The Appleseed Cast began as an emo-leaning band called December's Tragic Drive, named after lyrics from the Sunny Day Real Estate song "Seven." But the Lawrence, Kan., act lost its reputation as a Braid clone and gained the irksome title of America's Radiohead when it released Low Level Owl in 2001. The album marked a turn toward atmospheric post-rock and away from the indie emo that inspired the band's first moniker.
Post-Owl tracks such as 2003's "Fight Song" burn slowly - even cautiously -- for a while, then release waves of pent-up emotion through layers of pensive lyrics and insistent guitars. Whether that's emo or not is up to whoever's listening.
Labels aside, the band's been more indebted to Tortoise and Depeche Mode for the past eight years than Radiohead or Mineral, according to guitarist Aaron Pillar. Isthmus recently spoke with Pillar about the lingering emo label and the band's forthcoming album, Sagarmatha.
Isthmus: How did Sagarmatha come together?
Pillar: First off, it took longer to make than any other record we've worked on - about nine months or so. About half of the music was recorded at our home studio, the Toy Shop, something we always wanted to do but hadn't yet.
What's the significance of the album's title?
Sagarmatha sounded really cool. I had seen it used in some books I have about Mount Everest. This led to a sort of backstory of a great plague, zombies and an uninhabitable planet.
It seems that you had an emo sound early on, then moved toward something more experimental. How does emo figure into the music you're making right now?
We're not emo. It doesn't really figure in at all, I think. I find emotion in passionate music, and I certainly think we're very passionate about what we do, but we're not screaming about girls and wearing makeup.
What were some of the band's early influences, and what are a few you guys have picked up over the years?
[Bandmate] Chris [Crisci] and I have a shared love of Zeppelin and early U2. Early on, I think we were into Braid, Rainer Maria and Broken Hearts Are Blue, but I grew up on Depeche Mode and OMD, and I think Chris was more of a Cure kid.
What band or musician do you like that your fans might not expect?
An interesting [one] I still enjoy is Adam Ant. I saw him like eight times back in the day.