As a band and as a story, The Dear Hunter always knew how to create great music along with a conceptual story. That started way back in 2006, with the first record and the first part of the story, Act I: The Lake South, The River North. Now a few years later, the band have released Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise – an epic and intense continuation of the story. Casey Crescenzo told us pretty much everything about this new act and what other plans the future holds for them.
You guys are right now in Italy, which it’s where you’re going to start your European tour. What are you the most excited about it?
I’m actually pretty, incredibly excited about all of it, because we have been trying as a band for almost a decade now to get to Europe and there was always one thing or another that stopped us from doing it. This is the first time that we basically just said “Regardless of how much money it might cost us or what situation we would find ourselves in, no matter what it’s something that we need to make it happen.” Luckily, that also coincided with Manchester Orchestra offering to have shows with them and having an amazing European label to step in and partnered up on this next album… So, it was just like everything met up at the right time and for me – and I know for the rest of the band – it’s just a dream come true to do it all and to learn more about the world through experiences instead of doing it via Internet.
You guys are going to play with Manchester Orchestra, which it’s really amazing. Have you ever played together?
Well, they’re actually good friends of ours and one of The Dear Hunter releases, The Color Spectrum, one of these backsets was recorded in collaboration with Manchester Orchestra. We’ve always been good friends. We love their music, we love to see them performing, we love spending time with them… We’ve just added to how perfect this whole scenario is, but really, just being able to spend time with them and to be in a place we’ve never been and to experience it with familiar faces is the best part of travelling with them.
The new album is simply amazing and it’s very detailed. How are you guys going to convey the studio recordings to the live performances?
Essentially, we kind of have to look into very different things and the record filling process of being a record and the live shows that is kind of us being the four of us of a rock band… So, really, it’s about translating it and re-laying the overall feeling, emotion and the idea of the song and trying to pull off what we did in the studio, which it would be very hard without a full orchestra, a choir and a lot of other things. We’re looking to do our best representation of what the feeling of a specific song would be as opposed to a certain copy of what it was on the recordings.
It took more than six years to get the continuation for the conceptual story. What led you to get the right mindset to approach Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise?
Taking a break from the concept records or this specific group of concept records, The Color Spectrum and Migrant, over the last four years or so. I think taking a big break was what was required to get the right mindset to re-approach Act IV and to do it with excitement, you know, genuine excitement about it and not just for the responsibility of doing something, but also it’s just heavily romanticized personal experiences better sort of re-told through the lens of the fictional story. Allowing myself also to grow as adult into learning more about myself and about the world around me for sort of steam my way through all these records, I think it’s just as important, so… Getting the right mindset was just a matter of waiting for the most truly passionate and organic time in my life to re-approach it.
The title of the album, Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise, suggests that the protagonist as a new chapter and it feels like it is a new chapter for you as well. Do you agree with that?
Yeah, absolutely! I think, cliché aside, it is definitely a rebirth for the band creatively. I think that having taking the break that we did is… the title of the record is very much literal and it can be related to the story, but it can also be very much related to the life’s path of this band and going back to revisit this project from the past that has provided a really strong perspective before and into the future.
Talking now about the story and this new act, it picks up where the story was left off. What can you tell me more about the new part of the story?
The way that the Act III was left off was with this central character having easily gone through a string of very traumatizing events and the way that it had affected him, changed him and manipulated him. Moving forward to Act IV was kind of moving forward a few years and seeing how those manipulations and those moments of your life seemed the long standing affect often and off specific this character returning to a familiar place with a much different mindset and a much more pessimistic mindset. It’s meant to be a downer of an album or a story, but much more defensive, much more on his toes than he was before, but also returning to a place where nobody really took notice of him and he was kind of just able to keep in the shadows but returning now has a much more sort of bombastic presence and a much louder presence. That’s sort of the setting of it, there’s obviously more to it, but that’s really where the fundamental basis of this specific part of the story lies.
“I wanna try to be as organic and naturally me as possible. It would be foolish of me to say that I don’t want to be reminiscent of other things, but I just try not to help that along.”
Music wise, you wrote all the music and you had the Awesöme Orchestra playing on the record, which turned out to be something really amazing. How was the whole process?
Thank you for saying that. I really agree that what they brought to the record was immeasurable. I think that it provided such an amazing talent for addition to the power of sound, but the story behind it is really fun, because they originally contacted me to contribute with music for a symphony that I composed and they wanted to play a movement song as one of their live readings. We got talking and I knew that I was about to head in to do Act IV and I knew I wanted to include orchestral musicians. In a conversation with them about the symphony, I just talked about the potential collaboration on an album and they were incredibly encouraging and excited about the prospects. We just kept talking and talking about pro bono and book time in a studio back in California. I prepared the sheet music for them and then handed it off to another sort of founding member of Awesöme Orchestra who’s name is Brian McCune and he’s kind of the ranger orchestrator writer of whatever they do on their own. I handed off the sheet music to him and he was able to cleaned it up as knowing what all the musicians and that specific orchestra required. He was able to prepare the parts for them. In January of this year, I went down to Berkeley, California, and it was just a surreal experience to watch it all come together after kind of put into pieces without really knowing if that was going to work out, but they’re all just virtuous and creative musicians that after four or five days of recording we were able to do more than I would ever hope to do in four or five weeks, just because they were all so talented and faithful. The results some people might say that are overkill, but I think it’s only really overkill if you try to think of something in the sense of just a traditional rock record and that’s never what I viewed of The Dear Hunter’s recordings, so it was so vital that they gave the record that element and that addition to the power. Again, I might be overusing this phrase, but it was another dream come true to be able to work with them. Having them was so encouraging, for them being so supportive and to not sort of scoff at me for being an outsider… It’s just so encouraging and inspiring working with them, it was just perfect.
