Reviews

Mama, I'm Swollen

Author: Jay Kirschenmann
06/18/2009 | Argus Leader | www.argusleader.com | Live Show Preview
Just home from a tour of the U.K. and fresh off a network TV debut on the "Late Show with David Letterman," Cursive plays Sioux Falls tonight.

It's the second show of a tour that began Wednesday in Lincoln, Neb., continues tonight at Nutty's North in Sioux Falls and then heads Friday to the The Dahl Fine Arts Center in Rapid City.

The tour continues with stops along the West Coast and, later this summer, on the East Coast and in Canada.

Cursive formed in Omaha in the early 1990s, says guitarist-vocalist Ted Stevens by phone from his Omaha home.

Two other core members since have moved: Tim Kasher, vocals and guitar, now lives in California, and bassist Matt Maginn lives in Missouri.

Stevens chatted about the group's recent gigs and new material.
Question: Was being on "Letterman" intense?

Answer: It was, because we had never done anything like that. It's a live studio audience, not live on the air, so that helps a little. But when you're on, your on, with no re-dos.

Q: Letterman made a face and paused after saying your new album title, "Mama, I'm Swollen." Did that bother you when the audience laughed?

A: No, I grew up watching Letterman, and our band members did, too. That's a compliment to have Letterman rib you a little bit. His timing is great. He was really cool to us, showed us a lot of enthusiasm throughout the performance and afterward. That made us feel good.

Q: Regarding your latest album, PunkNews.org says it's "a graceful tightrope walk of equal parts mellow indie and punk angst." Can you reproduce all the production live that we hear on the recording?

A: Considering how produced the past couple of albums have been, the idea on this one was to actually bring down the dynamics and to open the songs up more, so that we can recreate them live.

The last record was "no holds barred" with the horn sections and the synths and keyboards. We found it was really difficult to recreate that sound live and still follow our desire to have our musicians feel free to express themselves. It's easier to do that with this new material.

Q: How many play on tour?
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A: The tour is me, Tim and Matt, with drummer Spice Symington from Austin, Texas, and Patrick Newberry, who played on some of the "Happy Hollow" album tour. He knows the catalog and has been with us for a few years playing flugelhorn, organ, samples and trumpet.

Q: There's a big fold-out poster in the new CD with a photo of handwritten lyrics jotted on paper plates, scraps of paper with coffee stains and more. Whose handwriting and drawings are those?

A: That's Tim (Kasher). He and I each write songs for the band, but this time around, these are all Tim's songs, lyrics, drawings. ...

Q: The single "From The Hips," the one you played on Letterman, has gotten some great reviews and brought in new fans. Are you tired of playing it yet?

A: No, not at all, and I'd love to play it right now if my band was here. That's the thing with this new material: We're not sick of it yet.

Q: You just finished a tour of the U.K. How did that go?

A: It was great, headlining shows and playing a few festivals where we joined in on the mix with a bunch of Scottish bands. It was 14 to 15 days, criss-crossing the countries on the island.

Q: Were those long road trips over there?

A: People from England said our tour stops were crazy far apart, but really it's like staying in the same state here at home, just a couple-hour drives to the next day's show. Compared to the United States, it was really easy.

What really matters for our band is how much time can we sleep - till noon or 2 p.m. every day - and how much time we have to spend in the car.

Q: The band has been around more than a decade. Are you feeling older?

A: I'd say that reality is starting to creep in. I'm 33, and I think all three of us - Tim, Matt and I - are having maybe feeling like ??????? "What are we going to do when we grow up?" Or did we just miss growing up?

Bands like Sonic Youth and others are the grandfathers of the punk-rock scene and still are going, and older musicians like Eric Clapton or Neil Young still have the eye of the tiger - that's why they still are successful and why they're where they are.

Q: Does the creation of new songs and albums get you guys excited about playing?

A: Yes; this band is really good at writing, and our favorite time to be a band is right when we start creating a new record.

Once we get to that point, and shake the Etch-a-Sketch clean, there's a great feeling in the band regardless of how things have gone or how the last project has been received.

There's this feeling of rebirth and limitless music. And when you start to write a song, there's the feeling that there are limitless ways that it can go.
Mama, I'm Swollen

Mama, I'm Swollen

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