The Appleseed Cast is still figuring itself out and finding its place
Back in the summer of 2006, I witnessed Russian Circles open up for The Appleseed Cast, and it was probably a terrible act for the headliners to have to follow. Still, what seemed like an onstage mismatch seemed to epitomize the amorphous nature of The Appleseed Cast.
While Russian Circles are known for intense post-rock bombast, The Appleseed Cast will bring a more melodic, slow-boiled take on instrumental buildup when it descends upon the Rio Theatre on Friday, March 25. In fact, the band, based in Lawrence, Kan., has always felt a little out of place in more ways than one. During a career spanning seven full-length albums, the enemble has sort of hung out in a genre no man’s land, grabbing fans from the punk and indie scenes but truly endearing itself to neither. Likewise, the band’s music has found its own middle ground between instrumental and pop music.
“That’s actually a pattern that we’ve tried to go with,” explains guitarist Aaron Pillar about the band’s arrangements. “I think it’s just about trying to find an interesting spot where the vocals make sense in that ballpark. It’s almost like we’ve done things in such a way for so long, it’d be really weird, maybe it would be a good thing to write some songs that are all vocals.”
And indeed, The Appleseed Cast makes use of vocals in at least two ways that differ from your typical off-the-shelf indie record. One is in the quintet’s arrangements, which swerve between dramatic, sweeping post-rock epics, and rather engaging indie pop relying on more traditional verse/chorus structuring.
Moreover, one of the starkest decisions the band has ever made was in recording its 2009 effort, Sagarmatha. Though vocal effects were certainly nothing new to the group, this record featured singer Chris Crisci in an indistinguishable tone, his voice more a disembodied spirit.
“During those sessions we definitely got a little happy with putting delays on vocals, which is tricky because they can kind of bounce around and not make a whole lot of sense,” explains Pillar, the band’s other driving creative force. “On those songs it just felt there were so many written musically first as instrumental songs that became songs with lyrics. On Sagarmatha there was definitely an intention to make the voice just kind of help tell the story as a background.”
Still, as creatively satisfied as Pillar seems with his band of nearly 15 years, his more meandering musical sensibilities (contrasted with Crisci, who seems more responsible for focused tracks like “Song 3” from Peregrine) belie his desire to reach a broader audience. While bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky certainly prove post-rock has an audience, you’re not soon to hear an 8-minute minimalist piece on alternative radio anytime soon.
“I certainly wish I could try and pretend I was 20 years old again,” explains Pillar, who also runs a catering business in Lawrence with his wife. “I didn’t have any responsibilities, I just wanted to make it big. I don’t really see that happening anymore.” He adds, “I did always want to have a bus—I wanted to have a manager and a bus, just for one tour, so all you have to do really is walk out and play. Even now I feel really far from that.”
The Appleseed Cast performs at 8 p.m. Friday, March 25, at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information call 423-8209.