AND NOT HOLDiNG A GRUDGEhttp://www.rockwired.com/casey.jpg
Since the bandís inception, THE DEAR HUNTER fronted by CASEY CRESCENZO has been a band on a mission. In an era where the concept album has seen something of a resurgence with bands like RADIOHEAD, GREEN DAY and CARBON 9, THE DEAR HUNTER has done them all one better by telling one cohesive story with their entire catalog thus far (ACT I: THE LAKE SOUTH, THE RIVER NORTH (2006) and ACT II: THE MEANING OF, AND ALL THINGS REGARDING MS. LEADING (2007)). Now, the band Ė following a drastic line-up change - has released the third chapter of an alternative rock epic that seemingly spans life, the universe and everything. At the time the interview was conducted, ACT III: LIFE AND DEATH was a less than a week away from being released and the band was only minutes away from taking the stage before an ever-growing audience at THE LAUNCHPAD in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A sound check stood in the way of the interview so CASEY and I had decided to take it outside despite the heat and the atypical mugginess of the early evening. In all of the years I have been doing ROCKWIRED, this was my first face-to-face interview. Here is how it went.

ACT III: LIFE AND DEATH is going to be released next week. Whatís all going through your head at the moment?
Weíve just received the physical copies of it today. Our label told us that weíre allowed to start selling them. Technically, the album isnít in stores but weíre allowed to sell them now. So today, it feels like the pseudo-release party. So, Iím excited. This is something that felt like it took forever.

All of the bands music tells this one big, cohesive story. Usually I ask people what is different this time around as opposed to previous releases but this time I have to ask at what point of the story are we?
At this point the story is more about war and what kind of transformation that someone can go through during war. Itís not trying to be a political war record because there are a lot of those right now. Itís more of a universal statement in regard to war and in with what might happen to someone if they were to be put through such an extreme situation. There are different elements of war that are personified by different characters in the story. The general theme is war but itís about this characterís transformation and this turning point in his life.

The bandís history seems pretty tumultuous given the fact that this band has only been around since 2006. You started this band while you were in another band. Talk about the beginning of this band from your perspective.
It started as a bunch of demos that I did on my own. It didnít even start as a band. It started as all songs and then after a while I felt that since I didnít have any real deadlines like normal bands did that I had the luxury of taking things on a much grander scale. It was something that I was doing for fun on the side and eventually the demos got around. My booking agent for the other band that I was in heard them and really liked them. Because of chance and personal differences my time in that band ended and then the booking agent and the label both said that they wanted to continue with THE DEAR HUNTER so I grabbed the opportunity and I tried to put a band together. It took me along time to find the right people. I was trying to fix everything that I saw wrong with the last band that I was in but it was just like a rebound. I got out of that band and immediately I was trying that fast to find members that I thought would be life long members. It took me until now to have the right exact group of people. Thatís the group that is on this record.

And they are the band that is playing tonight?

In regard to the older members of DEAR HUNTER, it seemed as if they all left conveniently at the same time.
They did.

What did that do to you?
Itís upsetting but you can never expect anyone to work as hard and be as focused or as willing as you are. You are the driving force of what it is that you want to do and you canít expect anyone to be a s excited or as ready to work thirty hours straight. It was tough but after a while you realize that if there is something that you want to do it canít really matter if people are going to leave. It canít stop you from doing what you want to do. Itís funny because the last band I was in kicked me out but the drummer from that band is now our manager and the old guitarist is our bass player for this band. The three guys who left this band, one of them is actually back with us playing keyboards and acoustic guitar. It all comes back around if you are calm enough. I couldíve been really bitter and upset and held a grudge but I donít think that it wouldíve been beneficial.

Just for biographyís sake, what drew you to music in the beginning?
It was definitely through my family. When my parents got together they me tin a studio in San Francisco so from before I was even born, while I was in the womb, I was listening to their music. When I grew up, I heard just as much music as I did words. I grew up with music as Ďthe language of the houseí. There were always tools around to be creative. I donít think there couldíve been a more perfect situation for expressing yourself at a young age. My parents were super-encouraging and supportive with the things that I wanted to do.

Explain, if it can be explained, how the whole creative process works for you Ė especially with a project like this.
As far as the actual act of writing a song, it changes from time to time. The last record was written differently from this one. On this record, I wanted to make sure that it was rooted in being a band and be songs that a band could play live. On the last record, there was a lot going on in terms of sound and there still is with this one but this time I wanted the music to have a band-feeling. In the studio, for some reason I had the need to get a grand piano. We found the cheapest grand piano that we could find and I would just sit behind that and everyone would be behind their instruments and I would throw my ideas out and as a band we would flesh them out into song. For me, itís really like putting myself in the mood or the emotion or the setting of whatever Iím trying to get across. The best way I can describe the process is like scoring a film thatís in your head. Itís all putting words and music to the imagery that is already there for you.

