Photos by Jon Mancuso - Story by Jonathan D’Auria

What advice would you give a young musician who is aspiring to be in your position? 

Just be creative, write a lot, and somewhere down the line you’ll get lucky. For over a decade, I worked on nothing but music, so it’s really about being ready when your opportunity comes to you. Perfect your art and the rest will work out.

And when can we expect the release of the new album?

We are going out on the road again through August, so I’m going to put a lot of time into it from September to November. It should be released after the winter if all goes well.

Hopefully you can get more than three hours of sleep before that undertaking.

I seriously doubt it.

We didn’t think so.

How did you assemble your band?

My brother Nick (drums) and Erick Serna (guitar) have been with me through the whole process, but there have definitely been a lot of changes with the other members. TREOS were all close friends long before I joined them, so when I started my project, I wanted to only involve close friends as bandmates. I found that that is not always the smartest thing to do, as business and money can often times get in the way of friendship. Erick has stuck with me through all of the transformation, because we’re able to find balance between friendship, music, and business. He knows me emotionally and musically, and that is what keeps us together.

What has been your most memorable show to date? 

We played a show in Philly as headliners and it was the first show we sold out on our own. It was also the first show I’d seen where no one cared what they looked like. The crowd gave me the most amazing experience possible. People were singing and moving with everything we did. That was the most inspiring performance I’ve ever been a part of.

Who are your favorite bands to tour with?

All of them (laughing). We’ve been very lucky thus far—we’ve toured with bands like Circa Survive, Saves The Day, Say Anything, As Tall As Lions, and Foxy Shazam. I’m blown away by how smart and nice all of those bands are.

How did you come up with the name of the band?

When I was in high school I was going through my “don’t know who I am musically” phase where I played almost every genre of music. I started a band called Dear Hunter, and that name always stuck in my head. I’m glad I finally made use of it when the opportunity came about.

What music have you been listening to lately?

I’ve gotten into a mode where I’ve kinda stopped seeking out new music, which is sort of a bad thing. Being on tour with a band makes me love them, so I could name anyone we’ve recently toured with. Otherwise, I’ve been listening to Sufjin Stevens, Bjork, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and St. Vincent.

Outside of music, what inspires you?

Film is huge for me. Movies typically appeal to your strongest senses. I also believe that movies follow the same principals as music. I watched a recent interview with Christian Bale on the new Batman movie, and he talked about how action will always be entertaining, but it’s the story that is of absolute importance. The same goes for songwriting.  

We hear that you’re writing a book at the moment.

At this point it’s just a matter of money to get it off the ground, but the book mirrors the album ACT II for the most part. It was something that I felt immediately compelled to do, so hopefully you will see it on bookshelves in the short future.

What keeps you from sticking to one specific genre?

A lot of bands drive too much towards one idea and then it just becomes oversaturated or it loses its impact. Some bands become so heavy that they’re not heavy at all anymore.  I try to avoid that at all costs.

And how do you keep yourself away from that?
I write on new instruments all the time so that I don’t limit myself with any knowledge or mastery of a particular instrument. I find that when people have too great of an understanding of their tool, they almost lose an edge, or an excitement factor when writing on it. Also, I’d say that I’m a lot less self-conscious when I write. I’m really not trying to please anyone else, so the sky’s the limit to what comes out.

And was it a hard transition when you left The Receiving End of Sirens?

It was an incredible surge of freedom for me to be able to write music that came solely from my voice. It brought a lot more clarity to my songs and really made it a simple process to take them from my head to the recording. In TREOS, I was funneled and channeled by four other members who wanted to play heavy music. It just wasn’t as liberating for me to emote through that outlet.

Was it a nasty split when you quit TREOS?

Actually, yes, it was a really bad break when I decided to leave the band. Luckily we’re through it all and everything is good between us now. We’ve even played together since the split and it was genuinely great to see them again.

Well luckily, you’ve been quite busy since you moved on.

This August will be two years of straight shows for The Dear Hunter, so I haven’t been sulking much.

Describe a Dear Hunter show in your own words.

I still feel like I’m finding my comfort onstage. I hate having to be the one who talks to the crowd through the mic, but I feel I’m coming around to it. Otherwise, it’s a matter of how far do we go to recreate the record, and how much intensity are we putting into it. I feel we’ve become very consistent on those levels.

How much importance do you put on show aesthetics?

We don’t care at all what we look like onstage as long as it sounds good. We’re creators more than anything, and I bet we do some pretty awkward things in the process.

How did you get into this racket in the first place?

