Peregrine, the monumental sixth effort from Kansas' Appleseed Cast, represents not only a stylistic shift from their regrettable emo past but a grander development that borders on transcendent. Eclectic hardly describes the proceedings as electronica mixes surprisingly well with their more usual guitar-driven fare, all in the service of a narrative concept. Not bad for a group that was on the verge of breaking up three years ago. Guitarist Aaron Pillar took some time off from driving around his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, to talk about Peregrine and what the future holds for the Cast.
How did Peregrine end up so different from the band's previous efforts?
Pillar: We spent a lot more time on it, making sure every song was developed. The recording process was different in that we recorded with Dallas' own John Congleton. I had faith in him, but I couldn't believe what a great producer he turned out to be. He threw us in a room together and said, "All right, you are gonna be a band."
What is the narrative theme of Peregrine?
Initially, the record was meant to be political, a rant against the way this country is going south. But once we heard the first demos, we knew it wasn't going to work. Chris [Crisci, lead singer/guitarist] had this screenplay about a daughter who is mistakenly killed by her father. The father is haunted by the daughter and is tormented until he becomes an even uglier person than he was originally. Everything fit together once we used that story line.
A recent review referred to the new record as an "organic catharsis." Do you have any idea what that means?
We went on tour for our last record [2003's Two Conversations], and the label we were on went bankrupt. We cancelled a tour, and we took a year off. Everyone said we broke up, and I have to admit that was a lot of bullshit in all of our lives that led to the firing of our old drummer. When we decided to record again we really set out to make the best record of our career and that, in itself, is cathartic.
For better or worse, your early recordings are associated with emo. Are you OK with that?
There was a time when emo actually referred to something, a break from the male-dominated punk scene that resulted in bands like Sunny Day Real Estate. But now, with so many generic bands claiming to be emo, the tag actually dogs us. No one can listen to the music we make now and call us emo. We are coming from a different place.
Are you worried that Peregrine might alienate some of your audience?
I hope not. But so often I'm amazed that people who like us have never heard of Fugazi or Low. And for me, the ultimate band is the Descendents. So you really can't get caught up in expecting things from the audience.
What has new drummer Nathan Richardson [ex-Casket Lottery] added to the band's sound?
Nathan's a guy who knows jazz. He knows it all, and he added so much energy to this record. He allowed us to record the album live. I can see him helping us take the next record to another level.
After a decade together, what does the future hold for the Appleseed Cast?
We actually probably need to sit down and discuss that. We are at 50 percent of the capacity of what we are capable of doing. This new record is going to open up so many more possibilities for us.
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