This album with the Awesöme Orchestra really feels like a perfect and epic movie soundtrack.
I appreciate that very much. That was something that I really hoped to get the opportunity to do as well – to score a film.
Have you considered doing that after touring this new record?
I would love that! I would genuinely love that… I know I’m overusing this again, but that’s another dream [laughs] because I just have a lot of dreams, but that’s a legitimate one that I would just love to do. It would be so incredibly, creatively rewarding.
That would be awesome to listen to! I know that you are a fan of Terry Gilliam’s work, and it feels like that this whole conceptual story that you’ve created is inspired by Gilliam’s magic yet visionary and genius world. Is he a big influence on your music?
I definitely think that aside from five or six musicians and artists that I listen to constantly, film is my number one influence and he is my favorite filmmaker and he has a huge impact on the things that I do and the choices that I make, even to the point where I animated a few music videos for the band and all were done in sort of somewhat different, but really in the same style as the animations that he used to do for Monty Python. I think the story was one that I didn’t necessarily try to overthink, but absolutely when I sit and imagine in my mind through the sake of sort of reflecting on it and writing the music around it, it has always felt like I am scoring a film that didn’t exist anywhere other than in my head. Undoubtedly, it could be directed by someone like Terry Gilliam, that would definitely be my first choice for any anything that I could have a director. Film is a huge inspiration. Music is something that I surprisingly wherever I go into making an album I stop listening to other music. I know it’s inescapable, but I really don’t ever want to take references of anyone else, I don’t wanna make the mistake of outleading or just sounding like something else and I wanna try to be as organic and naturally me as possible. It would be foolish of me to say that I don’t want to be reminiscent of other things, but I just try not to help that along. I try to hindering any sort of copy or unplanned reminiscence. For inspiration is more visual medium than sonic medium.
Have you ever thought of turning your story of The Dear Hunter into a film?
Yeah! That has always been a thought and it would be absolutely wonderful, but I barely have enough money to get us to Europe, to tour us around. To do something like that right and to really be worthwhile, it would be so expensive, but if anybody ever came out of the woods and said “I really like your story and I think it could be very unique and interesting in a film setting or a short film”, I would absolutely drop everything and help make that happen. I do believe the music is very visual and I feel like the story isn’t too concluded to translate into something like a film, so that would be just perfect. I would absolutely love that and then get a real kickass score as well.
Have you seen any film recently that you really loved?
I really loved Birdman. I thought that Birdman was a fantastic film. I saw a documentary called Jodorowsky’s Dune. There’s a Terry Gilliam’s movie called Lost In La Mancha, which is his failed attempt to make Don Quixote film, and this movie Jodorowsky’s Dune is about this director who is a very surrealist kind of off the wall director I think from the 60’s or 70’s and he had some success, so a film studio set him to do any film that he wanted to. He had a friend telling me about this book called Dune and he would really love to do the film Dune, so he went through all of the emotions, all of the costumes, he planned all of the crew, actors and he was ready to shoot the film. I think Salvador Dalí was going to play a role in it and then all of the sudden – days before filming, – he had everything pulled and the movie was handed over to David Lynch. The movie that exists now, Dune, which is sort of wildly understood as one of the less understood of David Lynch’s films, but this documentary tells this entire story that does so in such a creative way makes you really good and able to see this film that never existed and that was something recently I watched that I really loved. I’ve been travelling for the last month and a half or so and all I’ve doing is rewatching the TV show Twin Peaks and I can’t wait for the next season of that.
Now going back again to your story, you guys have two more acts planned to be released. Is there anything you wanna share with us about those last two acts?
It’s a tragic story about this character. Act IV is very dark, but Act V starts to get a lot darker and that’s what I’m really excited to eventually make. I never really in my mind committed into a genre, whether was fantasy, sci-fi or drama. And that goes back to someone as Terry Gilliam who his movies can be filled with anachronism, like Time Bandits (1981) or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). Films that are irrelevant whether or not they’re accurate to the story is so grand and that was something that I’ve always wanted to take where it’s not a matter of whether or not everything works out on a logistic platform. It’s more about the story comes first and that served the purpose of itself. Act V and Act VI are a bit darker and a bit more dramatic on the surface, but I don’t know necessarily the story for Act VI could work as a record, it could be a little strange, but I am really excited to do Act V. That’s what I’m excited to do.
In the meantime, you’re going to release a graphic novel of the story as well!
Yes! It’s actually finished and we’re just trying to figure out a way to print it. We have it all finished and it’s ready. It could be printed tomorrow, but we are trying to find a partner, a distributor or a printing company who would back it because the main thing and actually the person who wrote the script for it is Alex Dandino – he writes comic books – so I didn’t want to restrained to myself, I wanted him to step in and he’s a good friend of mine. The hope is that it can exist as more than just some supplemental material that can speak for who likes graphic novels and comics, whether or not they like the band and vice-versa. If you like our band, you don’t have to like the book… But I think we wanted to make something that could stand on his own, so the graphic novel for Act I is finished and it’s just waiting for printing. I really hope we can find somebody who believes in it enough to partner up, but if not we’ll just self-release it and print it ourselves.