Getting to Know... Old Canes

Music Features Old Canes
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Getting to Know... Old Canes

Hometown: Lawrence, Kan.
Band Members (on current tour): Chris Crisci (guitar, vocals), Kelly Hangauer (multi-instrumentalist), Taylor Hollenbeck (multi-instrumentalist), John Momberg (drums), Lucas Oswald (cello, percussion)
Album: Feral Harmonic
For Fans Of: Neutral Milk Hotel, Sun Kil Moon, The Appleseed Cast

Old Canes is a labor of love, borne out of necessity and a lack of amplifiers.

Frontman and brain-trust Chris Crisci, who usually keeps busy as the singer of longtime post-rock brooders The Appleseed Cast, started writing songs for his side project’s new album, Feral Harmonic (out now), in 1999, and recorded the entire thing in his basement. Old Canes’ stripped-down, primitive folk-rock—full of scratchy acoustic guitar, furious percussion and hallelujah choruses sung into the rafters—seems a far cry from Crisci’s main act, but may very well whip the kids into a frenzy just the same.

“I was in Germany on an Appleseed tour, and the promoter had booked us at a record store to do an acoustic show. Appleseed doesn’t do that—we play real loud with a lot of delay, not acoustic,” Crisci says. “So I played some folk songs. The response was that, well, I should do it again.”

Crisci has been recording music for more than a decade with The Appleseed Cast, but Old Canes lets him feel like a beginner again—excited, nervous, unpolished. “I love messy music—something about the earnestness of a novice,” Crisci says. “The tension is directed towards evoking an emotion, or getting the idea of a song right, not getting the most clinically played piece.”

The result is folk on the fringe of chaos, where guitars strings should break, where crash cymbals should shatter. Middle-album track “Sweet” even devolves into three minutes of noise, climaxing with every instrument screaming.

Although some of Crisci’s most personal songwriting has happened with Old Canes—he recorded the gorgeous, wide-eyed “Little Bird Courage” singing to his wife in the basement—it’s never been his main gig. But now, backed by the Saddle Creek label, and with Feral Harmonic gaining momentum, it’s time for him to load up this labor of love and take it back on the road.

“Old Canes has done a few tours, five years ago. They didn’t make money. They broke down two vans and put me in debt,” Crisci says. “So really, this is uncharted water.”