PropertyOfZack Interview : : The Dear Hunter

by Zack Zarrillo - Mar 19, 2012

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PropertyOfZack had the chance to chat with Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter not too long ago for a great and detailed interview. Casey and I discussed the creation and reception to The Color Spectrum, what it was like breaking away from the act-story, touring on the album, producing, and writing for a new album. Read up on everything below!

How has the fan response to The Color Spectrum been?
I think that the response has been, for the most part, really positive. I think it was really surprising. I don’t know if I really had expectations of exactly what was going to happen or how people were going to react to it, but I can say that it’s been definitely a good surprise that people were as open to the different styles and the different vibes that weren’t necessarily native to the band in the past. On tour, some people come up and said that was the first thing they had heard of the band and that they got hooked on that. I think it was really refreshing because in the past, for the most part, or at least the vocal majority of the fans of the band, have been really into the story of the records that I was doing before this. So it’s all been really amazing. The last year of touring and promotion for the record has been just really surprisingly positive.

The album took a long time to make, which forced you to be away for over a year from touring. Sometimes after a long process like that is over and you look at in hindsight it might not have seemed worth it, depending on the reception a band or artist can get. Are you still happy with your choice to switch it up and break away from the acts for at least one release?
Oh, yeah absolutely, I think as far as doing act records, it’s something that when I am doing it, it feels real and natural. And if it’s not going to feel organic, then I really don’t want to force it. That was the point I felt like I was at, like if I went and tried to continue that at the moment, it would just be forcing it. I’ve done my best to be as honest and natural musically as I can, so this popped up as something I could do. It just seemed like such a perfect thing to do and once I started getting into it and immersing myself in it. I definitely felt really good, you know? That’s why I said I really didn’t have any idea or expectation for the reaction. It was because I really just tried to do right by myself first and be honest and genuine musically and then the reception is going to be the reception, whether it’s good or bad. So, it was a huge breath of fresh air to step away from doing those records. 

A lot went into the record to make it as whole as possible right down to the packaging. Was it nice to make it such an artistic experience? 
I think in the past it is something that I have really strived to do as well, making something that’s actually worthwhile. Once the music is mastered, it has to be looked at from a certain perspective as being a product because you are selling something. So at the point that the creativity of the music is done, because I don’t look at that part as product, but at the point when you are looking at selling something to someone and expecting them to pay money for it, I think that if you’re not giving people something exciting or at least giving them their money’s worth, then it’s really just taking advantage of people. It’s funny for somebody who just puts out a jewel case or a gift pack or something without a lot of effort to be upset when somebody downloads their music. But when you give them something that has heart and soul put into it, people are going to buy it. That was something I strived for in the past, but I think my ambitions with the project, with all the act records went out of the abilities of the band, being the size that we were. Things like the packaging that would fit the grandiose nature of that kind of music wasn’t really possible. But for this, I think the vision from the beginning was so clear and clean and once I brought in Cameron Thorne to do all of the artwork, it was all so perfect and simple and when Triple Crown came in they were 100% on the same page. I think this time more than any other release, it was really easy to get everybody aligned with the same ideas and the same goals for the packaging and for really everything. So it was really nice to see something that exceeded my imagination as far as what other people were involved in it. 

What was it like playing material for the first time that was outside of the act concept for these three or four tours in a row?
I think that it goes both ways on any given night. It’s really hard to pick a set list that is going to be the average Dear Hunter fan’s positive, enjoyable set list. What The Color Spectrum did was it kind of spread out the fan base a little bit more and in the past, people who might have liked certain albums of the band, they got a couple EP’s that made them more into that element, but at the same time, the reverse was happening on different sides of the band’s audience. So it’s really tough, but I think it’s been really fun to learn what does work and what doesn’t work. It’s refreshing, always, to play music from the most recent release, even though that’s not always the most exciting thing for the audience, I know that’s one of the ways a band or audience gets to keep on feeling that excitement is to keep things new and fresh. So that obvious side of it is heavily enjoyable for me to be playing newer music. And it also makes playing the older music more fun, because it takes on a new nostalgia. I’m not promoting Act III or Act II or Act I, I just play the songs that I really want to and it’s not a concern, necessarily, to try to win people over for this new release by playing songs from those records. 

You did do three major tours this past year with your headliner, the Manchester tour, and the Anthony Green tour. Did they all go pretty well?
Yeah, I think so. I think that in the moment, they all feel really great and each one feels a little better. Doing our first national headliner was really rewarding and exciting. We’ve been on tours with other bands where there’s thousands of people a night, but when you have 150 or 200 or 100 or 50 kids that are all excited and there for you and the night you are putting together, it’s way more powerful than playing in front of two thousand people who are waiting through you. The headliner was really a highlight of my life so far and the other tours that we did also with the first tour we did back at the beginning, almost a year ago now, they’ve all been really great. The reception has been good. People who have never heard of the band are liking the band when they hear us live and people who love the band are still enjoying it I think. I don’t think we’ve lost too many fans. Yeah, everything seems to be going really well.

