Thursday, May 22, 2014

Along Came a Hunter...

So...Evan and I have been working on a secret project for the last few months, and a couple days ago...well, we got to tell everyone what it was.

The tree is a recurring motif in the records.
This is the Act III cover.
Evan and I are working with Casey Crescenzo, the mastermind behind 'The Dear Hunter', to adapt his 'Act' records into graphic novels.  Yes, that's novels, covering all 6 presumed acts of the Dear Hunter saga.  Casey has asked Evan and I to do what we do best for him, so I'll scripting while Evan illustrates.  And from what we've got started, I already can't wait for you guys to see this.  We're both stretching ourselves as creative people on this one, and yes...totally challenging.  but so goddamn rewarding, I can't even begin to really describe it.

But we'll keep you updated as that goes further.  Promise.  It's gonna be real cool.  In the mean time...

Would you like to hear a story?  Sure you do...

It starts back in October 2013.  I was driving home from work when I got a text from a random number...and because I obey the law, I waited until I was home to read it.

"Is this alex?"
"yes.  whose this?"
"alex dandino?"
"Yes...who is this?"
"this is Casey, Rob's friend..."

Halcyon Days...or Salad Days or whatever the phrase is
...Rob is playing guitar, though.
Probably my oldest friends in the world is Rob Parr.  I met Rob when I was a sophomore in high school.  I had just been kicked out of a punk band I was in (we were not good) and was not looking for another band to get kicked out of, but my friend Liz was dating this guy who played guitar.  I came in and auditioned and I got along with all the guys in the band...but I just couldn't see it happening.  And then I blew my knee out for the 2nd time.

Rob and I had kept up and hung out while they were still trying to put their band together.  I had blown my knee out playing basketball and was basically done with everything.  I was slipping into that injury depression you get and was writing a lot, which I had always done, but now it seemed...more meaningful.  With purpose.  Rob and I started hanging out...and then we started writing together.  And then we started playing in a band together.  And that lasted 3 years. And then I went to college...

Rob, as it goes with most insanely talented people, kept doing what he was incredibly great at, and it paid off.  Rob has been a touring musician for almost a decade now.  And now he plays with a band called The Dear Hunter.  And that's how I met Casey.

Since his days with As Tall As Lions, Rob had tried to get Casey and I to meet.  He once told me, "It's bizarre being around Casey because it's like hanging out with you...You gotta meet him sometime."  With that notion, I immediately thought meeting Casey would be a disaster.  My wife and most of my friends can attest to the fact that I'm not always the easiest person to be around, so it seemed terrifying to meet someone like me.  I assumed we'd hate each other and become mortal enemies.

But, per usual, I was wrong.  Casey was a completely pleasant human being, and he and I shared a lot of the same interests and goals, tastes in beer and public places.  And now he was texting me.

He was texting me about turning the Act records into comic books, and because Evan and I are in this game on our own...we were the direct link.  Previously, hanging out with Casey had rendered great food and beer, and occasionally talking movies and comics, and so obviously 'Youth' came up.  He wanted to know how Evan and I handled distribution and all the logistical stuff.  And that's pretty much where it started.

The conversation about Evan and I working on the Act books came up very gradually.  At first, Evan and I were basically consulting on the project, helping Casey get the basic concepts down, as well as how to DIY it, as we had been for some time.  Casey, of course, has a pretty decent following given he's a musician in a long-touring band, so we both agreed sales wouldn't necessarily be a huge problem.  The bigger challenge was in the translation.  And that's when things started shifting towards writing.

Having been a long-standing fan of the guy, I was honored to be the recipient of random texts with questions and quips every now and then.  Casey's music had always been something I held in high esteem, and it's easier for me to say this now (Casey, you'll love this...): Working with one of your personal heroes is really exhilarating.  The world of the 'The Dear Hunter' is something I've loved and been excited about for a long time...

...and now I was being invited, along with one of my best friends/partner to dive head first into this world.

Forever our 'Meet the Creators' photo.
So we decided to meet up at my wife's cafe in Mid-City.  It was a beautiful day for us to have a coffee to two while Casey divulged the secrets of his universe to us.

And two hours later, we had heard all 6 acts of the story.  I had scribbled as quickly as I could, and my notebook looked like the one Kevin Spacey's character kept in Seven.  Evan had sketched concept art for Act III, just random stuff.

I can say this not as a fan, but as a writer and a lover of great stories: It's awesome.  A huge sprawling epic that is one of the most personal, pathos-driven thing I have ever heard.

...and we get to play around in that sandbox.

More importantly...Casey is probably one of the best people to collaborate with.  We were both pretty intimidated going in, given the established world.  When I started the treatment for it, I would text Casey occasional clarifying questions like, "My perception of this song is it's ____" and "The Mother is singing this song right?"  And after a few Casey, being the gracious host, told me, "I'm not as hung up on the details.  I just want you to take this and run with it and make it your own."

And I like to think we have so far.  We've fleshed out the story some more, added characters for some color...and I think between the three of us, we're going to give you guys one hell of a start for these books.

About a month ago, over pizza and booze, the three of us took my to the duel whiteboards I have in my kitchen and drew the map for the world of Act 1, and devised the basic plot structure for the story.  It streamlines there whole process with a roadmap, and on top of that...provides me with a visual while I'm working.

...but we've got a lot of work ahead of us.  It's a completely different story/style from 'Youth' and our web comic 'Stalkings'.  The way I would describe what we're trying to do with the story, starting with Act 1, is challenging ourselves to think/write/draw in ways we're not comfortable with.  I'm used to writing from a more realistic point of view, so the challenge for me is going to be expanding my horizons as a writer and letting my (for lack of a better word) "fantasy" side kind of take over and guide me through what is in fact a really plaintive tale about love, loss, acceptance...really the entire spectrum of human emotion.

Evan's preliminary sketches are different.  Unlike anything he's done yet.  My first impression is noting his attention to the eyes.  Every character he's shown us so far...their eyes tell their story.  not to say he hasn't done this before...but it's different this time.  And his idea for how we'll present the book to you guys is so great.  I can't wait to show you.

I'll keep updating as we go along.  I can tell you now I'm a quarter of the way done with my first draft of the script for 'Act 1'.  It's taken me a while to really nail down the tone and vibe I'm going for, and even then I'll need to keep refining.  I think what Evan and I have found so far is that in the music, actually, we've found visual motifs we can take and run with and call backs and things that we can work throughout the books.  What we hope is the case with loyal readers is you guys are reading and say, "Whoa...nice" and enjoy the fact that you're in on this with us.

So, to wrap this up:  Stick with us.  We've got crazy cool things coming down the pipeline.  Cave & Canary Comics is up and running.  More stuff on that later.


Check out Cave & Canary Goods at  There's t-shirts, comics and our friends in Naive Thieves new record, which you should all be enjoying here at the store:

You can get an excerpt from Casey's upcoming Symphony here.  The dude writes symphonies...I mean...come on...:

And finally...keep up with our web comics 'Stalkings' here:

Sing us to the Lake,

Alex (& Evan...& Casey to an extent, I guess?)