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Cursive Interview
by Alexander Laurence

Cursive released some EPs on Saddle Creek and Zero Hour in 1995 while figuring out record deals. Kasher, Maginn, and Steve Pedersen had played in bands together in the early 1990s. After cutting a deal with Crank! Records they released their first album, "Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes" (1997). They began touring non-stop and played shows constantly in those years.

All this touring resulted in their second album "The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song" (1998). This Saddle Creek album is known for its self-aggressive songwriting and amazing music. Soon after, Pedersen was accepted to law school and Kasher moved to Portland. A year went by before the remaining member of Cursive decided to reform with Ted Stevens. They went into the studio and recorded their most intense music yet. Their third album, "Cursive's Domestica" (Saddle Creek, 2000) was their most welcomed record yet. It was a more personal and intimate release.

At this point Cursive toured extensively with many bands who they inspired and were inspired by including At The Drive, The Dismemberment Plan, Murder City Devils, The Faint, and Planes Mistaken for Stars. Now with the release of a new album, "The Ugly Organ," people are getting ready to be amazed again. With the addition of Gretta Cohn on cello, Cursive sounds like a rejuvenated group. They did a short tour in January and February. Now they are coming back this spring to a town near you to present the entirety of "The Ugly Organ" (2003). I spoke to Tim Kasher on the phone recently while the band was driving around Texas.

Tim Kasher (vocals, guitar)
Matt Maginn (bass, vocals)
Ted Stevens (guitar, vocals)
Clint Schnase (drums)
Gretta Cohn (cello)

*****

AL: Cursive is an odd name for a band. It has something to do with writing. Did you come up with the name?

Tim: Yeah. At the time there was this book that I was reading by V. S. Naipaul. I was intrigued that the British came over to India and forced everyone to learn this penmanship. It wasn't really worth anything. In music, it's like forcing it on them like a discipline.

AL: There's a lot of attention on Omaha, Nebraska and Saddle Creek records. Many people don't realize that many of you where involved in a punk scene there in the early 1990s. What was that like?

Tim: In Omaha it was really great. Mousetrap and Mercy Rules were really cool. It was really inspiring. Living in Omaha is like being on an island because it's separate from anything else. Sometimes bands don't come through Omaha. In forces us to create something of our own. The whole time I have been there, it's been a constant search for venues to play. We are always looking out for places that would let have shows. The last few years, there's places like Sokol Underground, which is a Polish owned hall, and F.O.E.'s. The out of town bands who do play in Omaha play at those places.

AL: Have you toured Europe?

Tim: We have done one tour. But we are going over again in June, 2003. One time we were in the Netherlands and we were making fun of Germany. There's a lot of Germans there. I told them that the whole country smells like cowshit. But it does. It's no big deal. It's not a bad thing. Nebraska smells like cowshit. I was trying to get some mob rivalry going on, like I would with Nebraska against Iowa. I was saying "Don't you hate those Germans?" Trying to egg them on. Apparently they don't think that's funny, especially coming from an American act.

AL: If you stay in the UK for more than six months, you can't give blood to the Red Cross in the states. I learned that because I gave some blood the other day. Have you given blood before?

Tim: Oh really. I didn't know that. That's pretty interesting. I gave blood once years ago.

AL: What do you think of the idea of "bohemianism" as opposed to living your life in tune with the work ethic?

Tim: I don't know. My family are conservative. I think that there is really beauty to the work ethic. My father is a lawyer. He told me once "If you think that I like waking up every morning, working eight or ten hours a day sitting a desk, filling out these papers over and over, that you are fucking crazy." That was the last thing he wanted to do. What he did want to do was have a family and have children and he wanted to provide for them. That's what he does, and that's what most people do all over the world. I would pick being a bohemian over that, but I would also chose not having a family.

AL: What does your family think about your music? Do they come to your shows?

Tim: Yeah, they come sometimes. Mainly they are proud that we have taken doing music seriously and have worked hard at it. Even if Cursive wasn't succeeding, my Dad would be proud that I was trying as hard as I can.

AL: Do any of the members of Cursive have musicians in their families?

Tim: Gretta does. Her father got her a cello when she was two years old. She has been playing her whole life. Ted's father is a guitar and banjo player. That's about it.

