[Help with questions from Anton Djamoos - ed. note]
Cursive have certainly made a name for themselves in the past decade, and with the release of their sixth full length, and fourth in the past ten years, Mama, I'm Swollen is no exception to the creativity, evolve and passion we all know to expect from this band. Guitarist Ted Stevens sat down to talk a little about the final album for the decade and what it's been like in the studio and on the road.
How has the touring been on Mama, I'm Swollen, seeing this as sort of the second leg out?
It's hard to tell what leg it is. We've been touring since March. It's been a pretty full year of touring. It feels really good. I like playing the new material still. I think we're playing it pretty well. The band's coming together and sounding good.
Do you feel you reached that pinnacle with your appearance on David Letterman?
I can't say that from performance standards. Maybe from some other...yeah. Maybe that's the most exposure we'll ever see. [Laughs]
You feel you didn't do a job well done on that performance?
Naw, I had a rough day. It's a hard part to sing. It's a lower octave. We were still learning the song live, and I felt like my voice wasn't really there. I felt Tim [Kasher] sang well. The band played well. I was caught up in my own little Tyra Banks I guess. [Laughs]
It could have been worse, it could have been the Tyra Banks Show. Your writing process for this albums seemed a bit more accessible - songs, opposed to the tangents we've come to see. Do you think it was a bit more straightforward for the band as a whole? Was this the next step with each album sort of holding its own sound?
Yeah. We talked about it - we didn't talk about it. [In the end,] we're all on the same page. We wanted to make a record that was less songs, for one, and perhaps you could say, more straightforward.
There's still tangents going on with "Mama, I'm Satan," and a bit towards the end of the album, but for the most part, do you feel like it's the most straightforward record you've made since Cursive's first record?
I guess so. Definitely, there's instruments that we used that you hear more in pop music, I don't know, country music - acoustic guitar, semi-hollow-body guitars, a variety of instruments, new arrangers - I think there's a variety of reasons why it's different...and also, to make a record that's more stripped down. Instrumentation-wise. Production-wise.
So that was the idea, to strip everything away as opposed to everything that was happening on Happy Hollow?
Happy Hollow was more building and building, and then we got to mixing it was adding and adding. I think Mike [Mogis] did a great job. With A.J. [Mogis] and the band this time, we just threw everything up on the mix and then subtracted and pulled things out.
So this would be the minimalist record?
Well, I think the first two, because they were just guitar, bass and drums and one vocal over dubbed or second singer, those are really the bare bones recordings, as far as the band goes...Domestica was a little bit more - we got track happy. [Laughs] I think it's more than Domestica, but less than The Ugly Organ as far as instrumentation.
What do you think of the instrumental themes of each record? Holding their own opera or grandeur circus.
Since the records I've been involved in, the EP's and things, there's been a really conscious move towards unifying every song, developing some kind of bigger picture where each song is a part of that story. I don't think it's a novel idea, but it's just something we really like. I think it was kind of our intention to downplay that this time around too. You're right with the simplicity. I think Tim, when he went in and did his final edit of all the lyrics, I think he definitely brought it back around and wove the story into it. Something I wasn't as aware of as in past records because I wanted to see what he would end up doing. I think it's real interesting, the story, trying to follow it.
I just feel like every album is interesting. I felt bad for all the backlash that Happy Hollow had for not being TheUgly Organ Part Two. Is that something important to you, to not create the same album twice?
Does it matter that all these reviews and critics at this point? You guys are certainly a household name amongst the music community at this point.
Yes. No. I guess it matters in a small sense, but not a big sense to me. In the long run, it doesn't matter to me. I'm different. I don't really know how to answer that question for our band really.
Does it matter when you come out to a show and 300-400 people are rocking out in a crowd?
I'd say 300 to 400 is a good crowd. We had that last night...we were really happy with the reaction. I think it just matters that we are satisfied with what we are doing with our albums and don't sigh and regret. We like playing the music. Maybe time will tell. Maybe Happy Hollow will make more sense. I don't know, probably not. I like it.