MOM WAS RIGHT: She “did her astrology thing” and then sent Crescenzo (second from left) to Boston.
When Casey Crescenzo, frontman of the Dear Hunter, was a kid, he gave Nirvana a shot. It didn’t take. “I think I tried to rebel,” he recalls over the phone from Nebraska, on a tour that brings the Dear Hunter to Axis this Thursday. “I was part of that whole adolescent community who listened to music that was the opposite of the music their parents listened to. I remember distinctly thinking that this music is very bad.”
Well, maybe not Nirvana in particular, but the avalanche of so-called alt-rock that followed in Nevermind’s wake. Whereas the prog-rock and jazz fusion he was treated to by his father — a producer/studio musician who worked as an engineer on albums by Fleetwood Mac and Crosby, Stills and Nash — would serve Crescenzo well. So would the training in vocal harmony he received from his mother.
“From the second I was born, it was music all the time. When I would go with my dad to the music store, we’d listen to Weather Report and Chick Corea. And when I would go anywhere with my mom, she would sing along with the Beatles or whatever. If there weren’t harmonies, she’d find one.”
The stars intervened in 2003 to bring Crescenzo to Boston, where he hooked up with the Receiving End of Sirens just in time to record their well-received debut, Between the Heart and the Synapse (Triple Crown). His lot had been cast when his mom, an astrologer, “did her astrology thing” and came up with Boston. “She said I would meet some creative people and become part of something if I moved there.”
Mom was right. Crescenzo gave TREOS a demo of “mostly electronic music — basically a mix of Pedro the Lion and Postal Service.” And TREOS took him on as a third guitarist and keyboardist. The band were looking for a vocalist, but Crescenzo says he was told his voice was too mellow. “They had an ad that I saw asking for a singer with ‘great voice, great scream, and really great dance moves.’ And I definitely don’t look like the mic-swinging, tight-jeans-wearing, windswept frontman.”
Maybe not. But he knew all about vocal arranging and engineering. And he became integral to the rapid growth of TREOS as one of the more challenging bands in town — so much so that he worked himself sick.
“What happened is that I was not only writing and playing but I was trying to extend myself as an artistic person by doing our videos and producing a lot of our demos. And I got sicker and sicker on the road. In the mornings I would cough and throw up and I would go to the bathroom and there would be blood. And I couldn’t hold my breath. So I was pretty miserable because I couldn’t really sing. And that turned me into a complete asshole.”
At the tour’s end, Crescenzo returned to California to recuperate. He was diagnosed with stomach and throat ulcers as well as burst capillaries in his lungs. When he opened his e-mail, he found a note from TREOS asking him to “leave the band.”
TREOS don’t dispute Crescenzo’s story. In an e-mail response, they explain, “Only after we asked Casey to leave the band were we informed of a bunch of new medical problems he had discovered that we previously did not know of. We knew he had been sick on the road, but we never knew that his illnesses were anything more than what we have all suffered at different times from the rigors of a constant touring schedule. We did feel bad for him when we heard about his excessive health issues after he was out of the band, and told him this, but his health was never once a factor in our decision to ask him to leave. Those reasons were purely personal, and led to the culmination of a growing tension that was purely coincidental timing-wise with Casey finally getting the care he needed medically.”
In any case, it didn’t take long for Crescenzo to regain his physical health and his composure. He’d already debuted the Dear Hunter, with members of TREOS backing him, in Boston. And, playing most of the instruments himself, he’d recorded a promising demo. So with Triple Crown’s support, he began work on a proper Dear Hunter debut with his brother on drums and help from mom and dad on vocals and bass. Act I: The Lake South, The River North (Triple Crown) brought out the best of his prog tendencies, with chamber-rock arrangements supporting the story of a sensitive boy’s struggles with adolescence. On the strength of that disc, the Dear Hunter were chosen by Alternative Press as one of the “100 Bands You Need To Know in 2007,” an honor that had been bestowed on TREOS a year earlier.