Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Appleseed Cast Tale of the Aftermath B/W Skattar Ik Ignito Tan Bur Records 1998
Here's another tale from an old Kansas Hipster, sorry in advance.
I had briefly mentioned how Jakob Cardwell from Reflector introduced me to these guys. I met Jake at community college, we shared friends and interests in music, he was in a band, we hung out. He kept telling me, "My friends from Appleseed Cast are moving here [to Lawrence], you got to meet them, you'll love their album, it sounds like Mineral."
At that time, the "emo" scene was a mish mosh of indie bands trying to sound like Sunny Day Real Estate. It wasn't a fashion, or something you called someone. It was a genuine "underground" scene in it's infancy. Mineral were the darlings along with Texas is the Reason, The Promise Ring and the Get Up Kids. Appleseed Cast was still a bit of an unknown, I don't think the first album had even came out when they initially moved to Kansas. My understanding was they wanted to be more "central". They planned to tour a lot (they did) and calling Kansas their home base put them in the middle of the map. Not to mention, Lawrence, KS, is a great spot to locate a band. At the time, you could literally record an album, grab a bite to eat, and go play a show all on the same city street. Further, the Appleseed Cast guys were chummy with other area bands from their Christian rock days (weird, I know). It made sense them for them to call Kansas home and to this day, they still do.
Moving on, the day came, Appleseed Cast moved to Kansas. I remember Jake being really excited. They had a show shortly after arrival at Gee Coffee in Olathe, KS. Further proof they were still a bit of an unknown, couldn't even book a gig in Lawrence or Kansas City. We went, they did their thing and I remember thinking, "Jeez, these guys are just ripping off Mineral." After the show, virtually everybody there made the 30 minute drive back to Lawrence, KS to hang out at Jake's house with Appleseed Cast. I met the guys, probably got drunk or something and Jake showed his penis to everyone (it's just something he did, I don't know why). While at Jake's house, Jake forced Aaron Pillar to give a copy of The End of Ring Wars CD for me to review. At the time, I was writing reviews on .emo and post-hardcore for an eZine called Signal Drench. Aaron supplied the copy and I took it home to soak in.
Also important to this story is the label Appleseed Cast was on; Deep Elm. Again, the .emo scene was young and this was late 90's. This scene had virtually developed itself online. There were many eZines, in fact Pitchfork, cut it's teeth trashing emo albums of this era. It was also a labels scene, Crank!, Caulfield, and Jade Tree were the favorites. Labels like Doghouse and few others had their hitmakers too, but the scene was centered around those three. They all had webboards with a host of personalities talking about what emo bands they hated, which ones they liked, reasons the Get Up Kids and Promise Ring sucked, it was a lot of fun. A HUGE topic of conversation was Deep Elm. There were loyal Deep Elm enthusiasts for sure, but the kids on the Crank!, Jade Tree, and Caulfield web boards hated that label. Namely, it was due to label founder, John Szuch, putting out a series called the "Emo Diaries" (comps were big and an easy way to get into new bands). People lambasted Szuch all day for "selling out" the scene. Some of the bands, Samiam and Hot Water Music come to mind, even bashed the label after being involved with the comp series.
One day, feeling arrogant and stupid, I jumped in on one of these Deep Elm bashing threads. My post wasn't bad at all, something to the effect of, 'I don't like the Emo Diaries, if you want to know why email me and I'll tell you.' I was trying to be nice, didn't think anyone would email me and I didn't think the webboard was the place to shit all over the label. Funny thing, I got a response almost immediately from the label founder, John Szuch, requesting I tell him why I don't like the series. I have no idea why he responded, I really don't think it had anything to do with my Signal Drench cred and I think my profile on the Crank! webboard was fairly low profile compared to others, but here's the label founder emailing me and asking why I hate his label. So, I was honest. At the time, I was on the "sell out" kick and explained that it exploited the scene. His label wasn't like Crank! pushing good music, his was just trying to make money out of a buzz word. Shit, he blew up. There was a thread of several emails of us typing in all caps and saying mean spirited things. Looking back, I'm not sure why he just didn't play the high road, say something like, "Why don't I send the comps to you for review, maybe you'll understand it better." That would seem reasonable, but no, we hated each other after that exchange.
