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Writing on the Walls
Cursive’s Tim Kasher keeps himself busy with multiple creative endeavors
It can’t be easy juggling two bands, even if one is a minor side project. But for Nebraska native Tim Kasher, front man of Cursive and the Good Life, both of his bands tour tirelessly, regularly produce albums and are as critically lauded as they are tight with audiences. Between four proper albums with the Good Life and (with the recent Mama, I’m Swollen) six with Cursive, Kasher seems to have the two-bands thing down to a science.
“I’m not sure if I’d say that,” Kasher replies with a chuckle. “I’ve had to be pretty hardworking. They overlap so much that [during] the break from one band, I’d be off doing the other one.” Still, he concedes, “changing gears has always been nice when you’re burning out on one of them.”
Despite its fair share of emotive outbursts and anthemic flashes of the band’s punk roots, Mama, I’m Swollen is quieter and prettier than past albums, with tremulous flute on the pop-driven single “I Couldn’t Love You” and a few minutes of dreamy, bookish revelations before the screamed catharsis of closer “What Have I Done?” While all of that should appeal to fans of the Good Life’s more understated approach, it’s as if the sounds of Kasher’s twin projects are bleeding into each other.
“We’re always trying to avoid putting parameters on what a record should sound like,” Kasher says. “[When] you have two different projects, you kind of have to reserve a type of song for this band and that. But we were pretty open-minded when we wrote this record, letting all the ideas converge.”
As for the balance of noisiness and orchestration on Mama, I’m Swollen, he says, “To counter the more precise arranging, we had more cacophonous parts with a lot of shit going on.”
Whatever the band, Kasher often writes songs fitting an overarching theme on each album, and Cursive’s latest tackles the struggle of so many men in their 30s: trying to take on more responsibility after the arrested adolescence of their 20s. “From the Hips” is a burning ode to earnestness, “Caveman” resists convenient success (“I don’t need no upward mobility”), and “Donkeys” takes a page from Pinocchio, pining for the forever-young exile of Pleasure Island.
“I was having a conversation last night about just what a brutal fuck-up I was,” Kasher reveals, “not just as a teenager, but in my 20s. I was really a pretty lost individual. But I kept putting a record out about every year, and as long as I kept doing that, it felt like I wasn’t completely wasting away.”
Now 34 and living in LA with his fiancee, the divorced Kasher has the life experience to explore the new album’s theme with curiosity and his usual incisiveness. “I think that I and [many other] musicians mature a lot slower,” he says. “Being in my early 30s, I wanted to just write from that perspective, which comes naturally. [Despite] writing this rock & roll stuff that definitely has a big teenage base, I don’t want to be writing from a teenage perspective.”
With half a dozen Cursive albums now under his belt, including the fan favorite Domestica and critical breakthrough The Ugly Organ, Kasher recently took the band on David Letterman’s show for their first network-TV performance. Cursive are touring far and wide behind the new album, and Kasher says he’s “really proud” of the body of work he has amassed with both bands. As busy as he is, he has also recently turned to screenwriting, selling a script that inspired the Good Life’s 2007 album, Help Wanted Nights; filming starts next year. Oh, and Kasher has also published a short story in the online literary magazine Take the Handle.
None of that is surprising when you consider Kasher had more teenage fantasies about working in movies and as a writer than being in a band. “I really wanted to write and do something creative,” he recalls. “Film is still what really excites me, but music has always been the same way. There was a guitar in the house [growing up], so I started feverishly working on it just because I wanted to be doing something.
“I just wasn’t really sure what. And I just keep going with it.”