "Act I" was released in September and we were back in the
studio working on Act II by October. We were jumping in and out
of touring and recording.
So "Act I: was really all about finding
the sound and starting from the ground up. And for "Act
II," five or six of the songs that ended up on the record had
been written years before. It really didnít take that long to
come up with the extra material. And the other thing-- for
better or worse on "Act I" and "Act II," I played about 80
percent of the instruments on the record. When you do that you
kind of define your own timeline. You find yourself sitting
there 20 hours a day recording it so it didnít take that long to
get a record finished.
When it came to "Act III," I started
writing the record four or five times. Finally about a year
after "Act II" came out, I had six or seven songs. I was really
excited about them but three months later I sat down to listen
to them again and didnít like them. Thatís why there was such a
big gap. Also, "Act II" caught on pretty well and that enabled
us to tour off the record for a while. Even though I donít like
the whole two year record cycle thing, touring presented itself
and we have a real caring and hard working booking agent who got
us on some great tours. So it was a combination of all those
things: False start recording, touring and funding from the
DB: I understand. I suspect that touring
gave you time as a band to feel each other out and mature and
that resulted in"Act III" being more of a band record.
CC: That funny because the band for "Act
I" was my brother playing drums, me playing basically everything
else, my mom singing all the female vocals and my dad
contributing a good amount of the piano stuff! "Act II" was me
doing all of the piano and bass and a good amount of the
guitars. I had another guitarist doing the rest of the guitar
parts and a drummer and as bands always go, drama and politics
Three of the guys in the band, a touring
bass player, a piano player and the drummer left during the
tour. We ended up having some friends sit in for a little while.
I ended up talking to my brother and asked him if he would like
to be in my band full time. I was having trust issues and so I
started looking for people that Iíve known the longest and
So after all the upheaval I ended up
searching out people that I knew and trusted. I hired my brother
and Andy from The Junior Varsity whom Iíve known for five or six
years. All of that is what I think pushed us into becoming a
band. It forced me to open up a little bit. I was very closed
off at first and stubborn because I didnít musically trust the
former members in my band. And then when I had these guys join I
felt humbled by their talent which helped me make a record as a
band instead of making the record as a guy who calls it a band.
DB: Performing your music must be a bit of
a handful. The songs are extremely layered, as you know, and
complicated at times. How do you make it all work on stage?
CC: I donít know. There have been a few
different ways weíve tried. I think we havenít figured out the
best way. Thereís the part of you that wants to recreate every
note and represent the CD so specifically. Then thereís the part
of you that recognizes that playing live is different that
recording. Thatís not to say you donít care about the live show.
Iím just saying that just because a band has an orchestra on a
record doesnít mean that you should expect that the band would
be touring with an orchestra.
Playing live is all about finding ways to
represent the music in the best way possible. There have been
times where weíve toured and used samples. We did that on two or
three tours. It was very upsetting for us because it felt kind
of phony. All of the bands around us were doing it. The last
band I was in was doing it. So it seems to be a pretty standard
thing, but to me it just feels better to just leave some of
those things out. I would rather have the band on stage feeding
off of each other than the band feeding off a backing track. To
me, the goal is to be as live as possible.
DB: I can imagine that youíre robbing the
spontaneity out of the performance whenever you chaining
yourself to samples. And conversely, if youíre not playing with
samples and the music takes a little twist or turn you can
CC: Yes, that is definitely what weíve
found. Weíve actually had discussions as a band and thatís the
one reason weíve decided not to use samples anymore. Weíre not
interested in being a jam band, but there are times when, as a
band, we feel something without having to say it. If youíre
chained to an iPod or a sampler you donít have a choice.
DB: Absolutely. The other challenge that
you seem to face when performing live is to maintain the musical
concept of the story youíre telling. Youíre not doing a concept
record, you are a concept band. You have six records that youíre
planning, with three already realized. Obviously you can play
every song from every record in order. How do you maintain the
integrity of the story live?
CC: Itís very hard. I can only be honest
and say that the ambition definitely outweighs the ability
sometimes. Itís also a question of how much do you want to
separate yourself from being a band in favor of being a concept
band. The way I feel lately is that I donít just want to do
these six records and stop as a band or maybe start a new
concept. Itís just that I made a decision to do these records
and that Iím going to stick to it.
As far as live, there are many things that
we want to do but it comes back to our ability. Weíre very
limited due to financial constraints. There are things that we
would really love to do like animations and projection mapping
as part of our stage show, but we really can't make that happen
right now. We can't afford to get a projector or to spend a
month animating videos to sync up to our music. And the other
thing about that is the animation because just like samples, we
would be chained to it.
DB: You have a very interesting
perspective on music. You seem to have the ability to conceive
complete projects long before actually sitting down to realize
them. What do you think influenced your perspective or
understanding of music?
CC: It was completely from my parents.
Theyíre very analytical. They really do have that ability to
think of something and to follow through. What I do isnít
necessarily the most technical or challenging, but I do believe
that I have the ability to feel something and then to sit on the
idea until it fleshes out. But itís definitely from my parents.
They were both musicians and visual artists and emotional
people. It gave my brother and I a good schooling to understand
DB: In reading some of your past
interview, you come across as having a bit of an obsessive
personality-- youíve already gave an example in this interview.
Youíve conceived a six-album project and youíre going to
complete it one way or another. Do you have a sense of what Iím
CC: Youíre referring to work? Do you mean
in a hermit perfectionist kind of way?
DB: Iíll give you an example. Mike Portnoy,
the drummer from Dream Theater, heís a complete-ist. If he
watches a movie by a director and he likes the movie he will do
everything he can to have all of the movies that director has
CC: I donít know that I would take it that
far. I definitely have a real respect for depth and I think that
whenÖ You know, maybe I would! If I saw a movie that I really
loved I would search out that director. A good example is Terry
Gilliam. Heís by far my favorite director. I fell in love with
him after seeing the movie "Twelve Monkeys" when I was really
young. My dad was a big Terry Gilliam fan too. He told me that
if I like" Twelve Monkeys," that I needed to see the movie,
"Brazil." Since then Iíve followed it up by watching every
single thing that heís done and without questioning it, loving
I think what Iím really obsessed with is
just a dedication to, without an ego, a dedication to one's self
as far as honest creativity is concerned. Itís important to be
less concerned with the perception of a project as much as to
the dedication to a project. Not in a perfectionist kind of way
and not in a stubborn idealist kind of way. Just in a way when
somebody is able to lock themselves out of other people's
opinions, especially those that are not beneficial, thatís what
really attracts me.
I guess I get a little obsessed when I
work. One thing is that I really canít listen to any other kind
of music. I choose to not listen to any outside music when Iím
doing a record, whether itís my own record or producing one for
As far as other obsessions, Iím not sure I
have any. I guess Iím just obsessed with working! I was telling
my girlfriend just yesterday, which is kind of sad, when I see
that I have time off from working I get really excited because I
see that I have more time that I can fill with work. Itís
exciting, itís inspiring but then when you sit and think about
it, itís a little bit strange. Iím so excited about not having
work so I can work more.
DB: Iím sure that conversation scored some
pretty big points with your girlfriend too.
CC: Yeah, it was great!
I want to thank Casey Crescenzo for taking
my call. The Dear Hunter is currently out on tour and, having
seen the show, they are great live. Donít miss them. For more
information check out their Web sites.