Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Shockhound
03/10/2009 | | | Feature
Cursive haven't ever had a hit video on MTV, and we're also pretty sure none of their members have dated an Olsen twin; but for over a decade now the band has quietly been perfecting their distinctive brand of post-hardcore and plenty of people have been listening. Alongside acts like Bright Eyes and the Faint, this Omaha, Nebraska-based band helped aid in the explosion of their local label Saddle Creek; while over the years, Cursive have successfully toured with everyone from Minus The Bear to Mastodon.
This March sees the release of the band's sixth proper full-length Mama, I'm Swollen, which takes their hallmark blend of skronky indie rock and caustic lyrics to stratospheric new heights. ShockHound caught up with Cursive frontman and recent LA transplant Tim Kasher to talk about his band's latest effort.

SHOCKHOUND: Do you feel like this record is a new chapter for Cursive, considering it's your first album with new drummer Cornbread Compton, as well as your first disc since you moved West and got engaged?

TIM KASHER: It does, but I don't really feel like any of our albums are connected to the one before it. It seems like there's always been some kind of space and distance between each disc, so whenever we come back around to it always kind of feels like a separate person doing it, like "Cursive performs [2000's] Domestica."

SHOCKHOUND: Speaking of previous records, why do you think your last album, 2006's Happy Hollow, was so polarizing for fans?

KASHER: We don't want to put limits on what Cursive songs would sound like, but at the same time we recognize that we definitely pushed the boundaries of what we thought those limits were with Happy Hollow. I listened to it the other day and I had the revelation that Happy Hollow wasn't so much a Cursive record but a Slowdown Virginia record, which was our band before Cursive. Still, that makes sense as a logistical extension of what we do.

SHOCKHOUND: How did the reaction to Happy Hollow inform your writing this time around?

KASHER: I think that I just wrote more naturally. When we agreed to do this record, we started with the idea of not to call it Cursive at all, because we just wanted to write a record and make sure it wasn't psychologically marred at all by our previous records. I'm actually kind of glad that we did that. I feel like it's a mentally healthy sign that it turned out sounding like a Cursive record.

SHOCKHOUND: Lyrically it seems like there are a lot of references to primal longing, or wanting to regress to something more animalistic. Is that a concept that drove you this time around?

KASHER: Yeah, absolutely. It just seems unusual to still be in a rock band and not be twenty years old and have all our peers be the same age as us, you know? I wanted to make sure that we were writing an album about our age; things like that should be so simple, but I worry that in rock n' roll, people don't always do that. I think that I'm kind of slowly deciphering that, being in your thirties, a lot of these issues come up, like the desire to be a cave man and simplify all aspects of society.

SHOCKHOUND: So when you're writing a song like "From The Hips," are you singing about a specific experience, or are you getting at a universal truth of mankind?

KASHER: It probably falls somewhere in the middle; it's definitely not about some specific person, though. Out of almost everything I write, I'd say it's only a small percentage that falls on a specific person. For the most part, it comes from my own experience and my own frustration with a topic and by looking at my own experience in a very broad sense, hopefully that will transcend to a universal sense.

SHOCKHOUND: A lot of your writing comes from a pretty dark place. Did getting engaged and being happy make this album harder to write, or do you not buy the archetype of the whole tortured artist?

KASHER: No, I think if anything getting engaged feels really comfortable. I'm in my thirties now and I'm realizing that deprivation isn't necessary to create and write. But I do think there's a double-truth to that; I think that when people get really comfortable then there's the possibility it can make you complacent. But ultimately being engaged hasn't solved any big mysteries for me, either. It's a decision that we made and we're glad we're doing it. If anything, I think I got engaged because I realized that I could continue writing with her.

SHOCKHOUND: I saw you guys at New York's Roseland Ballroom with Against Me! and Mastodon in 2007. Do you still have aspirations of filling arenas, or are you happy where you're? What was the reaction like on those shows?

KASHER: It would be great to sell out Roseland as Cursive, but it's also kind of dangerous to have your goals [be] too lofty. I think what our real goals have always just been are to be on secure enough footing to validate the next record without having to go back and wait tables. But if we have to go back and wait tables, I guess you do it and you still write the next record. To answer the other question, I'm probably most comfortable if it's a Cursive show. When you open for Mastodon, you still worry sometimes that tonight everyone's going to boo you off stage. But that tour went really well, and I'm so glad we did it. I guess it's like a feather in the cap that we were able to do something like that.

SHOCKHOUND: Early on, it seemed like Cursive and your other band the Good Life were very sonically different, but some of the songs on this record like "We're Going To Hell" could fit on a Good Life record as well. Do you feel like the division between those two bands has kind of disappeared in some ways?

KASHER: Yeah, I think this is all kind of part of the way we started this one out, and the process behind writing this record. I seriously was never going to put these songs out under the Good Life, but I have become less interested in having to segregate and block off my songs to different albums. In the future, I'd like to hopefully put out better albums because they get to borrow from the wider range of styles I like to write in.

SHOCKHOUND: Obviously, you've guys have done this cycle so many times: put our record, tour, put our record. Do you still get that rush every time that you go up on stage?

KASHER: Not every time, but enough to justify doing it. I think that's probably the way all of us feel, and if any of us had too much pressure from our other lives then I would hope that that person would just stop playing. In other words, we're not out to ruin anyone's life, and we don't want anyone to be miserable out while we're doing this. Matt [Maginn, bassist] and Ted [Stevens, guitarist] and myself are still pretty happy about getting the chance to do this, but we all have all of our other lives separate from that and recognize those as well. We've been doing it for so long that it's definitely a way of life for us.

SHOCKHOUND: Do you head back to Omaha a lot?

KASHER: Yeah, what I need to do is go back for vacation. I'm always going back for music work-related stuff, but I still go back there and keep in touch with a lot of people who still live there.

SHOCKHOUND: Do you still feel that energy and sense of community there that was present when Cursive was just starting out, or are things different now that the scene is so much bigger?

KASHER: Our community has gotten more and more disparate and a lot of people have moved away, but the fact that we left a record label means it's still a very tangible musical community and that's always where I end up when I'm in town. The good thing is that there's a totally different set of communities now. We've always been really proud of Omaha bands and music back when nobody knew there was music in Omaha, but now everyone does know that there's music from Omaha and I think the community's a lot larger in a really great way. I think there are a lot of really different bands that do really honest music, which is something I'd like to think is the hallmark of the city's sound. It's doing just fine without me.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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