Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Justin Jacobs
05/03/2009 | Pittnews.com | www.pittnews.com | Live Show Preview
Omaha band Cursive has been called many things in its decade-plus career — from deeply personal to whiny and from indie and post-hardcore to emo. But one thing the band's never been called is selfish.

Cursive offered its recent sixth record, the evocatively titled Mama, I'm Swollen, online 10 days before its release for only a dollar, with the price increasing everyday leading up to March 10, when it hit shelves.

The record continues in Cursive's style of wild, ragged, torn-up-heart-on-sleeve rock'n'roll with far more variety than fans have ever seen from the band. Dynamics range from whispers to all-out aural assaults, horn sections pop in and front man Tim Kasher's lyrics have never been so dark, mysterious and downright poetic (check out "We're Going to Hell," prepare to get chills).

The Pitt News called founding bassist Matt Maginn at his home in Missouri to talk Kasher, dance clubs and why Cursive will never play MTV Spring Break.

The Pitt News: What is your favorite thing about the new record?

Matt Maginn: I like that it's different than stuff we've done recently. It's a little dark and melancholy — it reminds me of our first record in some ways. That brooding sense with a cathartic element. It's almost hopeful.

TPN: You started selling the new record for a dollar on the website. What went into that decision?

MM: It was an idea from (Cursive's label) Saddle Creek. That the supporters or fans could get an email hearing about the deal — that was really attractive to us. So we thought, 'Well, we're ok not making any money, so let's do this.' But you walk a fine line — it's better to look like a special or a gift than like you're giving away your music. This system also helped the label beat the leaks of the record. The sale went up Saturday at midnight, and the first leaks we heard about went up at 5 p.m.

TPN: In my experience, Cursive is best enjoyed in a tiny, packed club. What do you love most about a small, intense club audience?

MM: We went through this phase where we wanted everyone who wanted to see the show to be there, but then you end up purposely playing rooms you can't fill. Then you learn that the energy just isn't there. It doesn't work in a big room. We've been trying to do smaller clubs. If you sell out a show too early, you don't want to exclude anyone by that situation. But I think we've traded that fear for just loving playing smaller rooms instead.

TPN: Well in Pittsburgh you'll be playing Diesel, which is also a dance club. So after the show, everyone'll be kicked out to make room for people coming to dance.

MM: I feel like we've been playing more and more shows like that, where we'll be kicked out so the club can have some little dance party. It's really weird — those scantily clad men and women that come to the clubs we play…what the hell? It's like a swimsuit contest. I don't like that world.

TPN: Cursive's long had a core faithful audience. Is there an attempt to expand the fan base at this point?

MM: Never in the writing. We never think about who to reach when we write music. But there's never been a time where we didn't want to reach new people in a normal, fun way, without doing anything cheesy or strange.

TPN: Well what would be cheesy or strange for Cursive?

MM: I don't know — like you're playing the beach house for MTV Spring Break. That's where it gets to the cheesy element. But you should attempt to reach new people simply to be inclusive, not exclusive.

TPN: How has the style of the band changed with each record?

MM: It's really weird for us to think about. Some people dislike that we'll be so eclectic to the point of having a whole record that they just can't get into. When we were writing The Ugly Organ and the song "Art is Hard," we realized we didn't have to have this angular, dissonant, bizarre time signature stuff to be Cursive. We decided to stop worrying about the style we were playing — if we don't sound like who we are by now, then who are we? That mindset pushed us towards our later records.

TPN: Do you feel personal ties to Tim's lyrics?

MM: Part of being in a band with Tim this long…it's very hard to be complementary towards members of your own band. But as a songwriter, he's probably my favorite. Since they're not my lyrics, I have a connection with his lyrics like I would another band I enjoy lyrically. I can't say that I love Cursive, that's weird to say. But I do like his writing, his lyrics. Whether we make it good or not, who knows. So my connection with his lyrics is as a spectator.

TPN: When you're onstage playing, what's going through your head?

MM: 'Oh, I hope I don't f**k up.' That's mostly it.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

LP / CD / MP3