Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


Cursive's Domestica

6/19/2000 | Hanging Like A Hex | Feature
Ryan: What do you feel is the difference between Crank! Records and Saddle Creek Records?

Tim: There's so much of a difference between the two record labels as their is this changing of, cycles of, trends that come and go. A couple years ago Crank! was just like, the shit. We got to tour around so much on that first record. Tons of people would show up all the time just to see who the next trend band was. I would get a lot of glossy-eyed kids coming up to me and asking us about Crank! Records, like, 'are they cool?' But they had really good bands too. They had Mineral and Vitreious Humor, bands that I really love. So I would tihkn to myself, 'wow, I'm on one of the coolest labels in the indie scene!'
R: Yeah, plus it seems that in some way they've always had their foot in the door of the punk rock scene as well, so a lot of their bands have crossed over. But in contrast, it seems like Saddle Creek is a straight-up indie rock label.
T: And I think they want to stay that way. But they enjoy having Cursive for their hard rock, and Bright Eyes for the indie crowd, and The Faint for the new wave crowd. They just wnt to keep it that way. But just because Bright Eyes is a big success right now I don't think they want to focus on an awful lot. At the same (sic) though, they don't want it to be a Bright Eyes label.
R: Do you see a difference in the crowds now that come out to your shows because of the label you're on?
T: I think we fall farthest away from the tree as far as bands on our label go. We go a little too far into genres that aren't as indie rock. So I don't know if we get some of those benefits of having the same crowd. Like kids who pick up the Bright Eyes record and love it, then say, 'well, Bright Eyes is good, I wonder how this Cursive record is ilke', then go 'oh my god, this is terrible!' But we all insist that each band's style is based on songwriting, and we have these particular songwriting styles consistent to us and this band.
R: Yeah, I don't want to imply that the label makes the bands sound.
T: Yeah, some labels do that, you're completely right. But to go back to the original question, Saddle Creek is getting to that point right now where Crank! was at a couple years ago where they're the hip shit of the moment.
R: Since this tour you're on is about getting out to CMJ I was wondering what you thought of it, and the effectiveness of radio. Do you think that CMJ has any value, or that the whole festival is worthwhile?
T: I haven't really thought that much about it. We don't have a totally optimistic view of it, in that if we make the top 50 on CMJ we don't think, 'oh, well, we must be pretty popular'. We know that it isn't worth a shit, but at the same time, it feels good to know that a lot of stations are playing your stuff. What it comes down to is that either you have good promotion, or you have a lot of DJ's that are into your style. I honestly don't think it gets you very far, but at the same time it's become part of, or the cause of, the industry in that if you don't take part you're sort of shooting yourself in the foot.
R: I've been to it a couple of times, and the first time I went I thought it was going to be this great thing where you walk down the street and there's bands everywhere. But once I was there the shows had good bills, but were pretty much like any other show I'd go to. It seems like all these bands are travelling great distances just to play a couple of shows, and it's supposed to be this big thing, but it ends up just being another show. I think for a fan, who will be able to see three awesome shows in one night for a while week, it's great. But having been involved in radio, and seeing how it works firsthand, I'm not sure if it's worthwhile for the bands who travel all this way just for one show.
T: We have the same opinion. I think at this point I think that CMJ and South by Southwest are a lot of fun because we've been around the country so much, and we get to run into all these bands that we're friends with. Everybody gathers at this one spot, and we have a big party, it's just a blast getting to see everybody that you don't get to see al the time because they live halfway across the country from you. That's one benefit of why I like to do it. My advice to any band that isn't very accomplished yet by any means, don't kick yourself in the ass trying to get out to CMJ to play at 8 o'clock at some little hole in the wall. It's so discouraging. We've done it. At this point we've turned CMJ and South by Southwest into a tour, so it works out. We play some shows because we have some time, and on the way we do CMJ, and it's going to be with all our friends. And what else is important is that if the CMJ and South by Southwest showcases are billed as big shows then it's worth it. Like at CMJ we played on the Saddle Creek/Tigerstyle showcase, which was a really big deal this year.
R: Yeah, I had fun too. But I was just wondering what it must be like for a band that isn't all that known yet.
T: Right, and we've been that band before. We did it for a couple years, then we didn't for a couple more, and now we're doing it again.
R: Plus, I used to work at a super tiny radio station that broadcast to a community college campus, where like fifteen people would be listening. And labels would call up asking how a particular record was charting. And I'd be like, 'charting? Let me shout down the hall and ask.' I would have to lie to labels just to get them to keep sending stuff, ya know? I think that probably happens more often than labels expect, and I think what's popular in radio according to CMJ may not be a true representation of what's happening out there.
T: Yeah, I imagine that happens as well.
R: I also wanted to ask about why a lot of your material seems to be so depressing. I mean, the music always rocks, but a lot of the content seems very pessimistic, or describes unhappy situations.
