The Appleseed Cast is an American indie rock band based in Lawrence, Kansas, composed of singer/guitarist Christopher Crisci, bassist Nathan Whitman, guitarist Taylor Holenbeck and drummer Nathan Wilder. The band's predominantly guitar-based music has evolved from intense, heavy emo indebted to such acts as Mineral and Sunny Day Real Estate to a unique "post-rock" sound hinging on inventive, intricate drumming, subtle guitar arpeggios and a vast range of effects.
Formation and Debut:
The band formed in 1997 in Southern California with Crisci and Pillar joining bassist Jason Wickersheim and drummer Louie Ruiz under the name December's Tragic Drive (derived from lyrics of the song, "Seven" by Sunny Day Real Estate). The following year, the band - now billed as The Appleseed Cast - signed to Deep Elm Records out of New York -- before relocating to North Carolina -- and released its debut album, The End of the Ring Wars. The album was met with considerable approval from the emo and underground scenes. However, the album was also criticized in some quarters (most notably by Pitchforkmedia) for sticking too closely to a style already well explored by previous acts such as Braid and Sunny Day Real Estate.
In 1999, the band relocated to Lawrence, Kansas without Ruiz, recruiting new drummer Josh "Cobra" Baruth. Later that same year the group entered the Red House studio in Eudora, Kansas with Producer Ed Rose who would go on to produce the next four Appleseed Cast records. The end result was Mare Vitalis, the band's second full-length album. The album showed progression from the dynamics-heavy rock of The End of the Ring Wars. Essentially a concept album on the movements of the sea -- encapsulated in such song titles as "Mare Mortis," "Poseidon" and "Kilgore Trout" (also an allusion to the recurring Kurt Vonnegut character of the same name) --, the album is a fan favorite, heavy on atmosphere, crescendo, subtly undulating guitar arpeggios and the intricate drumming of Baruth, who clearly brought a new dimension to the band's sonic palette.
The band completed Mare Vitalis in late 1999, but tensions were developing between the band and Wickersheim. In January 2000, Pillar asked his roommate, St. Joseph, Missouri-native Marc Young, if he would be interested in playing bass one show for the band. Young agreed, thought the show they spoke of and agreed upon never materialized. Regardless, Wickersheim officially departed the group that same month with Young replacing him on bass.
Low Level Owl & Lost Songs:
After the Mare Vitalis tours, the Appleseed Cast once again entered the studio in late 2000 to begin work on its most ambitious project to date. Eager to fulfill their five-record deal with Deep Elm, the band embarked on a double LP, with Ed Rose once again recording. Low Level Owl Volume One was released on August 21, 2001 with Volume Two following on October 23.
The tracks were woven together into a seamless album-length soundscape with a noticeable post-rock influence. The complex vocal arrangements and enigmatic lyrics were buried in the mix underneath simple, repeated guitar riffs, keyboards, found sounds and Baruth's intricate drum patterns. The non-instrumental pieces containing were connected by ambient-influenced instrumentals. Both Low Level Owl albums were a progression from the more song-oriented Mare Vitalis and a complete shock, the previously disparaging Pitchforkmedia website gave the albums a glowing review. Some critics were put off by the intentionally repetitive nature of the guitar playing and the ambient instrumental interludes.
The band followed Low Level Owl with the release of Lost Songs the following year. The album was a collection of previously unfinished songs recorded shortly after the release of The End of the Ring Wars. In 2002 vocals and overdubs were added and issued as the Appleseed Cast's final release on the Deep Elm label.
The Appleseed Cast signed with the New York-based indie label Tiger Style Records in 2003 and released Two Conversations shortly afterward. Touring keyboardist Jordan Geiger was officially credited as a band member on the album. Two Conversations was met with mixed reviews.