AL: When did you start working on the album The Ugly Organ?

Tim: We started writing it about a year and a half ago. We recorded it over the summer of 2002. We worked with Mike Mogus. He works with a lot of bands on Saddle Creek. It's the most lavish record we have done in terms of overdubs and whatnot. Not much of it is done live. We started with the bass and drums. Then we had some guitar tracks. Our early sound is more raw. We want to put out different sounding records each time. It costs a lot of money to be in the studio for long periods.

AL: What is the live show like on this recent tour?

Tim: We are playing four songs off of The Ugly Organ. When it comes out in March we will be coming back and doing another American tour. At that point we will be playing more new songs. At this moment people are still excited to hear songs from Domestica and the early albums. The response to the new material has been great. Unfortunately many people already know the songs because they have been downloading them.

AL: What do you think about Napster and people downloading MP3's?

Tim: It's weird. People are going to have to stop that copying at some point. Wouldn't people think it was outlandish that when a movie was released in theaters it was also released on the internet and people could watch it at home too? Would you pay to see it or would you see it for free? It's becoming absurd.

AL: On the streets of New York you can buy bootleg DVDs or tapes the week the movie comes out.

Tim: My Dad used to get into that when I was little. He used to buy black market tapes.

AL: I like this song "Art is Hard." It seems like you have a few songs about the music making process.

Tim: Yeah. It's just a healthy dose of self-analysis. I think that it is important for anyone who is making art or music or a house, that they are self-critical, so they know what they are doing. We have another song "Sink To The Beat" which is a similar topic. It is something we have been exploring for a while.

AL: "The Recluse" is a great song. How did that come about?

Tim: That was like a short story about a one night stand. The guy is so desperate and lonely that he starts begging and all that. I see this album as a group of short stories. They are different stories very loosely tied to the organs.

AL; Do you do all the songwriting or do you collaborate with all the band members?

Tim: Before we start a record, Ted and I have an ongoing dialogue what the album should be about. What it should sound like. We then go off on our own and start writing, all while the dialogue is still going on. We have practice sessions with the band and we all have suggestions about what different parts should sound like.

AL: It's a mystery to me what The Ugly Organ is. It could be the musical instrument, or the genitals, or the liver or lungs....

Tim: Well, whoever listens to it, it is the organ that they think it is. Whatever organ they are working with at that moment.

AL: What other books have you read other than V. S. Naipaul?

Tim: Lately. I have been reading John Fante. I have read The Road to Los Angeles and Wait Until Spring, Bandini. I just finished that the other day. He's great. He's really romantic.

AL: Has anyone taken up knitting or video games while on the road?

Tim: Gretta has taken up knitting to cure boredom in the van. And Clint plays video games incessantly. So you are right on it. I think that we are going to have a Game Cube on the next tour.

AL: What should people expect on this next tour in March and April?

Tim: We are going out with No Knife and Engine Down on the East Coast. We will have some other bands with us on the West Coast.

AL: Do you get nervous onstage?

Tim: I went through a period when I was getting really nervous because I felt that people expected more than I could give. I also hated flying. Now I am over both of those things. I try to make the best of it. I am trying to find the good in everything.

AL: I know that you are friends with The Faint. I read somewhere that they decided that Cursive was too good musically and that they couldn't compete, so The Faint decided to go into an electronic direction. Is that true?

Tim: It sounds like something they would say. No, it's not true. I think they went into electronic music because we all make a conscious decision to produce different styles of music. I think it's good that we don't sound alike. We all came from the same pool of songwriting. We are all trying to provide something that is exclusively our own.

AL: Are there any hipsters in Omaha, Nebraska?

Tim: No, not really. There are a bunch of young drunks. That's what I would call the hipster scene. Drinking is what connection us all, especially in the Midwest. It's a common hobby. I know a few gun collectors.

AL: If I wanted to start a band, what sound I do?

Tim: I would say don't wait around for handouts. I think that is the problem with most bands. They are waiting for other people to do things for them. We were guilty of it too. When we started we were reluctant to go out on tour because we thought we needed some huge label. Things happened when we started doing things ourselves.

Website: http://www.cursivearmy.com
http://www.saddle-creek.com

AL


--Alexander Laurence



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