Mama, I'm Swollen
Kasher recently spoke with College Times about the songwriting process, the inspiration of Omaha and his opinion on music critics.
College Times: What was the process like, making Mama, I'm Swollen? Is it a concerted effort, or more of a gradual process?
Tim Kasher: I think we just collect a lot of songs and make the record based on what songs work well together and certainly which ones are our favorite is important. We tend to work a lot on the music first and lyrics kind of shape, kind of the next level of development, and that's kind of become a bit more unified and helps to unify the whole thing.
How closely are lyrics tied to the music, then? Some songwriters do things the other way around.
I'm not really sure how much bearing the song has on the lyrics. I know sometimes in the past I've mismatched upbeat songs with very, I guess, downbeat ideas. I also know that sometimes I just can't write lyrics to a song, so I guess there must be some truth to that … Some songs leave me stumped, and we just discard them, because I can't be inspired by them at all. So I just drop them.
Is there anything you can do to get into a "song-writing mindset"?
No, I've never been able to tell. It's one of those things where I'm probably better off not knowing how to get into that mindset, because if you did know how to get into it, then your writing process would be this kind of expectation in that respect … The only things that I'm aware of that help guide myself through is, some afternoons I'll spend four hours working on really shitty lyrics, and you know, something in my head will click and say, 'you know what? This isn't happening to today.' And kind of let myself off the hook. I don't like the idea of writing bad lyrics at all, I don't like having to shed out the bad ideas. With music, it's a lot different. With music, I think it's a really positive thing to just play a lot of music, and write a lot of ideas, and shed those bad ideas.
Do you take inspiration from other people, especially being in such a budding arts center such as Omaha?
I think there's a difference between influence and inspiration. Influence is probably something you take in without even recognizing it or realizing it. Probably, whatever I'm influenced by is whatever – probably I get influence by a lot of young and new bands in music, because that's where I tend to get most excited. You know what I mean? At least for me, I get real excited about newer bands, young bands, there's just something exciting about it. I don't know, maybe it reminds me about what we did, or something.
It's a very organic, personal process, it sounds like. Do you care when music critics and peers have their say on your work, then?
There's definitely a lot that's important about how it's perceived. I know I'm the kind of person that can't survive off personal satisfaction and personal gratification alone, and I don't think many people really can. And if they think they can, they're probably just lying to themselves. I can say, in a simpler sense, that probably my favorite – as far as personal satisfaction – my favorite part of the writing process is the very simple personal experience that I have after coming up with something that I really like. The high I can ride for the rest of the day is what I keep continually trying to do, get over and over again … But when it comes to putting it out there and stuff, you are putting it out there because you are curious of how your peers are going to accept it. I think that it matters what critics say, at least in the music industry. I feel like there are kind of rotten things I could say, without being cruel – I think I maybe have more interest in different fields of criticism. Like, maybe like film criticism and maybe literature criticism is maybe taken more seriously.
Cursive w/Ladyfinger, Little Brazil, Rhythm Room, March 15, 8 p.m., $15
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