Mama, I'm Swollen
Author: Carla Jean Whitley
Omaha, Neb., seems a locale unlikely to birth influential alternative and indie rock. But since 311 ascended from its plains nearly 20 years ago, others followed, includingRilo Kiley, Blue October and The Urge. In 1993, a new sound emerged when singer/songwriter Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk) and his brother Justin founded the first incarnation of what would become Saddle Creek Records, a label which shares its name with an Omaha road. The road paved way for, affectionately, the "Omaha Sound" - an indie genre carries by artists like Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive. Easily thrown into what the late 90's came to call "emo," Cursive frontman Tim Kasher shys from the genre's label, but embraces his local record label.Blake Ells for Birmingham Box Set: What is the secret to Omaha's musical success?Tim Kasher: There were a handful of us that were passionate about music and we were always encouraging each other. In a lot of musical communities, it's like crabs in a bucket - the others are always pulling you down. But we were always very supportive of one another.BBS: Are you OK with being labeled "emo?"TK: I'm not really OK with it. By and large, there's a negative connotation that comes with the word. There were just two times that it was ever not given a negative connotation - when bands like Rites of Spring were around in the mid-nineties and when major labels picked up on the whole thing and tried to promote it. I think its nice that people have moved on from defining things into that genre.BBS: Who influenced you?TK: When I was really young, it was Simon & Garfunkel and David Bowie. By the 80's I suppose I was more into The Cure and The Smiths. And throughout the 90's, it was more bands like Fugazi and Superchunk.BBS: The band has had a couple of breaks. Why did you step away and what did you learn?TK: I tend to step away because I get burned out on a lot of things I do. It's probably a fairly typical "abscence making the heart grow fonder." But I always grow tired of the other projects I am working on and gravitate back toward Cursive.BBS: It was more than a decade after your first record before you made your first national appearance on Late Show with David Letterman. Did fans accuse you of "selling out?'TK: I'm not sure how many hardcore fans we even have. (laughs) I don't see it that way at all. I have always been very earnest as a musician.BBS: Do you think fans have matured with you through your own personal trials? Are the same fans coming to shows nearly 20 years later?TK: I don't feel like there's a ton, but I do feel like there are some that have. We always identify with young people. Great case in point - we did a special Domesticashow in Omaha where we played the record front to back. And we thought we would pull in older people and natives from that time years ago. But it was packed with young people, and they knew every word. I'm just happy the records continue to resonate. What I do is intentionally youthful - it's my way as a songwriter to stay young. Maybe it's not that I'm trying to stay young - maybe I just never grew up that much. I've always sort of believed that lyrical content was supposed to develop with my own age.I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that young people come to the shows. When I was that age I sought out far more interesting forms of art.BBS: It's been two years since the last record, are you writing or recording now? When can we expect new material?TK: July.BBS: Do you have another solo project in the works?TK: I have a tendency to focus on one project at a time, so right now it's about the Cursive record. I'll set the solo project aside until we get this record out in summer.BBS: What bands are you listening to now? Do you gravitate toward your label mates?TK: I'm kind of guilty of listening to a lot of Saddle Creek stuff. We're all enamoured with the Bright Eyes record. But I also listen to a lot of Okervil River and Rural Alberta Advantage. I like Spoon - I'm really happy those guys are still making music.