Appleseed Cast marches, crescendos onward

The Lawrence-based band will play Sept. 24 at Mojo’s.

By Robert Langellier | Sept. 24, 2010

Tags: Concerts Music

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Nothing good ever comes from Lawrence, Kan. It’s a wasteland — the Mordor to our Shire — the place where everything except wheat and Jayhawks go to die.

From that pit of collegiate despair rises post-rock band The Appleseed Cast. Even though neither of the two founding members attended University of Kansas, the band has worked out of Lawrence since 1997.

The band’s most recent album, "Sagarmatha," is a sprawling soundscape album. It’s one of those albums where, under all the epic crescendos, gentle-yet-intricate rhythms, hushed vocals and foot pedals, there’s a rock band trying to do something bigger than its genre once allowed. Tracks such as “The Summer Before” and “As the Little Things Go” set up a dauntingly heavy and deeply emotional experience for the listener with minimalistic vocal use. The album, much less hook-oriented than The Appleseed Cast’s previous work, trudges along, throwing the weight of a thousand melancholy guitar lines onto the listener.

Guitarist Aaron Pillar, one of the band’s founders, explained the thought behind the aural shift.

“The last two records were trying to be more rock, as opposed to this one, where we were like, ‘Fuck it, make it sound cool and crazy,'” Pillar said.

Pillar, along with guitarist and vocalist Chris Crisci, is the primary songwriter for the band and draws his influences from all over. Citing sources of inspiration such as The xx, Refused and even Hans Zimmer, Pillar is also inspired by abstract, non-musical areas and the way they play into the grand scheme of musical art.

“With classical music, the violins come in and play some riff,” Pillar said. “It’s always the same riff, but you’re adding in other things and making it grand.”

In other words, Pillar wants to do more than create interesting sound effects.

“What are we telling people?” he asked rhetorically. “I want (the music) to sound cool, but I want it to mean something.”

After a short pause, Pillar chuckled.

“I think about it too much,” he said.

There is obviously no lack of ambition in The Appleseed Cast’s camp. After being around for more than a decade, it certainly takes dedication to keep the metaphorical tour bus running.

“It’s a lot of work, and it’s been a lot of work to continue to do it for so long, but I can’t imagine not doing it,” Pillar said.

Trying to balance crafting a song and crafting a life is no easy task. With various combinations of girlfriends, kids and mortgages in the mix, scheduling practices, tours and studio time becomes much more difficult -- not to mention the amount of time it takes to develop the sweeping instrumentals The Appleseed Cast are prone to create.

“We recently played the end of one song for three hours, and we still didn’t figure out how to play it right,” Pillar said. “That’s practice at Appleseed’s house.”

Although there's no release date for a new album yet, Pillar hopes to have a new one out next year.

The band arrives in Columbia for an 8 p.m. show tonight at Mojo’s. Underneath the thick veil of Missouri-Kansas border hostility, we might find that perhaps even KU fans can make good music.

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