Casey Crescenzo is the singer, guitarist, and brainchild of the indie rock band The Dear Hunter. After releasing Migrant in 2013, he hit the road with the band before embarking on his most ambitious effort to date, Amour & Attrition. In the fall of 2013, Crescenzo began writing this symphonic piece, thanks to a successful campaign on PledgeMusic. Crescenzo also had the time to produce Naive Thieves’ debut full-length, Vámonos, which was released through Cave & Canary Goods, Crescenzo’s personal imprint label within Equal Vision Records.
Despite his busy schedule, Crescenzo still had the time to chat with me about his past year. He was very excited to converse about funding, writing, and recording the symphony, Amour & Attrition. We also discussed the successful PledgeMusic campaign, when crowdfunding can be best utilized, and what it is like going back and writing rock music. See what Casey had to say below:
A lot has been going on for you in the past year. Migrant came out last spring, and in addition to touring, you completed the symphonic piece Amour & Attrition. Are there times where all of these different things get to be overwhelming?
I think it’s definitely overwhelming. I spend most of my time being overwhelmed, and I think I operate best when I am constantly juggling things and going from one thing to the next. Obviously, I am still able to devote my full attention to everything. I enjoy being busy and not having downtime.
Was Amour & Attrition something you’ve been working on or planning to do for a while?
It is like the most the most extreme version of the things I have wanted to do for a while. It never really was a dream, because I did not think I would ever have the opportunity. It never really entered into the list of things I would want to try. The more time I spent learning to arrange and notate music, and experimenting with different pieces of an orchestra and incorporating them into the band’s records and live shows, it became something I felt more comfortable with as a creative tool.
About two years ago, I got a strong desire to do a more expansive piece that was completely traditional, and that did not contain any real rock band elements or overly avant-garde or contemporary sounds.
Did you have any of the writing done prior to the PledgeMusic campaign being completed?
Yeah, I had very little bits and pieces of the different movements here and there. It wasn’t until after the end of our tour in September of last year that I was really able to sit down, flesh it out, and devote all of myself to it.
Has the success of the campaign changed your views about crowdfunding at all?
A lot of the times you see people use crowdfunding as a way to offset costs that they could already cover. It is almost like ensuring profit before anything is even made. And all that I cared about was making sure that it got done. I never would think that the act of doing something like making a classical record and releasing it would yield me some sort of profit. It was all about making sure it would get done.
I feel like it is being exploited when somebody is on a record label and they are asking for money to go on tour, which is something we as musicians and bands get paid to do. Or when they are looking to make a record and they have prizes like a $150 Skype session for 15 minutes or things like that. When I see a project that somebody is taking a chance and sort of relying on the audience to take a chance as well, I think crowdfunding works.
Do you think you would utilize crowdfunding again?
I think at this point, I have shown that there is an audience for something like another symphonic album, whether it is a small movement or full-fledged piece. I feel like this was a proof of concept, proof that there is an audience for it. If there is something else that I couldn’t convince anyone else of financially, but I knew people would want to hear it or buy it, then I would approach crowdfunding again for that. But I would rather do it, and make it known to everyone so they can decide if they want to buy it or not.
And then you can offer your 15-minute Skype sessions.
Right (laughs). Or a $1,000 handwritten thank you card. Something ridiculous like that (laughs).
What was it like coordinating with the Czech Orchestra in terms of composing the music and getting it to where you had wanted it?
From the very beginning, I talked to the conductor, Mikel Toms. He was incredibly helpful and encouraging, despite my ignorant questions. I would make notation errors, and he would help steer me in the right direction. It was very easy going back and forth with him if something needed to be changed. The orchestra players are all virtuosos, so that part was also very easy. They saw what was on the page, knew exactly what to do.
Were you able to watch them perform your work in the symphony hall upon recording?
Unfortunately, I only got to see a little bit of it because I had to sit in the control room, which was actually under the symphony hall. We were in there meticulously going line by line throughout the recording. I did get to see a little bit of it though, and it was definitely overwhelming and it was nothing that I thought would ever happen.
Has the entire experience sunk in yet?
I don’t know if it has completely sunken in yet. Seeing all of those talented musicians really dig into a piece that you have written was very much a dream come true and surreal. I would definitely say that it was one of the highlights of my life, for sure.
It is very hard to describe. It has been so inspiring to me that I keep getting that itch that I want to keep on doing it. It is another big milestone in my life that has me wanting to do so much more.
So you would like to do something similar in the future?
Oh, yeah. Not in the way that it would interrupt with my band, but so I could compose when I’m at home and then when the time is right, have it recorded. I would love to keep that going as something that I do as a labor of love.
Do you think this will have influence on how you play/write as a musician?
The creative time spent on the symphony was so introspective that I was used to being just in my own head. Going back to being in a room full of people definitely took getting used to. It’s so rewarding after taking time to do the symphony to get back in a room with the guys in the band and rehearse.
You guys are embarking on a short tour in July and August, including dates in NY and Philly. Afterwards, I read that you are looking into writing another Dear Hunter record. Do you have any of the material written or will that all be done after this tour?
I think the writing is pretty much done. I wrote about 20 songs, and as a band we wrote about four. We are in the process of refining them in terms of what will make it to the record.
Was it easier to write any of the music?
It’s not that it was easier, but I was away from it for so long that I was very comfortable getting back into it right off of the bat. A lot of music came out of me because I had not written in that format for what seemed like so long. It was very much like opening up the floodgate.
The Dear Hunter will stop by Union Transfer in Philadelphia on July 20 and the Best Buy Theater in NYC on July 22. Migrant and Amour & Attrition are available now. For more information, go to thedearhunter.com.