The Appleseed Cast is one of the most amazing bands on the planet right now. From their base in Lawrence, Kansas, Christopher Crisci (vocals, guitar), Aaron Pillar (guitar, vocals), Marc Young (bass) and Josh 'Cobra' Baruth (drums), Jordan Geiger (keyboards, samples) produce unique and inspiring music that has captivated fans of emo and indie rock the world over.

The band first appeared on Deep Elm's 'A Million Miles Away: The Emo Diaries, Chapter Two' with the song 'Max'. Since then the band has become one of the most loved bands around. Their first record was classic, moving emo rock. 'The End Of The Ring Wars' was a touching, emotional and rocking release that is still treasured by anyone that bought it. Following that up, 'Mare Vitallis' took the emo template and expanded it into a completely unique sound. The band then began work on a double album, released in two volumes, 'Low Level Owl' a collection of soundscapes, experimental pieces and haunting, beautiful songs. These two records blow anything achieved by Mogwai or Sigur Ros right out of the water. If you consider yourself a music fan 'Low Level Owl', which has come out like all of the Appleseed Cast's albums to date on Deep Elm, is completely unmissable. But unlike the post rock bands, Appleseed are true to their emo routes. They are still able to sound human and confront real emotions in an honest way.

If any band out there deserves to be heard, it is the Appleseed Cast! They have conquered the emo scene, but their music has the potential to touch any fans of heartfelt rock music. I just can’t contain my respect for these guys. It’s as simple as this: they are incredible.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to Appleseed Cast guitarist Aaron Pillar about the next steps in the band’s progress. Aaron is, along with Chris, one of the two founder members of the band that remains a member. He is also the main man in another Deep Elm band, Hundred Hands, whose stuff is also very much worthy of anyone’s attention.

PB : How has the year 2003 been for the Appleseed Cast so far? How was your recent tour?

AP : It was really good. It was with Cursive and you can’t beat playing with those guys. It was on the West Coast, and it was a really great time.

PB : You have signed a new record contract with a new label, Tiger Style recordings. Was there anything wrong with Deep Elm? What does the new label offer, and how did this come about?

AP : It was because we wanted to go in a direction where we could spend more money on promotion and advertising and push more towards the radio. It had a different philosophy to what Deep Elm wanted to do. We felt that we’d put out a lot of records on that label and we realised that the lifetime of a band is often pretty short. We feel lucky that we’ve been around this long, but hopefully this will be able to keep us going even longer. So, we’ll see in the long term but hopefully it will work out for the best.

We’re spending a lot more money on pushing the record. We didn’t spend a lot on the recording, but we’re excited that people should have a better chance to hear the record. It might not help at all, but probably Spin and Rolling Stone will review the record and that should be really great. And also it’ll be great when we go on tour, and say we show up in Chicago, it’ll allow us to have something in the local paper and things. Hopefully, that’ll mean that more people can come to the shows.

PB : You have a new album out in July, on the new label. Can you describe what an Appleseed Cast fan can expect to hear?

AP: It’s called 'Two Conversations', and the base of it is two phone conversations, though as it went on Chris began rewriting lyrics. We used a relationship as a background, but we were also able to throw some political ideas on there, which at this time you really have to do, which were in the context of therelationship.

For an Appleseed Cast fan, you’ll hear that the vocals are much more pronounced and there aren’t any instrumental songs. It’s probably the most straight up record we’ve ever made. It still sounds like us, but it’s just ten rock songs.

I’m interested to hear what people think, because when we were doing it, I was ready to play guitar, play keyboards and just make noise and that didn’t happen. I think we’ll all excited about it, and they’ve just started sending out promo copies so we’ll soon hear some feedback. But I think people will be stoked.

PB : You have relatively recently put out a new album on Deep Elm, called 'Lost Songs'. Do you think off it as a rounding up of leftover stuff rather than a genuine follow up to the 'Low Level Owl 'albums?

AP: That’s the way I perceive it. It’s stuff that we actually recorded in 1999, although Chris did go over and add some junk to it. We felt that it had been a long time between recording 'Low Level Ow'l and now, so it was a chance to just put out some old songs. We get a lot of people e-mailing about bootlegs, so we felt that people – even though it was old stuff – would want to know what that was like. The band has changed since then and we don’t play the old stuff live any more. So it was for people who dug the old stuff, like 'Return Of The Ring Wars', that the new line up of the band don’t really play.

PB : When you are recording, do you write and experiment in the studio, or is it clear in your mind what will appear before you go in?

AP: When we did 'Low Level Owl', we would have spaces between the songs, like two minutes of tape, and one of us would run in and we’d bang on something and then we’d write another song. For me, that was really great. I’d prefer to write a record in the studio every time if we could. It’s problematic, and if you hit a block when you’re writing in the studio you’re screwed. This time round, we had a big board with all the chord changes. We did this on Pro-Tools, which made the process less time consuming. It was great, when we recorded one song we came to realise that it was too slow, and it meant we could just speed it up rather than actually record the whole thing again. We tried to go into the studio with specific ideas. I think people will hear that when they get the record.

