The Dear Hunter’s Casey Crescenzo
By Susan Frances [03-20-2007]
The Dear Hunter is the new band put together by singer, songwriter, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist Casey Crescenzo , whose debut EP, Act 1: The Lake South, The River North (Triple Crown Records) was released in September 2006. The music for The Dear Hunter are songs which Crescenzo has been tinkering with even before joining Boston”’s hardcore ensemble The Receiving End Of Sirens and becoming an integral part of TREOS”’ debut full length album, Between The Heart And The Synapse (Triple Crown Records).
After being parted from TREOS in the fall of 2005, Crescenzo re-opened the vault where he saved his compositions for The Dear Hunter and started working on the concept for the album, bringing elements of hardcore, jazz, blues, ambient, and orchestral textures into the mix. He recruited members of his family to record instrument parts on the album, he invited Dan Nigro, the lead singer of As Tall As Lions, to sing harmony vocals, and he went on a search for musicians who wanted to join him in The Dear Hunter.
Crescenzo found the right musicians for The Dear Hunter by trying out different players. The band”’s practice sessions resulted in Luke Dent on keyboards, his brother, Sam Dent, on drums and Erick Serna on guitar.
Crescenzo explains, “I had met Luke a few years ago when I played a show with his band at the time. We both had a mutual love for music, especially artists like Mike Patton and Bjork, so we really connected. After that we always kept in touch and exchanged demos and musical projects we were both working on. “When the shift in my life occurred and I found myself working on The Dear Hunter full-time, I was frantically looking for people, and after a failed month of contacting the most random people, I was speaking to Luke on the phone, just updating him on my situation, and it just clicked that I had never asked him. I just said, “Hey, you play piano right?”’ and he said, “Yeah, why?”’ and it took off from there. Looking back, I think it was ridiculous that I waited that long.”
He remembers, “After that, we had two different people slated for the bass and drums position of the band, and when they moved up to Boston, things were obviously not clicking, so I undertook the heavy task of asking them to leave. After that, Luke decided to tell me casually that his brother was a very talented percussionist and would love to join the band. After I got over the initial humor of the fact that Luke had never told me this, I spoke to Sam and it just felt right.
“Before speaking to Luke, I had been speaking to Erick,” Crescenzo recounts. “He was in Los Angeles at the time, studying engineering and production. I was a little reluctant to ask him to leave school, but after we spoke about him playing guitar a few times, we both knew he had to. Shortly after that, he moved back to Massachusetts and we started working on the band full time.
“I knew Erick from my days in TREOS. He was a friend of the band, and I had always seen him around and hung out with him a few times. We would sit in Nate’s (Patterson) - from TREOS - basement, and jam for hours, and we always had a really amazing musical relationship. He is from western Massachusetts, and he has been in a few bands before this one.”
For the recording of the EP, all of the songwriting, arranging, and most of the playing was done by Casey Crescenzo with additional input from his family members, including Nick Crescenzo on drums, Phil Crescenzo on the organ, and Judy Crescenzo on background vocals. “I was recording the EP at home in my father’s studio room. Nick is my brother, and I've been in bands with him since I was 10, so with the fact that I had no band at the time, it seemed default that he might play percussion on my recordings. As far as my mother and father,” he adds, “I love them both dearly and to include them in anything is a joy and incredibly humbling.”
For the song “1878,” Phil Crescenzo plays an organ solo that is emotive and cavernous, a dark bluesy section that correlates to the mood of the song. “My father has been playing piano for over 30 years. He is an amazing musician and including him in “1878”’ seemed fit, given the groove of the song. He is very comfortable with blues and jazz, and that is the most bluesy/jazzy moment on the record.”
Inspiration has a way of enticing an artist to do something on the spur of the moment, so while recording “1878,” Casey was struck by its blues ambience and lounge-like style, and could hear Dan Nigro’s vocals on the track. “I knew that I wanted Dan on the record because he has an amazing vocal presence, and I felt that his and my voice would work well together. “1878” was ambient enough to fit his style, so it seemed to make sense to include him on that song. He recollects, “I met Dan after the recording of Between the Heart and the Synapse. The first tour TREOS did after that record was with As Tall As Lions and Cartel. We really got along with the whole band and from then on we always remained close.”
For the record, The Receiving End Of Sirens got their name when “Andrew (Cook) was working at a pub in Granby, Massachusetts, and it just popped into his head one day as many state vehicles drove by with sirens blaring,” Crescenzo said.
Crescenzo used his instincts to determine the direction of the music for the songs on The Dear Hunter’s EP. “Every song starts as an idea and then self-inspires until it is finished,” he explains. “I think the direction of the song is defined by the song. It’s hard to describe, but things seem to influence themselves until there is a finished idea.”