Will you be announcing any more tours any time soon?
As far as touring, I don’t think there is going to be any touring after this or at least after…there is like a week of shows, kind of a weird second leg of the Anthony Green Tour that’s in June. Other than that, I’m just going to be going back in July to start doing a new record, probably. That’s kind of tentative in my head. I’d like to get back in the studio in July and do a new album. 

In March, I believe you are producing K Sera new album, are you excited to change things up and produce?

Yeah, absolutely, I have a studio at my house that I love and it’s really…It allows me to get really creative and be really comfortable. So when I can invite someone else into that setting where I feel very comfortable and it’s not just flying somewhere and doing something for two weeks and going away, I feel very creatively safe in the studio. Having someone else come in and especially being like that, I feel is very talented with good musical ambition behind them, I’m really excited with all of the downloads. We’ve been going back and forth with pre-pro. It’s going to be awesome, I’m really excited for that. They’re coming in just a couple of days and I actually just bought an acoustic piano for my live room because they do a lot of piano and I know in the past we’ve been stuck, so I wanted to make sure that we could make the record as organic as possible.

Are you looking to do more producing in the future?

Yeah, I mean I’ve done it for a while now. Some of my favorite stuff that I’ve worked on is this band River Empires. This man, Jessy Ribordy, is kind of the mastermind of it, and also he was in the band, I guess it’s still going on, it’s more like a studio thing now, but this band Falling Up. Oh and there’s a band from right around where I live called Naïve Thieves and we brought them out with us and they actually also perform in The Color Spectrum. So I’ve been working with them. I love producing and I love engineering and I just love being in the studio and creating. I could definitely see myself doing a lot more in the future, but at the same time, I’m so excited to be making a new Dear Hunter record as soon as I can that I think after this session, I’m probably going to just concentrate on the shows I’m playing and then get right to making the record.

Will this new record be a new act or something different again?

I don’t really know. I think that as soon as I sit down at a piano, and I’m in the mindset of writing, I’ll be able to tell where my heart’s at. Right now, it tells me that I want to just be making a record: a non-act,non-plot-driven record, just songs. And, I’ve never really done that. Even though The Color Spectrum is kind of like that, it’s so expansive. I would just like to make a record, you know? Without any preconceived plot or concept. So that’s what my heart tells me to do, but I really don’t know for sure.

You’ve had albums before The Dear Hunter, but is it going to be weird if you do end up going that route? Do you think it will be interesting to do a side of The Dear Hunter that fans have yet to see?

Yeah, and I think that one of the reasons I want to do it. It would be really “safe” for me to go and do another act record because I think that some people are waiting for it, and that kind of music I already understand what I want to do for an Act IV or an Act V. I know where I want to go with it and I think that safety of it in my head makes me want to do something different. It’s still a project that I want to finish and am very passionate about, but I think I would just like to see what that is because I also think it’s a side of me that I am not really in touch with. Because I have been doing primarily conceptual work for a while. I think it would be another breath of fresh air for myself to take a little bit more of a personal approach directly to making another album and kind of put some of the conceptual work on hold. 

That’s great for a breath of fresh air and your artistic freedom, but does it concern you at all in terms of your fan base?
No, I don’t think so. I think it would be giving them not enough credit to think that they couldn’t handle a record because it wasn’t conceptual. I think that they like the music first and the concepts second. Even of the concepts, there’s still writing from the heart and even though it might be dressed up in a plot and might be dressed up in a more grand idea of what a project is, it’s still just music and there are still people who are just fans of music. So as long as the music is good, genuine and from the heart, I think that the fan base wouldn’t have any issue with it. I think it would only be at point where it was noticeable that I sold out or that I had made a record simply for the sake of making money that anybody in their right mind would stop listening to it. As long as I continue doing what I’ve been doing, which is writing from the heart, I think they’ll enjoy it. It just happens to be that right now, writing from the heart is not writing a story-based record.

So the loose plan is to record this album with K Sera, do those shows, and then start writing the next record?

Yeah, a little while ago I kind of took a stab at it and then I got a little bit sidetracked. So, I’m hoping to, in the next couple weeks at night, when we’re done in the studio, to get reacquainted with writing and give it a little bit of a go.

Are you working on any other projects of any sort?

I’m definitely trying to get a couple other things going. One of which is that band Naïve Thieves. Working on their full length record. And then there’s my cousin who lives in the area, and his band is working on and hopefully getting a full length together and I really want to help them with that because I think they are a super talented band. But as far as my own projects, there’s a couple of people that I really love to work with and that we’ve had plans to work with for a while. It’s just really hard to find time. That is something that I always keep myself open to but as far as any solid plans, I don’t think I have any.

  1. therelativestrangers reblogged this from propertyofzack and added:
    gonna go see em in a couple of weeks in SANFRAN :D
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