Christopher Crisci is a man of few words. Well, that's only partially true. When he's not performing, the lead singer and guitarist for the Appleseed Cast is a relatively talkative guy. But when he's making music, Crisci's words are few — especially on the band's latest full-length, Sagarmatha.
"On this record, the vocals are really serving as an instrument — just another melody to be listened to," Crisci explains. "There is some meaning to the lyrics, but the whole concept of the album started as an instrumental EP, and it kind of moved from there to a semi-lyrical full-length. We just really wanted to emphasize the instrumental aspect of it."
"The fans are definitely getting into it," adds Crisci. "Although, out of all our records, I'd be surprised if anyone knew the actual lyrics to this one."
Indeed. Sagarmatha (the Nepalese name for Mount Everest) does have a few lyrics, and they're even understandable on a few songs — most notably on "The Summer Before" — but on most, Crisci's echoed utterances slip unintelligibly beneath the crashing waves of guitar and studio effects.
Over the course of six studio albums (or seven, depending on how you quantify the definitive two-part Low Level Owl series, which the band is performing in its entirety on the current tour), the Lawrence, Kansas-based band has evolved from what many saw as a late-'90s Sunny Day Real Estate facsimile into a multi-layered, multi-talented outfit that has gained as much fan support as it has critical praise.
Not a lot of groups can survive such a major stylistic change, especially when those changes are spread across the better part of a decade. On the Cast's previous album, 2007's Peregrine, the Cast worked with Explosions in the Sky producer John Congleton, while Sagarmatha saw the return of longtime producer Ed Rose. "On the last album, we were just wanting a different sound," Crisci says. "We had done several albums with Ed, and we really wanted to go for a grittier, lower-fi type of thing. Ed's forte is crisp, clean and really high-fidelity, which is why we went back to him on this one. We wanted more of that sound to it."
And the band has undergone just as many personnel changes over the years. Although Crisci and guitarist Aaron Pillar have been with the band since the beginning, the lineup has changed frequently, most recently with the departure of bassist Marcus Young, who quit to pursue his degree, and drummer Aaron Coker, who left for personal reasons. Bassist Nate Whitman of Black Christmas and drummer John Momberg of the Dactyls have replaced them on this tour.