[Thanks to Anton Djamoos again for helping with questions - ed. note]
Before sound check, frontman and writer Tim Kasher sat down to discuss the past decade and the elements of Cursive that have changed and stayed the same over the past ten years, and told us he isn't as "self-deprecating" a guy as we all think he is on record.
How has the touring for Mama, I'm Swollen been going?
It's been nice...it's been really positive. With every record, we're not sure if we're going to do another one. The interest that people have with Mama, I'm Swollen, it's our sixth one, that's a lot under one moniker, and you are not sure if you are really bothering people. [Laughs] Then you begin to realize that you don't have to worry about those people, and I think when we put out a record like [that], it kind of gave us this reaffirm that there are people who are still excited about what we are doing. I think that's the thing about this industry, there are those 30 year old's who love Domestica...[Now we have a real younger crowd] that their album is Happy Hollow or Mama, I'm Swollen. That's pretty positive as far as trying to stay afloat. Mama, I'm Swollen has been really reaffirming for us. It's been a stronger reaction than Happy Hollow was, where with Happy Hollow, we went off on such a wilder tangent.
There's something I noticed about the first listen of Mama, I'm Swollen dealing with your lyrical content. It seems like it's repetitive and chorus-y, yet at the same time, it's a side of Cursive that we haven't seen. This album seemed a lot more accessible. For you, where you have written these very wordy albums, did you sit down and say, "This is what I want to say," and then go with that?
We're always trying to expand what Cursive is conceptually. So with each record, we continue to break these parameters that we set upon ourselves. We need to do that as writers. Such a common thing we'll say is, "Well, this doesn't sound like Cursive here," and that can be kind of detrimental. Sometimes we'll stop ourselves and say, "Well, what does that mean? What does Cursive sound like? Why are we self-imposing these boundaries, these borders, upon ourselves?" That was kind of the latest version, to try and continue to stretch what we do as a band is doing stuff that is more traditional. It was as difficult as far back as when we opened up The Ugly Organ with "Some Red Handed Slight of Hand" and it was one of the most straightforward things we'd ever done. And I was like, "Well, we'll do it," but I thought there wasn't going to be enough twist or innovation to it. Then I was like, well, again, you're setting these parameters on yourself and that's ridiculous. I think that answers the question.
No, it does. It's just upon my first listen, it seemed like a more straightforward album than all the things that were going on with Happy Hollow. I was just wondering if it was a new mode of writing that you took with this record, or a more natural thing?
It's probably more of a natural thing than the previous two records anyway. The writing process is just natural for me. That's probably what you are catching.
Also, lyrically, it seems Mama, I'm Swollen is more self-deprecating than anything Cursive has put out thus far? Did you feel that in anyway? There seems like there is no hope in that record.
Yeah. I think in the past I've given off a feeling...a sense of fighting more to Cursive, and Good Life, I recognize I tend to be a bit more self-deprecating, more belief. There's another part of writing this album, the way you put it, that's more natural...in the natural way I write, we allowed the record to be the style to blend with what I do with The Good Life, and I think it comes out in the lyrics as a result too. In the past I would have saved such deprecation for The Good Life. Back then, in my life, it has been this feeling of loss behind it, and the fight is out of it, with Cursive it's different.
I feel that way with an album like Blackout, comparative to the self-deprecation of like Pedro the Lion's Control.
I really like that album. I like the way [David] Bazan writes.
I know everyone talks about Album of the Year, but Blackout flows so well...
It honestly startles me when I go back and listen to those records and how bleak [Laughs] and I'm always surprised because I'm not that type of person, but with Mama, I'm Swollen, it's the same thing. It's like nothing really changed? But I guess your writing persona is different...
From when you step back and critique...
It's been quite a decade for Cursive, coming out with four records. Within that decade, Happy Hollow saw one of the first big leaks three months in advance. Then you came out with the $1 deal. What are some of your thoughts as to where Cursive is headed into this decade.
Maybe, what I said earlier, being older now and recognizing that we don't need to worry about people who are tired of us. We're all the same. It's the music industry as far as listeners. There are certain bands, I won't say any names, where it's like, "Why won't they quit?" [Laughs] As a band, you don't have to worry about that anymore. You shouldn't have to worry about it at all. Certainly know you are not out there to please everybody. It's something we've never wanted to do. With the success that the Ugly Organ had, it made me reevaluate what I was doing. That was the closest we ever got to stopping the band, because I got, for a long time, really making sure I wasn't turning into some bullshit artist that was writing...basically it was like, "Why did this do so well? Why did people respond to this so well?" So I was pretty hard on myself at that time. Maybe with that time off, I found some maturity and I recognize that, you know, you're actually writing what you want to write, people appreciate that and you're pretty goddamn lucky that you get to do what you want to do.
As I look at every album. Each one kind of has their own musical style and flow. Each one creates their own scene and story. Is that natural or something set out for each album?
One of the things I'm failing at is I am becoming predictable by having theme records. It's something that I'm trying not to do, but with each record we do, it's just the way [it goes]. Sometimes I do intently. Album of the Year and Happy Hollow were intentional. [The others] all just kind of ended up that way. I like that. By the end of it, I always just concede. I guess I just like it to be held together as one piece. I guess my point is, I don't want to be held - like David Bazan is held to doing concept records - I don't want to hold him to that, and I hope he doesn't hold me to that. [Laughs]
What do you say about critics coming out and saying, "Well, it's good, but it's not Domestica, or The Ugly Organ." Is it frustrating? Do you ever want to scream, "Look, I'm not going to write the same record. That was a time in my life that won't be recreated."
I feel like I respond to it in a pretty healthy way. There's a challenge there that I like. Sure, I'm curious about what it was about The Ugly Organ. I'm curious to see every record I do after this, how it sits with people. I'm curious how [that album] strikes a nerve with people. I'm still surviving the business and that's great. I'll never compromise my writing style for the business. The fact that there's a challenge there, that there's something you've done in the past that people can't let go, and you feel you can't reproduce. I'm not let down. I'm like any human, where there might be a rude review here and there that will be a blow, like somebody telling you to fuck off to your face. You get over it. [Laughs] You sleep on it. You wake up the next day, and realize people have the right to their own opinions.