After being kicked out of the Boston-based post-hardcore outfit the Receiving End of Sirens, Casey Crescenzo decided to recruit the bodies needed to make his laptop side-project a real live band. The resulting Dear Hunter — which plays tonight in Worcester and tomorrow night, December 29, at the ICC in Allston — are currently in the process of writing an opera, and we’re not talking Verdi or, for that matter, Tommy. It’s electronic-infused rock which follows the story of a boy from birth to death (with harps and French horns and trumpets and strings thrown in for good measure).
Their first EP, Act I: The Lake South, the River North, is out now with a full-length on its way, and each subsequent album will be a single act in their six-act opera. When asked for a word to describe their sound, “eclectic” and “honest” were both offered up by the band. Both hold true: for all the talk of opera and acts, the band plays rock that swerves from heavenly a capella to manic prog to dark, brooding and stomping — all united by that sense of honesty, a genuine faith and confidence in the music that they’re making.
The band — Crescenzo, Erick Serna, and brothers Sam and Luke Dent — met up with thePhoenix.com on a brisk mid-December day on a Comm Ave bench, not far from the Public Gardens. What follows is an edited transcript of that interview.
So you were in TREOS with the Dear Hunter as a side-project. Then suddenly you were kicked out — what was it like making that transition from side-project to full-time band?
CASEY CRESCENZO: At first, the first day, I didn’t know what to do when I found out I wasn’t going to be in the band anymore. Initially I didn’t even know if it was what I wanted to do because it wasn’t necessarily the main thing I was doing — it never really was — so I didn’t know how to approach it. I was actually with my parents, and they said “Just do it full on.” I talked to my girlfriend and she said the same thing. The label and the booking said the same thing. Knowing that there was support behind it made it a lot easier to make it my main focus. Even when I was in TREOS, the Dear Hunter was still the most honest — for me — music that I was making. Allowing myself just to open up even more was something that I wasn’t used to because for the last few years I hadn’t been. I’d say that being comfortable with being myself was the biggest change.
Wasn’t the Dear Hunter just you and a lap-top initially?
It started as some electronic music that didn’t have anything to do with the concept of the band. After we recorded Between the Heart and the Synapse I went home and started trying to make it sound like band music and less like dude-with-a-laptop music. Once I wasn’t in TREOS anymore, it was like well, it’s gotta be a real band, I don’t want it to be the Casey Crescenzo Show. I talked to Luke. No, first I talked to Erick [Serna], and it was weird because I know so many musicians and I didn’t have any idea who to talk to, but the first person I solidified was Erick playing guitar — and he was in California. And then Luke, he was right down the street. And then it all kind of fell into place.
I talked to TREOS over the summer and asked them if they would ever consider a TREOS, Christians & Lions, and Dear Hunter triple bill. They said that they wished you the best but you leaving was a lot like breaking up with a girlfriend and that it would be hard to see you at this point. What do you think of that and what do you think of a triple bill?
I’d like to play a show with them. I’d like to talk to them, let alone play a show. If they wish me luck, I’d like to be wished luck by them. The whole situation with me and them and the whole situation with Ben [of Christians & Lions, formerly of TREOS] is different, because Ben’s songs aren’t played anymore. You know, when I was in the band we played a show with [Ben’s first post-TREOS band] the Lido Venice — it’s not like we were playing “Bell, Book and Candle” or any of the older TREOS songs [written by Ben]. I would have to sit and watch those songs be played, the songs that I wrote with them, which would be kind of strange. But, I wouldn’t mind it all, I think it would be fun. I’d like to just give them a call and hang out, but that’s not going to happen. They’re not going to answer that.