The Fleeting Light of Impermanence is the latest release from Lawrence's The Appleseed Cast. The record was issued June 28 and is the veteran act's first album in six years.
Formed in 1997 and initially based out of Los Angeles, the original lineup quickly decided to leave California for a life on the road. Cars were sold, leases given up and by 1998, The Appleseed Cast had cut its debut album, The End of the Ring Wars.
The band may have preferred life on the road, but it wasn't entirely rootless. Bassist Jason Wickersheim was originally from Lawrence and his remaining connections there allowed the group to use the town as a hub during touring.
"We made a lot of friends there," Chris Crisci recalls. "It's an awesome little college town."
Before long, the quartet knew that it would have to pick a home base. California proved too expensive, so the decision was made to settle in Lawrence.
"I had gotten a taste for small-town life being there," Crisci says. "I'd always lived in big cities. We had the conversation and that was it."
The Lawrence and Kansas City scenes were fertile at the time: Boys Life was coming to an end while The Get Up Kids and The Anniversary were growing into full swing. Mates of State had not yet relocated to California.
Crisci has seen some of the area's best bands come and go … and come and go again. He's also long been the sole remaining member from the original lineup.
What's kept him invested in The Appleseed Cast all this time?
"I love every part of being in a band," he says. "I guess I could have changed band names or whatever, but I never felt like it was necessary to give up."
The group has seen a variety of players come and go through the ranks. Crisci, who has also led the band Old Canes since the early 2000s, is currently joined in The Appleseed Cast by Sean Bergman, Ben Kimball and Nick Fredrickson.
The Appleseed Cast performs at Wave on Friday, July 12. The Fleeting Light of Impermanence is out now via Graveface Records.
When did you know you were going to make another Appleseed Cast record or was there ever a question of, "Maybe I won't make another Appleseed Cast record"?
I always intended to make another one, but I felt like I wasn't going to rush it. So I just did a lot of demoing of songs. I did that for about five years, I guess. Longer than I intended it to be. After a while, I found what I wanted to do. I tried a lot of different things, and I knew I wanted to make it different than previous records. It took a while to find something that I liked.
Did I read this correctly that at one point you were thinking of making it a synthesizer-based album?
Yeah. I had been talking about doing something like that for years. Probably other bands that I toured with five or six years ago might remember me talking about how I wanted to do something like that. That was one of the ideas I tried during that demoing time. I wrote a bunch of things that were synth-based. I was actually trying to get away from the guitar altogether. Probably everything I wrote for a year or two had no guitar on it, not necessarily just synth. I was trying to use all kinds of instruments. I did want to do an album [where I] substituted guitars for synths but still using bass guitar and live drums.
You've written on guitar for so long. Was that about saying, "I just want to hear things differently"?
That's exactly it. At the time I was just tired of the guitar. I felt that maybe anything I wanted to do with the guitar I had done. It wasn't lack of imagination. It was more of an enthusiasm for other instrumentation. We've done eight or however many records and they've all been the basic guitar/bass/drum-centered records. I felt that it was possible to write in our style without using the guitar. I still think that's possible even though we chose to use the guitar again! [Laughs.] These songs are guitar-based even though there is a ton of synths of in them.
I hear "Chaotic Waves" as being something that was written on synthesizers.
With that particular song, we wrote it in the studio. It was a middle-of-the-night guitar riff kind of a thing. The next morning we developed the other parts to it. The synth parts came later. It's still the most synth-heavy song on the record. "Asking The Fire For Medicine" was totally written on keys. "Collision" was definitely written on keys.
Is the writing process pretty much you working at home, then coming and saying, "OK, this is how it goes. Add what you like"?
Everyone's encouraged to add. Most of it comes from me demoing things. Everyone will add. Songs such as "Chaotic Waves" do happen where we all kind of join forces. I love when that happens. I feel that sometimes it can be too much me from demos. It's nice when we all come together and can all contribute. That's what's great about the way we recorded this album: It did give us the opportunity to [collaborate].
We worked at a studio where there was an apartment above the studio. We slept there. We haven't done that in a long time. It's probably been 10 years since we went to a studio and immersed ourselves in that project.
I also read that your process in recording this album was somewhat unorthodox. There wasn't baffling between the instruments, it was just the four of you on the floor playing together?
We actually recorded in two different studios. The first was Flat Black, just outside Iowa City. With that session, we did have baffling, and we wanted to get isolation between all the instruments so that there wasn't bleeding. We also took an extra step during the recording and recorded all the raw signals so that we could re-amp later.
Re-amping just means that you record the raw signal and then, at a later time, you play that raw signal through the amplifier and you mic it. What that lets you do is you get to keep the same performance or you want to switch out amplifiers or you weren't happy with how you had the effects chain on your guitar or whatever, it gives you another opportunity to record that performance in another room.
The plan was that we were going to Flat Black and use that opportunity of having that apartment at the studio to immerse ourselves in the project and get all the performances. But we have another friend in Kansas City who has a two-inch tape machine, and we really wanted to get things down on tape as well.
We came back to Kansas City, went to Weights and Measures Soundlab and re-amped a lot of the parts and re-tracked drums and got everything down on tape. During that session, we didn't use any baffling. We positioned our amplifiers in the room to pre-mix, just using the room itself and the amps' proximity to the drum mics. We used all those mics for the reverb of the room.
For the drums, guitars and bass, there's no reverb, it's all just the room. There are a few overdubbed parts for the guitars but most of it was just the room.
You've been with the band since the beginning. Is it your band or, when new people come in, do you say, "Welcome. You can contribute as much or as little as you like"?
Man, that's a good question. I think it's both of those things. I would say to the guys that it's my band but, at the same time, I want everyone to contribute as much as they can. As much as they want to.
You still do a lot of dates with the band. I would imagine that it's different than when you started. At some point, you accumulate family and friends and it becomes more difficult to be gone for long stretches of time.
Absolutely. I have a family, and I miss them a ton when I'm gone. But there's also that part of me that really does love traveling. I've taken my family out on the road with us and whenever possible they do that. But, yeah, I do miss them a ton and it does hurt when I have to go. But we also try to keep our tours short. In the old days, we used to do tours that were up to two months at a time. Now we split that into four two-week tours. In September, we'll go out for the fifth leg.
The only time we go longer than two weeks is when we're supporting another band, and they happen to be out for four weeks or whatever.
I'll close out on this: Do you foresee a time where there will be any more activity from Old Canes?
[Laughs.] I've been thinking about that a lot. I don't want to spend too much time before the next Appleseed Cast record because I feel like I'm in a spot where I have a lot of material to work on and it won't take another five years to put out another record. At the same time, I really do want to put out more Old Canes material. I think during my time between tours this year, I can make some progress. I have some better recording equipment than I used to. Hopefully, we'll get some stuff out next year from Old Canes.