Lawrence’s Appleseed Cast are emo road warriors 20 years after breakthrough

When one thinks of emo music, they’re not likely to imagine the current lineup of 30- and 40-something dads who make up The Appleseed Cast.

That’s not to say that the band, fronted by adoptive Kansan Chris Crisci, doesn’t look the part. Sure, their beards may be a bit greyer than those of their younger counterparts, but in emo — and even more so in ambient and post-rock, two other genres the band has been identified with — age just makes for better music.

Despite being one of the standard bearers of the local emo scene (The Appleseed Cast and The Anniversary hailed from Lawrence while the Get Up Kids and Reggie and The Full Effect claimed KC), the band’s roots span as far west as San Diego, where Crisci grew up and went to college. He later met two of the band’s other founding members in Los Angeles.

“Within six months of us forming, we had recorded our demo and hit the road on a nine-month tour in which we stayed in Lawrence quite a bit,” Crisci says. “Our bass player was from Lawrence, and we used it as a kind of hub as we toured around the country.  We made a lot of friends here and ultimately decided to move here [in 1999] because we liked it so much.”

Crisci, lead vocalist and songwriter for The Appleseed Cast, has a complicated relationship with the “emo” label.

“Emo kind of became something different in the early 2000s, and so did we,” he says. “Our first album was definitely an emo record, but I feel like we pretty quickly tried to expand on that and move on to different ideas.”

To some fans, The Appleseed Cast is “perpetually an emo band” whereas “to others, we are a post-rock band,” Crisci says.

In a season of life when many rock bands pander to crabby, nostalgic fans, The Appleseed Cast is gaining new followers with The Fleeting Light of Impermanence, the band’s album released in late June, and the on-trend video for the lead single “Petition,” with its high production value cinematography featuring beautiful young people jumping off cliffs into tropical waters as textured guitars riff in the background.

“We have fans that have been with us from our earliest shows,” Crisci says, “and others that just learned about us this year.”

Losing fans while growing as musicians and releasing material that sounds different from earlier records is far from unique — but what sets The Appleseed Cast apart, even more so than the group’s genre-spanning body of work, is how they manage to sound both fresh and true to their roots with each subsequent release.

Take “Petition.” When Crisci’s sparse and echoing vocals come in, longtime listeners can tell he’s the same man who sang with such angst on “Fight Song,” the single from 2003’s Two Conversations. The instrumental styles differ, and, indeed, he does sound older — but the intensity in his voice remains the same.

Consistency, viewed through the existential lens of impermanence, is at the heart of The Appleseed Cast’s latest record.

When asked what inspired him to write such lofty meditations, Crisci responded that “getting old” is, perhaps, the best reason for the topic of The Fleeting Light of Impermanence and that “the state of how we treat each other in this country might be another.”

With this album, the band’s frontman says they were “attempt[ing] to express a sense of perspective.”

“Looking at the stars or the sea, anything that gives you a sense of awe or wonder and by the flip side makes you feel small and insignificant,” Crisci, ever the mystic, says when discussing the basis for Impermanence. “All art is about mortality — except for pop music.”

A lot of living predicated the release of The Appleseed Cast’s most recent crash course in existentialism.

Over the past 20 years of touring and recording, Crisci says he’s learned how to live out of a backpack for weeks, “that taking bands you tour with camping is always a win” and “that there’s no one best way to record music.”

He’s also learned “that being away from home gets harder and harder when you have a family there that loves you and you can’t wait to see them.”

And when it comes to the career that led him from the shores of Los Angeles to the hills of Lawrence, The Appleseed Cast’s frontrunner doesn’t seem to sweat the small stuff.

“I am both grateful and amused by having been a touring musician for as long as I have,” Crisci says.

You can purchase The Fleeting Light of Impermanence in the form of a CD, cassette, vinyl record or digital album via Graveface Records & Curiosities on Bandcamp.


Pop Picks:

1. Neo-psych rockers Greta Van Fleet embark on their North America fall tour in support of last year’s LP, Anthem of the Peaceful Army. Saturday, Sept. 21. Starlight Theatre, 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $39.50-$49.50.

2. Maggie Rogers became known after a video of Pharrell listening to her song went viral. Her debut album, Heard It in a Past Life, dropped in January. Tuesday, Sept. 24. Arvest Bank Theatre, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $39.50-$45.00.

3. Dance with Gladys Knight, the Empress of Soul to “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.” Friday, Oct. 11. Ameristar Casino and Hotel, 3200 North Ameristar Drive, Kansas City, Mo. 8:30 pm. $75-245.

4. Following the release of a new album, Help Us Stranger, in June, the Jack White-led indie rock band, The Raconteurs, performs at the Midland. Thursday, Oct. 17. Arvest Bank Theatre, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $49.50-$79.50.

5. Post-Vegas residency, the Canadian vocalist Celine Dion embarks on her fall trek, Courage World Tour. This is her first tour in the U.S. in over 10 years, so snag tickets while they’re available. Monday, Oct. 28. Sprint Center, 1407 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 7:30 pm. $49.50-$229.50.

6. Greensky Bluegrass bends the rules of bluegrass, sprinkling in rock with acoustic accents. Greensky Bluegrass’s latest studio effort, All For Money, was specifically curated to complement how the album would be performed live, so this show can’t be missed.Friday, Nov. 1. Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 8 pm. $29.50.

7. Melissa Etheridge made strides in female rock in the late ’80s, and she’s not slowing down any time soon. Jam to old favorites like “Come to My Window,” and enjoy tracks from her new album, The Medicine Show. Sunday, Nov. 3. Lied Center Lawrence, 1600 Stewart Drive, Lawrence, Kan. 7:30 pm. $21-$75.

8. The seven-album, buttery smooth-vocaled singer Ray LaMontagne tours on behalf of his new album, Part Of The Light. Tuesday, Nov. 5. Uptown Theater, 3700 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 7:30 pm. $45-$277.

9. Chicago dad rockers Wilco are back in town in support of their new album, Ode to Joy, which releases Oct. 4. Sunday, Nov. 17. Arvest Bank Theatre, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 7:30 pm. $45-$65.

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