Talk about the current members of this band. Who are they and what is it that they bring to this project both musically and personality-wise?
My brother NICK CRESCENZO is the drummer. He played drums on ACT I. At that time, it wasnít really a band. It was just a record. He had his own thing going on in California. When the band came together NICK wasnít available to do it so another came aboard and that was one of the guys that left. When he did, that was the perfect opportunity to ask my brother if he actually wanted to do this and he agreed. The last drummer was a phenomenal drummer and he was really good at doing whatever I said but with my brother, my whole understanding of percussion is from being around him. The ideas I would have naturally for songs area also parallel with the ideas that he would have. Itís much less of me dictating to him what to do. Itís more a case of him and I working together. Emotionally and personally, you canít trust anyone more than you can your own family. When you are out on the road you are going to be in situations where you are going to have a lot of arguments or roadblocks that get in the way and it is always great to have family around in those situations. NICK is just that one guy that I can count on no matter what. There is ANDY WILDRICK who is on guitar and keyboards and he used to be in the band JUNIOR VARSITY and I first met him when I did the first tour with the last band that I was in which was about six years ago. Over time we kept in touch and then somehow he contacted me and asked if I needed a touring guitarist and two months later the three guys left the band. I had seen his dedication in his previous band and all of the hardships that they went through. I saw how resilient and dedicated he was and to me, that gave me a lot of comfort and security. As far as musicality, he is classically trained and heís a very talented piano player and guitar player. He brings a lot to the table. ERICK SERNA is the lead guitar player. He was someone that I had befriended when I was in my last band at the point when I started this band. Solely based on the fact that he is a phenomenal guitarist I asked if he wanted to do this project and he was way into it. He was living in California at the time. He can be the most perfect, easy-going kind of person and you can always count on him to not make a situation more complicated than it needs to be. He has a way of calming things down and making sure that nothing gets over-analyzed or overwhelming. Heís a good calmer. NATE PATTERSON is the guitarist from my last band. When the bassist left we offered it to him but he was still in THE RECEIVING END OF SIRENS so he said that he couldnít do it but when that band broke up, he started doing some business stuff like tour managing and stuff like that. Finally, last September, we offered it to him again and he agreed. Aside form the fact that he brings an element that was never really there, he and NICK get along amazingly well as a rhythm section should. They are a very perfect fit. Right now, JOSH RHEAULT is touring with us and heís playing acoustic guitar and keys. He was actually one of the guys that had left the band but heís playing with us now. Everybody brings a lot to the table and they are just as creative and inspired as anyone else.

From this forthcoming release, what moments stand out for you the most and why?
There are few song that I really love. One of them was THE POISON WOMAN because I really like the tone of the song. There are few very soulful moments on the song. I guess the overall palette of instruments on that song is what does it for me. Also, MUSTARD GAS because it feels very large and cinematic to me. It feels like a battle scene to me in a very metal way. The song LIFE AND DEATH came together so simply. Itís a simple song in essence and I feel that the melodies and chord changes came together very well. So those three songs stand out for me the most.

How deep are you into this tour now?
We are about ten days into this tour. This is our eleventh day.

Ever been in Albuquerque before?
I think we have. I think it was about two years ago.

How have live audiences responded to this new material?
Itís been going as expected. The people that have downloaded the leaked version of the album obviously respond a lot better than the people that havenít. I think it is as good as you could hope for. Everybody at the end of the night tells us that they enjoyed it. While theyíre listening to this new stuff there is nothing familiar to them so they canít really move to it yet, so they are just standing there listening. I like that and I appreciate that. Theyíve been reacting very well to the older stuff that weíve been playing. This tour for us has been like the perfect fit but Iím excited to play once the record is actually out when people can actually have the material and they can get into it and remember songs. All in all itís been amazing.

What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this latest CD?
There is the obvious issue of entertainment. Youíd want them to feel that after they listened to your record from start to finish that they didnít lose minutes from their life. Youíd want them to feel like theyíd want to listen to it again. You donít want the listening experience to get old for someone. I like that the record has enough layers that if you listened to it a hundred times that youíll still find something new. Emotionally, itís pretty dark record. I wouldnít want anyone coming away from it feeling to akin with the subject matter. I think that this record is not meant to be ďidentified withĒ on a personal level so this record is meant to portray certain beliefs and certain ideas and philosophies and a few things that Iíve been through that arenít so romanticized. I would love for someone to come away from it feeling fulfilled musically and I think that a lot of records leave you feeling like ĎWow! That didnít really do a lot for me.í A lot of records seems to tell you how bad life is and leave it at that.