The Classic Crime: Exploring the tension between the future and the past

Wednesday 16th September 2015

Tony Cummings reports on Seattle's THE CLASSIC CRIME and their 'What Was Done Vol 1: A Decade Revisited' album

The Classic Crime
The Classic Crime

A track currently on the Cross Rhythms playlist is "You And Me Both" by The Classic Crime. Long time followers of US alternative rock will know the band from Seattle, Washington, have made steady progress since they emerged on the scene in 2004 - their Tooth & Nail albums 'The Silver Chord' (2008) and 'Vagabonds' (2010) and their independent release 'Phoenix' (2012) all registering on Billboard's Hot 200. In 2014 the band - Matt MacDonald (vocals), Robert "Cheeze" Negrin (bass) and Paul "Skip" Erickson (drums) - signed with Bad Christian Music and released their 'What Was Done Vol 1: A Decade Revisited'. The project is very much a retrospective with only two new songs and all the other tracks being rearranged and re-recorded acoustic versions of numbers from their past. Tracks like "You And Me Both" and "We All Look Elsewhere" are particularly effective in their new set of musical clothes.

In a recent interview with Jesus Freak Hideout Matt MacDonald was asked whether looking back over the band's 10 year history he could identify any particular highlights. "I would say just getting signed. Tooth & Nail Records was a big highlight. 2005. We all were just really hopeful for our careers. Everything just seemed to be going really, really well. Playing Warped Tour. We played on the same stage as Katy Perry every day; that was pretty funny. Going independent again was a big highlight, like being able to raise all the money we needed to raise to make a record on Kickstarter was huge. Yeah, there's a lot of highlights. A lot of ups. And a lot of downs."

Fans of The Classic Crime had a chance to vote for a couple of the songs which went on the 'What Was Done' album. Commented Matt, "It was great! I really feel like when you crowd-fund on an album, I feel like [the fans] have a voice because it's not just us putting out a product. They're actually helping us to do it. It was nice to give people a voice as far as what we would put on the album. Some of the songs that they picked were not songs that I would pick, but at the same time, I really like how they turned out. It forced me to re-record some of those songs that I didn't necessarily want to, but I'm happy with the result. So it's definitely a group effort when you crowd-fund and that's what it essentially came down to for us."

Matt explained how the rest of the songs were chosen: "We picked them based on what we thought people would want to hear and what we would want to re-do. So some songs, like 'We All Look Elsewhere' is one of them where I always had this sort of orchestral symphonic cello driven version in my head since I wrote the song. For years and years, I would consider it this way and think about how it would be cool to do it that way one day. That's one song we kind of picked and said 'let's do it.' Other songs we thought would translate well in the acoustic format. Also there are songs that we feel like people would want to hear, so we chose to re-do those based on that."

The Classic Crime: Exploring the tension between the future and the past

One of the things which makes 'What Was Done' so memorable is the unusual instrumentation. Explained Matt, "Skip, our drummer, played hand drums, which were like bongos essentially. I played a lot of tambourine. We played glockenspiel. I played some of that. Skip played some of that. We played vibraslap... certain things that we would never normally, or haven't done a lot of in years past. We were kind of able to experiment and have fun. That's kind of the fun about doing a record like this is that you're not trying to do a continuation of what you've already done, you're trying to do something completely different and so you get the opportunity to kinda experiment with different things you wouldn't normally experiment with. It turned out pretty good, I think."

Matt told the Christian Music Junkie blogspot about the band's association with Bad Christian Music. "I've been friends with the Emery guys (Matt Carter & Toby Morrell from Bad Christian) for years, and in recent years we'd had a lot of conversations about independent music, as both of our bands have become independent. I had a lot of ideas about how to do it successfully, and they happened to enjoy hearing those ideas, so I started to help them out with a few projects. After seeing the inside of the company, I realized it was a great opportunity to get resources to help TCC's releases, so a partnership was formed."

One of the things which has puzzled some purchasers of 'What Was Done' is the sleeve design. Matt explained its meaning: "It's a tipping chair. The idea is that it's very present. It's a moment in time. That's kind of what we did with this album. We kind of froze ourselves for a minute to look back. I don't know. I kinda think that it's a little bit like the spinning totem at the end of Inception. Does it keep going or does it stop? Does the chair fall or does it tip back up? We don't know, but we are here in this moment and we want to recall the journey we've been on. And so it's sort of a freeze frame. There's a bit of a tension between the future and the past in that. That's what kind of drew us to that artwork." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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