PB : Is the experience of recording something you enjoy, or do you maybe feel a little pressured?

AP : I do feel the pressure. When I was doing the Hundred Hands record, I did feel a little pressured when it came to doing the vocals, and with this band I often get a little nervous for everybody else that they can pull off their parts. But, I prefer studio time to many other things in the world. I love just sitting in the studio and making music. I’d love to have my own studio and experiment and muck around in. I think being in the studio is something that the whole band really loves.

PB : Do you see your music, and would you want your fans to see your music, as being experimental?

AP : Well, when we play live I always want it to be fresh and I try to experiment with every song and play it differently. I’ve got a new habit of changing all my settings every night. If it screws up its terrible, it’s such a drag, but at the same time its cool to really go for it live. I think our fans perceive us, certainly, as an indie rock band that enjoys jamming and experimenting. I hope they do.

PB : Do you mix up the set list as well?

AP: On the recent tour we tried to get as many new songs down as possible. We picked about 13 songs that we could play, and we’d do the same10 every night, and then we’d mix it up a little. Hopefully when we go back out in August we’ll have about 20 songs that we can play around with, but this time we’d just finished recording and we didn’t really have the time to practice. We’re going try and see if we can pull it off using a sound effects loop, which will give us a lot more than just one keyboard, but I don’t know if we can really do that yet.

PB A few years ago, it looked like the style of music “emo”, which you are certainly associated with, was going to get very large. Now, it’s as if it’s becoming unfashionable. Have you noticed much difference in the way that your band is responded to?

AP : It’s kind of weird. I guess I feel that a lot of our fans have grown with us, that we’re not an emo band but an experimental rock band. We didn’t on purpose change, but we just did. I don’t have a problem with emo. I’d much rather have people listening to, even if it’s contrived, emo-rock than some other types of music that are out there.

There are bands out there that sound just like Jimmy Eat World or the Get Up Kids, but those bands have been playing for six years and they’re not as famous as these rip-off bands. But I’d rather they listened to that then pop music or whatever. I heard Alkaline Trio on the radio yesterday and I thought that was pretty cool.

PB : In Britain, certainly, emo got a lot of hype temporarily but it never really took off. It’s still an underground thing, and I think the people that listen to your band are the people that are involved in the underground emo scene, even if the music you play is maybe different.

AP : Yeah, I guess we’ll always be associated with that scene and I feel much more comfortable in that scene than on a big rock label. I don’t think the big companies know what to do with emo. They tried to hype it real big. I noticed last time in Britain that people were saying that emo was the new big thing.

PB : Yeah, certainly that happened – the NME had a big cover story about emo, and it was really good for a while that good intelligent music was getting covered. Instead it went the other way and garage rock took off.

AP : I thought garage rock would be over by now! You know, I think the new White Stripes is really good, but they’re the cream of the crop. All the others, I see their names, and I think, oh, I know what that sounds like. Oh, I know what they sound like. A pissed version of the Stones! And I don’t want to hear that. But if you’re into that, you know, it’s your time because there’s a million of them out there.

PB : What music has inspired you in the past, and what inspires you to continue with the band?

AP : I think Josh really likes Fugazi, Marc was a big fan of Jesus Lizard and Pavement, Chris was really into the Cure and U2, stuff like that and I was kind of a Depeche Mode, New Wave kid, and then I got into Metallica and that. I’m 32 now, so when Nirvana busted out I was 18 and that has always been a big influence, just to get out and play.

On tour, recently, the new Wilco record got played a lot, and a lot of and Americana. The Flaming Lips was in that a lot. When we drive, I can always throw in Deftones’ 'White Pony' and it’s great for driving. Actually, I’ve just bought the new Deftones record. It’s really good. People should definitely hear that. We always try and keep close to the really good stuff like U2, the Cure, Zeppelin, stuff like that and take the vibe from that.

PB : Finally, what would you like the band to achieve in the future and are you happy with what you’ve achieved?

AP: I could walk away right now and be happy. I mean I’ve been able to go to Europe three times, and that’s great right there. But ultimately, it would be great to be able to do the band full time. I’d like to be able to pull this off for three or four more years, and live off the band for a few years, maybe see if we can save a little money. If it was just a matter though of just touring the States three times a year, and maybe going to Europe once a year for the next three years, and then if everyone said, ‘yeah, I’ll go back to school or whatever’ and went their separate ways and we got back together and toured every summer after that, that would still be okay.

I think as far as records go, so long as we can keep doing good records we’ll carry on, even if we can’t tour. I mean, look at the Fugazi guys, they’re in their forties and they’re still rocking. That would be the ultimate goal. I don’t think the band wants to be really famous, but if we can just get enough money to tour and play music then that would be great.

PB : Thanks a lot!

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