My parents were musicians and avid music lovers who always surrounded me with music, so it was impossible to avoid. As a baby I’m pretty sure I took in just as many musical notes as I did words. My dad played every instrument there is and that really rubbed off on me when I was young. My parents are definitely my number one musical influences. 

How do you go about writing your music? What’s the process?

For the EP, I was still in The Receiving End of Sirens and I started writing out some songs on my computer on the side. By the time I had formulated a good amount of ideas, my brother Nick joined me and filled the drum spot. It started as a lot of very different ideas, but the demos started fitting and piecing together my story, so I started linking them together.

Your music is often moody and bipolar. Is this a conscious thing, or is that just how it comes out sometimes?

I think it comes out of a natural tendency to overcompensate. The song always needs balance, so if there are huge highs, there have to be huge lows. I also love tension in music, so I try to incorporate the type of theatrics that create that.

Well you certainly have a nice balance between the emotional and technical sides in your music.

Thanks. I really try to put myself in the mood of what I’m writing about. Sometimes my concepts will be events or emotions I’ve never experienced, but I still try to get to the feelings I assume would come out in those circumstances. And as far as the technical side of my music, I’m never trying to trick my audience; I just like to keep things exciting.

Do you ever find it difficult to always be pushing the musical bar?

Not so much. True creators attempt for the new and even if they fail, they’ve accomplished progress. It is the responsibility of an artist to hand out inspiration and continue that cycle. I can find inspiration in a lot of things—in and outside of music.

What can we expect from the new material for Act III?

The few songs that have been written are a lot darker. I’m pushing it farther in every direction—the prog will be more prog, the Dixieland will be more Dixieland, and everything will intensify. It’s already looking to be a strange mix between the story, my life, and the music. I’m excited to see where it goes.

How do you go about writing the vocals?

For the second album, Act II, I wanted to write the whole album with the story in mind. In writing Act III, I had the lyrics in mind long before any of the music was even written. It always changes and differs how I go about my vocals. Regardless, I try not to fall into any writing routines.

How did you choose the reoccurring themes in your lyrics?

The spark to my continuous story came from real life experiences, but then it departed from that selfishness. Most vocalists are egomaniacal—“listen to my words, research me and follow what I say.” I try to keep away from that mentality.

After departing from his acclaimed post-hardcore outfit, The Receiving End of Sirens, in 2006, Casey Crescenzo set sail on an inward journey to find his true musical identity.  It was on this pilgrimage that Crescenzo found a musical voice that was fluent in many languages, an identity so fluid that the constructs of genre ceased to exist. The Dear Hunter was born.   

The sound is a multicolored melting pot with bits and pieces of prog-rock drive, emotional-indie sentiment, schizophrenic arrangements, and—dare we say—a pinch of Dixieland swing. In fact, the only component missing from this equation is the pretentiousness you might expect from a creator of Crescenzo’s caliber.

With the debut release of Act I: The Lake South, The River North (Triple Crown Records, 2006) and its follow-up, Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading (Triple Crown, 2007), fans of The Dear Hunter are anxious awaiting the rise of the curtain to reveal the third act of Crescenzo’s story. While the previous two albums have solicited tremendous surprise and enchantment among listeners, one can only guess what lies ahead. The answers reside in the busy and sleepless head of Casey Crescenzo, who graciously let The Grixer inside for a few answers to some boiling questions.    

You have a lot of music and art projects going on—what’s been keeping busy lately?

The tour with Fall of Troy ended two months ago, and a day after we got off the road I began work on an album I’m producing in Portland, Oregon. The band is called Falling Up and it’s a very ambitious project. They range from bluegrass to cinematic Coldplay-esque rock and everything in between. After that was completed, I took on too many projects to mention.

So what’s a typical day like in the life of Casey Crescenzo?  

Well, lately I’ve been waking up every morning and going straight into the studio to program sounds on the new keyboard I got for The Dear Hunter’s live show. Then I go straight to mixing the records I’ve been producing for other bands, followed by writing and demoing songs for our next album, Act: III, which has been a nice process thus far. Then I work on separate TDH songs that I am assembling for an EP (to be released before the LP) and eventually I get to working on the animated music video I’m making for Circa Survive. After all that’s done, I usually sleep for about three hours, if that. I’m telling you, I’ve been pretty non-stop lately.

Wow, you sure know how to make a journalist feel lazy. What compels you to wake up every morning and take on all of these projects?

I feel like everybody eventually figures out a way to express themselves, and I have found this to be my method.  I’m bad with business; I’m horrible with numbers and words, so music is the only way I know how to express what I’m thinking—I accepted this a long time ago. It’s really my need for creation and expression that pushes me towards all of this. If I don’t create for longer than a day I become awkward.

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