Mama, I'm Swollen
On my way to interview Cursive, a band I've loved for many years, nervous would be the understatement of the year.
The Singing Lamb, Melody Lau was sitting with me in dressing room area of the Horseshoe Tavern, when Tim Kasher walked in and introduced himself. I tried to keep my cool, but was probably a flustered mess.
I composed myself a bit, and the tape recorder started recording. The three of us began to discuss Cursive's latest album, Mama I'm Swollen (March 2009).
First, I satisfied a bit of my own curiosity by inquiring about the unusual title of this latest release.
"It does sound kind of funny," admits Kasher. "Our intention was to encapsulate a lot of things, one of them being not to take ourselves too seriously."
Kasher also liked the provocative sense that the word offered. He claims that it is "an umbrella that covers all the different songs on the album; touching on ego, and sexuality, including pregnancy, and songs of abuse." Kasher also sees "Mama" as a universal being that other people can relate to.
Ten days before the release of Mama, I'm Swollen, it became available online for $1.00. The price then increased by $1.00 every day, until the physical CD was released.
"It's not necessarily something that we decided to do as a band," said Kasher. "Our label did it, and we agreed to it. It's all a part of labels, and trying to come up with a solution, as the music industry continues to slump. I thought it was a clever idea though; I liked it."
Kasher claims that they stopped many illegal downloads of the album, just by selling it for $1.00. Although, he admits, it's likely only a small increment of change overall. Public opinion pushed the success of this campaign.
"People would look around blogs, and see others posting 'Assholes, just pay a dollar; they're basically saying you can have it for free!' so that probably caused a bit of influence."
For Kasher, however, this marketing tool was not the most important part of the agreement.
"The main benefit that I was hoping for was to make some noise and get the album out to as many people as possible, as early as possible," he said.
"I mean, as an artist, that's where your confidence has to lie. You need to believe that if people could just hear or read what you've created, that they'd like it."
This is just one of the many recent attempts to combat the growth of illegal downloading, We asked Kasher about what he thought of Radiohead's online-only sale of In Rainbows.
"It's all so confusing," he said. "We don't even know if what we did was right, But, when Radiohead did it, I think we just collectively shrugged our shoulders and downloaded the album. I mean, everyone loves their records regardless; I don't think Thom Yorke was considering not buying a certain Lamborghini if it didn't work, you know?"
Although Kasher couldn't take a staunch stance on the issue of downloading, he did express that its effects can be frustrating as an artist.
"I don't just want to be a musician, I also want to be a writer. I work hard on writing, but if we're going in a direction where everything is free, the industry seems to be suggesting there's no money in writing," he said. "They're saying you have to go out and be a performer, because that's where the money is. Sometimes it's like 'Fuck you, I didn't ask to be a performer, I asked to be a writer,' but we don't always get what we want."
"But honestly, these aren't real complaints," he said. "I mean if someone is saying, "you have to go to work, and drink on the job, and play on stage,' I'm certainly not going to complain about that!"
Kasher's drink of choice on-stage is whiskey, although he's lately been having hot tea with lemon, and then putting the whiskey in.
The band is currently performing during a 3-week tour, the highlight of which is expected to be Toronto and Montreal, according to Kasher.
"We don't get to come up to Canada much, so it's great," he said. "I first came to Toronto in 1985 when I was just a kid. I think it was the first time I went out of the country, so it holds that place in my heart as the most exciting exotic locale; I love Toronto."
There have been many changes in the city since 1985, just as there have been many changes for Cursive, since they formed in 1995. According to Kasher, the biggest changes for the band revolved around ex-band member: cellist Gretta Cohn.
"We had done three albums with the standard four-peace guitar rock band, and I just couldn't see myself doing that again," he explained. "I wanted to bring in something like the cello in, even though the public didn't know who we were; it was a way to get inspired."
"That was the era when we were doing really well, and certainly Gretta was attached to that," he said. "But then I found a new problem, which was that I didn't want to be "a cello band," and I was finding it difficult to write songs with the cello. I have a hard time keeping things even-keel, as far as ideas are concerned."
"All those were all very difficult decisions, and publicly, Gretta became a figurehead of sorts. I guess the biggest difference in our band was essentially between having a cello and not having a cello."
Kasher hopes to experiment with more percussive instruments in the future, including making use of more piano. He also hopes to be able to work with the timpani, although he admits that it's difficult work.
So what type of singing animal would Tim Kasher be?
A donkey; he referenced the folk song Tingalayo, when explaining his choice.
Cursive has left Canada to continue with their tour in the US; if you happen to be anywhere near where they are playing, I would highly recommend catching a show.
After all the anxiety, the interview wrapped and I survived. I'm glad, because I would have hated to miss the great concert that Cursive put on at the Horseshoe that night!
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / MP3
LP / MP3