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The Appleseed Cast: I (Don't) Love L.A.

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: November 12, 2003

The Appleseed Cast
w/ The Belles & Coast of Nebraska
Sunday, Nov. 16
9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th and Martha

The Appleseed Cast is a band that seems to have just come out of nowhere, though they've been there all along.

Formed in '97 out in seedy Los Angeles, the Cast put out a handful of records on quiet indie label Deep Elm, all the time remaining just beneath the radar with its proud emo sound (and I'm talking real emo by way of Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral). Eventually, the whole bunch moved from industry-rich LA to Lawrence, Kansas, home of KU, cornfields, and one of the most interesting indie music scenes in the country.

They could have just kept slowly moving forward playing the same ol' indie rock formula, but no. In late 2001 they released a two-volume collection called the Low Level Owl series. Critics hailed the artsy, ambient, experimental recordings as sheer breakthrough stuff, with AMG even declaring the band America's answer to Radiohead.

Two years later, and everything changed again. With Two Conversations, released this past July by Tiger Style Records, the Appleseed Cast has returned to its indie-rock roots, but this time they're bringing along the graceful baggage they've collected through all their sonic trials and tribulations.

While the Owl recordings were largely instrumental, Two Conversations heralded the return of Chris Crisci on vocals. The album has the same majestic, lonely feel as the echo of rolling thunder or traffic heard across a cornfield on a clear, full-moon-lit night.

Indie aficionados will recognize touches of all the best stuff currently burning up college radio, from Cursive to The Gloria Record. But unlike their jangly brethren, Two Conversations is dominated by beautifully simple anthems sung with the same clean resonance as Goo Goo Dolls pretty boy Johnny Rzeznik. In fact, tracks like the pounding uptempo rocker "Innocent Vigilant Ordinary" pop better than the Goos' finest moments. Imagine if this stuff caught the ear of a savvy radio programmer?

It's something that Crisci and company aren't too concerned about. He said the band has always taken the clear indie music path since they sold all their stuff and hit the road all those years ago.



Lazy-I: Where are you right now?

Chris Crisci: I'm in Lawrence. Our show in Memphis got canceled last night. The establishment, Young Street Deli, lost its license to do all-ages shows, and I guess they just didn't want to do a 21-and-over show with us.

Memphis is only about three and a half hours away from Lawrence, and the drive to Champaign (the band's next gig) is only six hours away.

So what have you been doing on your day off?

Seeing friends, doing laundry and hanging out at our bar -- The Replay Lounge.

How long have you guys been on the road the past year?

All together, five or six months. And I'll be on the road another month with my other band before I get a break.

What's your other band?

Old Canes. It's brand new. We just finished recording last month. Right now we're going over the album artwork. The music is folk songs that I've been playing a long time.

How did Old Canes come about?

Appleseed Cast doesn't play acoustic shows. We play loud, and with lots of delay. Our music is atmospheric, not acoustic. I've always told people that we don't do acoustic shows. So we we're touring in Germany and the booking agent booked us an acoustic show. I told him 'I'm not gonna do it.' But we get there and he said they've already set it up and people are going to show up. I said 'Jesus Christ, I'll play folk songs but not Appleseed Cast songs,' which is what we did. And everyone loved it.

This isn't slow, sappy stuff. It's more rootsy, bluegrassy. It's got some of that '60s folk feel to it in how the drums are delivered. Though it's acoustic, I play through an overdriven amp, so it's like bluegrass punk. The CD is coming out on (Kansas City's) Second Nature Records, but not until March. We're going to tour anyway.

You must love being on the road. Don't you miss Lawrence?

There's no question that I love Lawrence, but it's a small town, and it's nice to get away sometimes. My perfect schedule would be to tour three weeks and be home for two weeks. When you're at home, you have two options if you're not recording -- you can either do nothing or get a job. And I don't like either. I'd rather be on tour.

Some bands can't write on the road.

Yeah, we can't write on the road at all. After this next tour, Appleseed is going to be home until late February. So when I'm not on the road with Old Canes, we'll be writing the new record.



"When you're at home, you have two options if you're not recording -- you can either do nothing or get a job. And I don't like either."




"You can't expect a band like ours to just blow up. We're not playing music that a lot of people are going to latch onto."



If you're all from LA how'd you end up in Lawrence?

I'm from San Diego, Aaron (Pillar, guitar) is from LA Everyone else is from the Midwest. Josh (Baruth, drums) is from Minneapolis. Jordan (Geiger, keyboards) is from Booneville, Missouri, and Marc (Young, bass) is from St. Joe. The band started in LA Back then, we had a different drummer and bassist. The bass player was from Lawrence.

We were a band in LA for six months. After that, we had gotten our first record deal and hit the road. We sold everything and bought a van and lived on the road for nine months. That got old, and I moved back to San Diego because I hate LA Our drummer quit because he hated the road and other two guys moved back to LA We were back for a couple months and it wasn't working out. I said 'I'm not moving to LA and you're not moving here and we're not practicing in Orange County.' We all loved Lawrence and had a lot of friends here, and Jason's parents lived here, so it was an easy decision.

The old rock and roll story is that bands move away from the Midwest to LA You went the opposite direction.

It all depends on what you're trying to do. If you're trying to get on a major label and pursue the entertainment industry-version of music, Los Angeles is where you go. But if what you're doing is independent touring, it doesn't matter where you live. It's probably worse to live in LA if you're trying to do things on your own because everything costs so much.

Playing at clubs is different in Los Angeles. Imagine if the Bottleneck made you buy 400 tickets to your own show and it was up to you to sell them. That's what LA clubs do. You pay to play. It's ridiculous. There's a thousand bands per square mile in LA So many go there to make it that there's no way clubs can book all of them.

So you've embraced the indie model for music. Is it because you wanted to make decisions for artistic reasons rather than for commerce?

Exactly. When I moved to LA it was because I wanted to be part of rat race. I was young, dumb, and didn't know about DIY things. I didn't understand that the scene itself supports the music. I realized that I can do things on my own. You don't need some big record label's money to go on tour.

There must have been some defining moment that turned you off to LA

It was just living there and seeing all the people out there who think 'I'm gonna make it.' But their idea of making it is someone else helping them. It dawned on me that you're not what you're waiting for someone to help you to become, you're what you do. If you go out and play music, you're a musician. If you love what you're doing, just doing it is the reward.

Do you ever get discouraged that your band isn't breaking through to a larger audience?

To me, it doesn't matter. I think it's because we started off by playing in basements to 12 people. Now we sometimes play shows that are sold out, and I can't believe it. I'm amazed that I can go to Ontario and 200 people show up at a show, and we've never been to Canada before. It's been a gradual climb and to me, we are progressing.

I know everyone in the band doesn't feel that way. Sometimes you want more, but I think everyone agrees that we're moving forward.

I also know that we put ourselves in the place we are today. You can't expect a band like ours to just blow up. We're not playing music that a lot of people are going to latch onto. Our fans are a little niche that's very committed. It's not like we're Hot Hot Heat, where it's dance-y and fun and suddenly blows up. I've never expected to be on David Letterman.

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Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.