Some viewed the album with dismay, regarding the more conventional song structures, the less diverse sonic palette and the personal, relationship-driven lyrics as a blatant retreat after the no-holds-barred experimentation, depth and complexity of Low Level Owl. However, others saw the album as an assured combination of the driving emo-rock of their early work subtly embellished with elements of Low Level Owl's sound.
During the recording of the album and the subsequent tour, tensions mounted once again. Rumors began to surface in the spring of 2004 that drummer Baruth was no longer a part of the group and were confirmed on the band's website later that year.
Following the confirmation, the band went on hiatus. Crisci began working with his folk-influenced side-project Old Canes and Geiger returned to his band Minus Story. In the meantime Tiger Style faced financial difficulties and dropped their entire roster, including The Appleseed Cast after just one album.
Rebirth & Peregrine:
Throughout late 2004 and much of 2005 little-to-no word travelled on the band's situation. This began to change later in the year as news of drummer auditions began to spread. The band auditioned with many drummers including part-time Old Canes drummer Aaron Coker who later went on to tour with Reggie & The Full Effect. The position eventually went to the Casket Lottery drummer, Nathan "Nate Jr." Richardson.
With a new drummer in place, the band was signed by the Militia Group in 2005 and announced they were returning to the studio in October.
The recording sessions for Peregrine, the Appleseed Cast's sixth full-length album, were held in Cannon Falls, Minnesota at Pachyderm Studio. The sessions were produced by John Congleton, the band's first in years without their regular producer Ed Rose.
Crisci stated on the band's website "...I don't know if I've felt better about a record this early since Mare Vitalis." The album is arguably more eclectic than any previous release in the band's catalogue, the Low Level Owl indebted instrumental "An Orange and a Blue" sitting alongside the more conventional, guitar-driven "February" and the stark, electronica of "Mountain Halo."
Peregrine was released on March 21, 2006.
Richardson left the band in the summer of 2006 and was replaced by Coker.
When asked about the next album (previously discussed as an entirely instrumental EP) in an interview, Crisci had said, "...the idea is still there, although it has morphed into a mostly instrumental full length.". Recording sessions were held at Black Lodge Recording in Eudora, KS with Ed Rose after unsuccessful attempts to arrange John Congleton to helm the recording. Three demos, "Road West," "A Bright Light" and "Summer Before," were released as previews on the band's MySpace. Prior to the album's release, Coker left the band and Young followed shortly thereafter in order to return to school. They were replaced by John Momberg and Nate Whitman, respectively. Sagarmatha was released on February 17, 2009, and reached No. 25 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.
Low Level Owl Live/Documentary:
On November 23, 2009, it was announced that the group has signed to Graveface Records. On the same day, the site announced that The Appleseed Cast would be touring with labelmates Dreamend in Spring 2010, "playing their two classic albums, Low Level Owl Volume I and II back-to-back, each in its entirety". The announcement also mentioned that the band would have a live album for sale on the tour. The band will be the subject of a documentary to be produced by 7446 films in cooperation with Graveface Records. The film will document the band revisiting its seminal work, while also focusing on the creation of Low Level Owl Volume I and II and the journey the band has taken to this point. The film was scheduled for a 2012 release.
Middle States EP and Illumination Ritual:
In July 2010 Momberg mentioned that new material was being demoed in a blog post on the band's Myspace page. On February 26, 2011, Graveface Records uploaded a video via YouTube that gives current updates of the bands on their label, including The Appleseed Cast. The description of the video stated that a new EP, entitled "Middle States", was slated to be released physically June 7, 2011. The video also contained a sound clip demo of the title track.
"End Frigate Constellation" (5:50),
"Middle States" (5:12),
"Three Rivers" (14:03),
As of May 2012, the Appleseed Cast were in the process of recording their eighth full-length studio album. According to the band on its Facebook page, "It's definitely on the energetic side, but moody at the same time." Performances of one song are available on both their Facebook page and on YouTube.
Illumination Ritual came out on April 23, 2013. The band toured extensively throughout the year in support of the album.