His idea for the iconoclastic and carnival sounding “The Pimp And The Priest” has trumpeter Tom Neesom soaking the song with the jazz grunge-spunk of Bob Fosse’s Chicago. “The track has a very dramatic quality to it, and it just kind of snowballed into a really seedy jazzy tune. Having a nice muted trumpet solo and trumpet section seemed fit. I forget exactly how I started talking to Tom, but I had written some parts and Tom came in and just played them perfectly, adding his own individual personality to the melody. I basically told him to play as dirty and trashy as he could. He adds, “I think that I fail if the songs aren’t interesting, then what is the point, so I try to make every song interesting and intricate.”
Crescenzo examines his approach to The Dear Hunter. “The concept behind the Dear Hunter is basically to create the most vivid and beautiful music possible. I've always been a fan of orchestration and arrangement, and creating music without boundaries is the most important thing to all of us. The songs for ACT 1 came from my head. The process for writing that EP was basically musical meditation - the best way I can describe it. I really just sat and tried to let honest streams of sound flow out of me instead of debating parts and judging practicality. It seems to me to be the best way to create.
“This album actually was pulled from many different inspirations at different times. At the point of creating the music, the inspiration was mostly from inside and my family. It was a really happy and creative point for me. When writing the lyrics the inspiration was all happening outside of me. It was a really strange time for me. I didn’t have a lot of trust and I felt very isolated, and at the point of actually recording the vocals, the inspiration arose from the insane desire to finish the EP and hear the completed album.”
The EP concludes with the somber piano melody, “The River North,” and then an audience applause, to which Crescenzo reveals, “I decided to end the EP with a piano piece that reminded me of silent films. I felt that those kind of chord voicings and simplistic piano melodies would be more visual and emotional than a vocal track, and they kind of bring things to a close for that end of the story.
“There is an entire life to tell about with The Dear Hunter music,” he adds. “The EP is just the birth of the story and the audience at the end signifies this. The EP is really just the curtain rising, and the full length will signify the beginning of the show.”
The songs for Act 1 relate to what Crescenzo has observed about human nature. “I think the fact is that so far my life has been a very colorful journey and that I feel, I suppose like everyone, that I have something worthwhile to share. That may be pretentious, but I believe it.
“I think that human nature is truly good, but the nature of the world is truly evil, and that the push and pull between the two is the most intriguing situation. Good people find themselves in strange circumstances, and the way that one person reacts compared to another stirs a curiosity in me that, thus far, seems to be insatiable.”
His insatiable curiosity continuously motivates his songwriting. It is a skill that he does not take for granted and keeps his creative juices flowing even on his down time. “I get incredibly afraid of my playing and singing. I don’t believe it was a gift. I have had to work hard at it for a long time, and I practice constantly. The idea of becoming rusty or losing any ability is very sobering,” he admits. “The music means everything to me. It's an outlet on one hand and a necessity on the other.”
Crescenzo sheds light on when playing music first became an outlet and a necessity. “I was 8 years old when I first began playing music seriously. I played bass in my high school orchestra. The only time I tried lessons was when I was about 13. I had found a teacher through my friend, who was also a guitarist, but after the second visit it got very boring. Most teachers are there to teach kids how to play other people's songs, and that wasn't what I was looking for.”
In those early stages of playing music, Crescenzo knew that he needed an outlet for creating his own compositions. He was inspired by many artists whom he still has a connection with today and lists casually, “Its the same kind of thing - The Beatles, Bjork, Brian Wilson, Radiohead, Stevie Wonder... I love melody.”
Like the artists whom he admires, Crescenzo hopes to make good melodies with a lasting impression on his audience. “I really just want to leave people happy and fulfilled. I want to give people something that they can listen to and get away from the downfalls of reality with.”
Audiences can see The Dear Hunter in practice on the band’s Myspace site. They have downloaded footage of themselves playing in their home studio. Crescenzo remarks, “Luke recorded and edited the videos. It was fun and none of us minded. We are finishing up a full length right now, and hoping to tour after that, sometime in the spring.”
The Dear Hunter have used the resources available on the Internet to bring their music to audiences through Myspace, Purevolume, and their own website. “Myspace, even though it is the digital center of phony identification, has helped this band quite a bit. I think that youtube is cool,” he enthuses. “I found videos of lots of great artists on there that I never would have been able to get a hold of otherwise... Its not as though full-length movies are popular on youtube. It’s just a fun way to enjoy videos.”
Casey Crescenzo is a firm believer that things don’t just happen. He insists, “You have to make them happen for yourself.” As a musician, he has learned, “You need to write as much as you can, and play out as much as possible. There is never any reason to be an egomaniac. Someone is always better than you, and someone is always better than them. You are always at the top and the bottom of one respective chain or the other, but you have to look beyond that and just dive into your art without the expectation that it will be taken well.”
When conditions seem to be pulling him away from playing music, he says, “I just remember that no matter what, I love to make music. Even if no one is listening.” The Dear Hunter is presently putting their full length album together and are looking forward to its release and going on tour. Please visit the band’s websites for music and videos of the band at:
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