So, back to Appleseed Cast. When Aaron gave me the End Of Ring Wars CD, I had made them aware of the exchange I had with John Szuch. Aaron of course stood up for him and rightfully so, John Szuch is a nice guy, he's just really passionate. The one thing Aaron said to me about the reviewing the CD is that I be honest. So, I was.
After the show and after Jake's house party, I put it in on the way home back home. Oddly, I lived in Olathe at the time, so I had a good drive with it. I spent a week with the disc, listening to it over and over. I kept hearing Mineral in it. Not Sunny Day Real Estate, but Mineral. You see the lame-ness, there. Mineral ripped off Sunny Day, we all knew that, but we couldn't buy anymore Sunny Day albums because the band broke up. Mineral was the next best thing, they got a pass. However, Appleseed Cast was ripping off a band who was ripping off a band. Appleseed Cast, would have been much better served to rip off Sunny Day's LP2 (the pink one) since Mineral already stole from Diary. I probably would have gave them the pass if they had. Instead, I wrote about what it was, the first Mineral rip off (oh fuck, don't worry, there were plenty more to come). I did say I like the song Marigold & Patchwork (I do), but the rest of the album just kind of kicked around and didn't add anything to the scene that hadn't already been done.
About a week after the review hit the internet, I was back at Jake's house and Aaron was there. He wanted to talk about the review. It was a bit awkward at first, no sorry, it was real fucking awkward at first. The sudden realization that I just bashed all this guy's hard work was right there in my gut. I was nervous, my palms were sweating, I felt awful. I'm not a mean person, I like to find good things about people and music. It's far too easy to say what sucks about an album--there's never anything "new" about it--it always borrows from someone else. I never wanted to develop into a Lester Bangs character when writing about music. But, I had. Right in front of me was the proof. Second, after the review was submitted, I had to deal with John Szuch again. Another online screaming match ensued between the two of us. Not surprisingly, it also ended on bad terms. I said the album rips off Mineral. He said Mineral rips off Sunny Day. I agreed but said Mineral is cool for picking up the torch. Appleseed Cast are hacks, they just stole the sound. He didn't like that, but, to both our benefit, I think we both decided to take a high road and leave it at we didn't like other.
So yeah, I'm sitting next Aaron on wood bench on the front porch of rental home in the student ghetto of Lawrence, KS. He looks at me and says, "I read the review." I replied, "Yeah, sorry about that, look I already had to deal with John, man." I was desperately trying to avoid confrontation. "No man," Aaron says, "You're right, I talked to Chris [the singer], and you're right, man. That's what we did." A long conversation ensued. I was telling Aaron it was good album to rip off and I love Mineral. Aaron was explaining the impact that album had on his band. So much so, they even took it with them to the recording studio and told the producer that it was the sound they were after.
After the conversation, Aaron gave me this 7" and said I might like it better. I should review it, too. John wouldn't mind because it's not on his label. (Obviously, John told Aaron about the email conversations and that Deep Elm would not be supplying albums for Signal Drench to review). I stood by my review and told Aaron again, to the albums benefit Marigold & Patchwork is a hit.
This 7" showcases the band in the early emo days. I'm not sure why, but it was put out by some guy in Sweden. I did give this a better review. But, honestly, it is the same feel as End Of Ring Wars. Strained vocals over the top of the of everything, almost crying. Sudden screams leading into start stop dynamics. Honestly, now a days, I don't care who it rips off, I just miss this sound. I love it and really wish I had a copy of End of Ring Wars on vinyl.
*Also, as an afterthought, many months after all this, John Szuch came to Lawrence, KS to support the band. We hung out, didn't fight or anything. Like I said, it's clear to me that he's just a passionate guy and had really invested EVERYTHING he had into his label. We never became friends, but I'm pretty sure we walked away not hating each other.