Reviews

Happy Hollow

Author: Jeremy Hoffmann
04/18/2008 | Themilkcarton.com | www.themilkcarton.com | Feature
The Mission Creek Midwest Music Festival pulled out all the stops in Iowa City for its (arguably) biggest show in the festival's history with Saddle Creek powerhouse Cursive. The band seemed to be in good spirits road testing their new music for the follow up to 2006's Happy Hollow, and the enthusiasm spread. Before quite literally tearing the house apart, lead man Tim Kasher sat down with us for a chat about the band's new record, the state of independent music, and his foray into Hollywood.

TMC: Why don't we start out by having you state your name and what you do in Cursive?
TK: This is Tim Kasher and I sing and play guitar in Cursive.

TMC: It's been said on your website that you guys are writing and recording a new album at the moment. How's that going?
TK: We just this past week finished up what we think will be the last of the songwriting, so, you know, I know we wrote 25 songs, I think we wrote 25 songs and now we're down to like, maybe thirteen that we're going to take into the studio.

TMC: Is this going to be coming out on Saddle Creek?
TK: Well…this time around we're recording it and we're paying for it ourselves, so we don't really like to take that step yet.

TMC: Do you have a general underlying theme or concept like you've had on past albums in mind, or is it just sort of random set of songs?
TK: No, we're trying to make it more random… we try to make every record different from the others. We've been trying to get away from conceptualizing because we do that so much, and we don't want anything to become a staple of what we do.

TMC: Speaking of which, you guys have been switching up the instrumentation on the past few albums, like on The Ugly Organ you had cello and horns on Happy Hollow. Is there anything new coming in on the new album, or are you going back to a Domestica-style with just the four of you?
TK: Um, well, we didn't play a lot of the instruments on Happy Hollow, that was done by Nate Wolcott. He is writing a lot of keys, so lots of piano and organ.

TMC: Along those lines, when The Ugly Organ came out, it seemed like it was the one that really got you through to a lot of people. When Gretta Cohn left the band, it seemed like there was a little bit of a backlash; it almost seemed that people were pissed off that you weren't going to be using that on future albums. Now that you've got Happy Hollow with the horns behind you, does it feel like people are becoming more accepting, or do you still get cries of "More Cello!"?
TK: I don't know…I don't think we get that, I think it's mostly people talking amongst themselves. I mean, we recognized that that was going to be kind of shaky because The Ugly Organ kind of, like you said, reached a lot more people, but I think people accept that we don't want to be forced to define ourselves that way just because it was successful.

TMC: Does using instrumentation not necessarily seen in a rock band create any problems when you're doing small tours like this? Can you always find a cellist to come out with you or find a horn section to come out with you?
TK: We don't really prefer to be married to the actual arrangements that are on the album, so, no, it's not a problem for us. I'd like to play with it in a variety of ways.

TMC: This summer you guys were on tour with Mastodon and Against Me!. What was the response from the Mastodon and Against Me! fans to Cursive….were they welcoming, confrontational…?
TK: They were awesome. It really went well, and it was a really great tour for us to do. We were ready, I spent the first half of that tour, or at least the first two weeks of that tour, every night, expecting people to boo or shit talk, but people were really accepting of us and it went really well.

TMC: In 2007 in music at large it seemed like there were a lot of bands that had been defining indie bands had gotten big like The Shins, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, and it's not exactly a strange thing to see people claiming they're big fans of "indie" music. Do you think that "indie" is a legitimate genre of music, or is it just a catch-all for rock that you won't hear on the radio?
TK: Nah, it's just a catch all, really, I mean, indie's on the radio as well. It's just the word "indie", stemming from "independent", is a very broad stroke of a term. Same with indie film too, people use it for something that's "quirkier" or "smarter", and it doesn't mean much. It's just like in the 80s they used the word "pop" or any 70s/80s "pop" music, and people want to talk like they like "pop", but it's all confusing, like, what is "pop"…short for popular….I think it's become just another word for alternative.

TMC: Going off on indie film, is the screenplay you wrote for Help Wanted Nights gaining any ground?
TK: Yeah, it's going well. The production and finance side of it has been established pretty well, but I think we're shooting a little too high on the casting side right now…we haven't gotten that done yet. We're still trying to get it done, though, we'll shoot before the year's up…hopefully before the winter.

TMC: One thing that I've noticed in your music, being from western Iowa - about sixty miles east of Council Bluffs, and especially in The Good Life, you really seem to nail the blue collar aesthetic. Is that something you consciously wanted to get across in the music, or because you'd seen it, it comes up?
TK: It's just something I'm interested in, I guess, with growing up in the Midwest, I've definitely got an affection for it.

TMC: Yeah, for me, it's sometimes almost hard to listen to because you see all of that shit happening all the time….I'm kind of surprised I haven't heard about meth addicts on a Good Life album.
TK: (laughs)

TMC: Well, one thing we like to do on The Milk Carton is ask the artists what sort of music you think should be heard by a wider audience or stuff you think people would like if they're a fan of Cursive or the Good Life.

TK: Oh, so stuff like they haven't heard?
TMC: Yeah, anything you think should be heard by a bigger audience

TK: Um, some friends of friends on Flameshovel called The End of the World, they're really good, and there's a band called Erie Choir…it's Eric Roehrig of Sorry About Dresden's other band that not a whole lot of people know about yet.

TMC: Well, thanks a lot for your time
TK: Yeah, it was good meeting you.

TMC: Kick some ass out there and thanks again.
Happy Hollow

Happy Hollow

LP / CD / MP3