An excess of ambition can make or break an artist, and one could assume that the scope of what The Dear Hunter has evolved into since its inception, could rip its creator apart with ease. Alas, Casey Crescenzo, the marvel behind the madness has valiantly kept his composure, pressed on, and continues to optimize the project, providing us with one of the most versatile, groundbreaking indie rock outfits we’ve ever had the privilege of experiencing.
Between last year’s earnest effort, The Color Spectrum, constant touring, and the world’s anticipation of the continuance of the conceptual Acts series, The Dear Hunter have secured their supremacy amongst the indie elite, making many others pale in comparison… all the while dominating “best of” lists, hundreds of stages, and the ears of every person lucky enough to have been introduced to Crescenzo’s contrivance.
UTG is extremely excited to bring you this exclusive interview with the man himself, who was kind enough to take time out of his overwhelming schedule to fill us in on their Coachella experience, touring with their good friend Anthony Green and what’s on the horizon for TDH. Read through and take advantage of this opportunity to catch up with Casey and The Dear Hunter!
When you started The Dear Hunter, what was your primary focus for the project?
The idea was to take the creative overflow from The Receiving End Of Sirens and bottle it up into something that I could keep with me. There was never a plan to take it on the road, or to release it. It was only when things with them went awry that I was given the opportunity to really make it into a traditional sort of thing.
The focus has always been honest music. If I am writing and a progressive record comes out, it’s what I’ll write. If I am writing and a pop song comes out, it’s what I’ll write. I don’t ever want to take that step back and say, “this is a good song, but I can’t play it because I am ‘THIS’”… I would rather just look at music as music.
Do you have any regrets about leaving TREOS to pursue The Dear Hunter?
Well the key is that I didn’t leave to pursue The Dear Hunter… I was asked to leave.
My father actually pointed this out to me the other day: “Every time in the last 10 years, where you’ve been concerned that everything has gone to Hell, it ends up being literally the best thing for you.”
It’s true. There have been many times in the last 10 years where it seems like the sky is falling, and then I realize it was just rain, and now I can grow my crops so to speak.
The situation with TREOS was indeed a tough time, but I am very grateful to them for making the decision they did. It forced me to take a look at myself, my shortcomings, my own issues, and remedy them. It also allowed me to write in a sort of unhinged setting, and without all of that happening, I would not have Act I, II, II, The Color Spectrum, etc… I probably wouldn’t be married to my amazing wife… I wouldn’t have my wonderful dogs, etc. Everything bad, everything good, it has all lead me here, and for that I find it impossible to have any regrets.
You’ve referenced Act IV, V, VI in a recent interview… What can you update us with about that?
I have taken some time away from writing music for that project, but I am still very creatively and emotionally connected to Act I, II, and III. The story has three more parts, but at the moment I have really been enjoying writing less plot-driven music. As soon as it feels right I am going to get back in the studio to record as much material from those three stories as I can, but I don’t want to resort to a traditional release for them. I would like to explore a different outlet for them beyond the records themselves.
Thematically there is still a lot to happen to the central character in the story, and there has been a world of life that I’ve lived since I wrote Act III that I would love to augment the story with. It really is a matter of timing.
How is The Dear Hunter going to top The Color Spectrum?
I think that would depend on who you ask. Some people may feel that it’s beyond me to top it, while others might feel it was weak. I know that for me it really opened up a world of creativity that I was somewhat afraid of exploring. Now having gone through what was honestly a fairly big, creative and emotional journey in completing The Color Spectrum, I feel more confident in myself as a songwriter, as a singer, as a lyricist, etc.
I feel more comfortable casting the idea of topping anything aside, and just focusing on what comes out naturally and trying to nurture that into something I believe in. The next record will be different from any record I have done in the past, but it’s just a matter of the music naturally coming out that way. I can say that I am the most excited I have ever been to make music.
What songs from The Color Spectrum collection hold the most personal weight for you?
“Home” and “No God” are really personal. I, like everyone else, have always struggled with all the questions that were too big to ask, and those songs are my way of asking/answering them for myself. In reality, the collection gave me a really interesting way to let out a great deal of who I am, and all of the different issues/ideas/emotions/questions I have. There are things that I felt comfortable singing about over the sonics of the Black EP that wouldn’t have felt right over the White EP, and vice versa.
How would you describe the experience of playing The Color Spectrum in its entirety versus a regular set list spanning your catalog?
It was frightening, and a bit like exercising a demon. It almost felt as though that was the goal all along. There were quite a few moments where I had to keep my eyes closed to keep it together. It was a passionate, incredible night, and I can only say that I hope to feel that, on that level, again.
I saw you guys on the ‘Beautiful Things Tour’ in San Francisco back in February but there was no drummer present and you played a lot of toned-down versions of your songs. Nothing was mentioned at the show. Was the entire tour like that?
Yes. When Anthony [Green] originally approached me about the tour, he made it clear that the goal was giving the night a different vibe. I was originally asked to do it solo acoustic, but the idea was that it would be billed as The Dear Hunter… so I found myself in a strange place where I knew it didn’t feel 100% right to do an entire tour as The Dear Hunter with no band. So Connor, Rob, and I came up with the idea to do a more toned down version of the songs. We had never done it, and it was sort of a “if ever, now is the time” kind of thing. We had already been around the country three to four times in the year and it was time to do something a little different.
I did miss my brother behind the kit though. We all did.
What was your Coachella experience like?
Fascinating. It was amazing, but I couldn’t help but feel undeserving of the treatment. They were all SO incredibly kind. They carted you everywhere – there was incredible catering, all of the crew was constantly checking if you were okay.
I just remembered the hall tours I was doing in 2004 and I never, in my life, dreamed I would be playing big festivals, and being escorted on a golf cart to do interviews all day. It was definitely an amazing experience, but I tried to put it in perspective and not get used to it (laughs).
Who were your favorite acts at Coachella?
Refused, Radiohead, St. Vincent, Bon Iver… honestly the whole thing was amazing.
You guys have been touring with Anthony Green majority of 2012 so far. What’s been your favorite part of the experience?
Anthony. He is just the most genuinely kind and exciting person to be around. He wants nothing more than for everyone to be happy and to play music. The shows were great, the company was great, the music was wonderful. Seriously a dream tour for me on a personal level.
What’s on the TDH schedule once you finish touring with Anthony Green next month?
10 days after that tour finishes, I am heading out to do some solo acoustic shows supporting Andy Hull. That will be for about two weeks, then I go directly to the studio to work on my next record.
(Disclaimer – I’m not going out billed as The Dear Hunter. It’s billed as Casey Crescenzo)
Are you currently working on any other projects besides TDH?
There are a few really exciting artists I have been talking with about collaborations, but as of now nothing is concrete.
Hopefully by the new year there will be some news, or music to show from one of those collaborations, but who knows!
How does it feel to be regarded as a visionary, one of the greatest artists of our time, etc.?
I don’t know quite how to respond to that other than I do not believe I am deserving of praise like that. I always take the kind and loving things people tell me to heart, and let them inspire me, but I have this weird superstition that if I were to ever come up for air from my focus of making music, and pay too much mind to what people say about me, that my music would immediately suffer.
I can say that I have been treated so incredibly well, and that my life is an absolute dream. I’m not rich, I don’t own my Pontiac Vibe, I survive on the charity of others, but my life is a complete dream come true, and it chokes me up when I take a breath and realize just how lucky I am.
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion
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