Cursive's Tim Kasher Talks About Playing the Early Stuff and Where the Band is Now
Cursive's newest album I Am Gemini is the band's ninth since its 1997 debut. Far be it from the Omaha band to get comfortable at this point in its career; Gemini is the most complex, interwoven and ambitious Cursive record yet, complete with a booklet that lays out the album's lyrics as a Shakespearean drama. The band's figurehead Tim Kasher spoke to RFT Music about the new album and his tireless career. Cursive performs Friday, April 20 at Off Broadway with Cymbals Eat Guitars and Conduits. Tickets are available at uptoeleven.com.
Ryan Wasoba: Cursive records always seem to have themes throughout, but I Am Gemini might be the most intensely conceptual. How did that come about?
Tim Kasher: I think in the past other albums we've done, I've had daydreams with each other record, thinking maybe it would be a complete story but it never really came through. I think this is the first time I really thought it through all the way.
Because all the songs and ideas are so connected, did you approach the writing differently than you have in the past?
The way this record was written wasn't much different. I write the very basic composition and then as a band we work the songs out and firm up the composition. The songs go through a lot of changes in the practice space and then I write lyrics after that.
Really? That's not what I expected because Cursive lyrics seem so premeditated that I always assumed that was the starting point.
That's just kind of the way I've always written. Lyrics take a long time to write. It's a lot of effort, so I really don't like to write lyrics until I know the song will see the light of day.
It's kind of amazing that Domestica is over ten years old now, and Cursive had records that predate that. If the writing process is the same as it's always been, has the record making process changed?
The differences might be subtle. Maybe even so subtle that they might not even be relevant. I think the way I'd answer that is that over all of these years you start to figure out how to write an album and how you record it and how to work with each other. So I think they're all similar in that regard, just figuring it out as you go on each one. The only real difference I can think of is that on our earliest records we were practicing three times a week and writing songs and when we had enough for a record, then those songs are compiled together and that's the record. And I think now, things are more specific. We're writing songs knowing that they're going to have to work together as an album.
A big change in your process for I Am Gemini was working with producer Matt Bayles. He traveled to Omaha for the record, correct?
Yeah, he came into Omaha to record at ARC [studio run by previous Cursive producers Mike and A.J. Mogis] and then we met him back in Seattle to mix it at his studio, Red Room. For us, I think he tended to be hands off just because he was aware that we'd already done a handful of records so we kind of have a system and he didn't want to get int he way too much. But he was definitely more hands on than say, A.J. Bayless listened to all our demos and gave us some constructive criticism on some of the songs and some suggestions and that was fun to get an outside opinion, that's something we haven't done in the past.
You were in St. Louis not too long ago touring behind your solo record, The Game Of Monogamy, which came out not too long after the last Cursive album and not too long before this newest one. It seems like you're always writing. When do you know when it's time for each project?
I probably don't have that good of a system for it. Ever since Domestica I've just kind of picked up this loose system where I do a different thing for every other record. I did a Cursive record then a [now-defunct side project] Good Life record and just went on like that, and now I'm doing the same thing but putting out albums under my own name. So I'm sure the next record I put out will be another solo record. And then it will probably be time for another Cursive.
Do you have baggage with any of the older Cursive material? I ask mainly because some of the earlier stuff seems more personal and confessional in nature.
I'm okay with that. There's stuff prior, stuff I did before I was writing Cursive records. That's where the cringey stuff is. I think I was just old enough when I started writing Cursive songs; I made a pledge to myself to not write songs I would end up hating a few years later. I think the early Cursive stuff sounds dated to me, but I'm not embarrassed by anything.
When did you start taking music seriously in your life?
I think there are different levels of seriousness. I can definitely say I was dead serious when I started playing guitar at 14. Ever since I started playing it I was very excited about it and really badly wanted to be a part of some kind of music thing. But maybe it was once I started Cursive that I started to take it seriously to the point where I made sure I was always putting my best foot forward.