T: My favorite things to write about are the loathing and those really troubled times. The feelings you get out of music when you're relating like that, and bringing it into your own life, is so dynamic. After having been writing for a long time I've decided that that is what I like. But I'm trying to move on to that really sad feeling of happiness. It's hard to describe it, but maybe like when you're so happy you cry. Or the resolve after a loved one dies, like a year later, or two years later, or however long it takes to get over that.
R: Maybe for example, someone I know just died a few days ago after a really long illness, and it was really unfair because they were young and a really great person. But it's almost like a relief because now they're not in pain anymore, and being happy in that sense?
T: Yes, or suffering a great deal, but finding the good in knowing that it will be over.
R: I also think the depression and angst present on the new album comes across in a really interesting way as well. Like a lot of bands describe the same thing you're album does with relationships, but it seems to sound the same. But “Domestica" describes it in specific instances, like 'the hole in the wall from where the phone was thrown'. Even the pictures in the layout of the quiet dinner table. It's different.
T: That's what the record works towards, and it's what we wanted to accomplish. I majored in English and Creative Writing, and I wanted to bring that to the writing of this record as well. That's why it's difficult to bring those things up and describe those things in song. Instead of just vaguely going over a feeling it pinpoints instances to which the feeling evolve.
R: What was the impetus of using that feeling as a basis for the record?
T: It started with a discussion about why we bring up such heavy topics like life and death, and why we exist. We thought that we ought to bring it down to simpler topics like rent, and not wanting to go to work. Like very specific day-to-day routines. Then it all sort of cumulated into two specific characters who make up a lot of the record.
R: I sort of wanted to ask about sound and equipment with you as well. When I hear the record it's pretty loud, and live I was expecting big amplifiers, and a very loud performance. But your equipment was very simple, and the sound was a little subdued. I don't want to say it wasn't good, but it was just different than what I expected. I suppose it's not the size that matters, but I was wondering if that's common misconception.
T: I've used bigger equipment before, but I sort of prefer to have a smaller set-up. I find it's much more loud, rock, and dynamic live than it is on record. I don't know if you thought that too. I mean, I ilke the whole screaming, and nuttiness that some bands will do live, and just going crazy. I like doing that too. But then again, I don't want to get carried away either. I sort of like to be a little more subdued at times. I don't think there's too much of a difference between live and recorded with us. I think just by hearing the record people shouldn't really have a problem knowning what we are, whether it's a little more hardcore, or post-hardcore, or hard indie rock, whatever it is.
R: I definately think you are a post-hardcore band. I don't know how much you see yourselves as that, or care for definitions or categorization, but that's the way I see it I guess.
T: I can see it too. But then again, I'm not too boisterous about it, or spend a lot of time thinking about what category we belong in. We get a lot more different descriptions from people when we're on tour though. Plus, I feel that there's so much more I can do musically, and branch off into different types of music. I think when we do the next record it will be a bit different.
R: I don't know, I actually thought the new songs you played were way heavier than the other ones!
T: Yeah, I guess heavier, but more unique too. But I don't really know what's going to happen, and neither does the rest of the band. The songs just happen.
R: Do you come in with a lot of the music, or is it more collective.
T: We've found that is the best way. We found that things usually get hashed out the best when someone is working on it alone. Ted has helped write a lot too.
R: He's from Lullaby for the Working Class right? How did adding him to the band change things? His band was a lot different and more mellow than yours.
T: Yeah, but we know his history, and he's always been more hard rock. Lullaby was his first sort of sit down and chill out kind of thing. So it works well for him. It hasn't made a difference in the new songs either, it's still Cursive.
R: I've created a theme for this issue about death, and I was wondering if you are afraid to die?
T: Not hardly at all. It's weird because I have a lot of strange visions while driving around in the van. I'll be reading a book or something, and then look up and see a bridge, and I'll imagine swerving off it, and crashing, all in graphic detail.
R: For some reason maybe bridges inspire that sort of thought. Or maybe you just have a deathwish for your band.
T: Yeah, I'll be driving tomorrow and just do it, right? But I don't know, I;m not really scared of dying though. I used to be terrified, but I've sort of moved out of that. If anything I'm pretty existential, so it doesn't really matter if I live or die.
R: It just seems like death is brought up in the songs sometimes as well.
T: I minored in philosophy, so I think about those things. It's just that all my memories are filled up with things that I think are really coo, like a plot for some movie. And all the philosophers and authors that I've studied have theories on it, and maybe I can put the two together for a song. But then again, having been an English major I don't remember everything I learned either.
R: That's alright, I was a psychology major and I don't remember shit.
T: Well, studying philosophy, for me, was more of a tool. It wasn't like I stored up this weatlh of information, but it was more like the experience of the discipline. It presented new ways of thinking and practicing things.
R: Plus, there's just a lot of money in it too, right?
T: (laughs) And rock 'n' roll is a piece of cake too.
R: Onto other things, you guys broke up a little while ago, and were apart for about a year before reforming. How and why did it stop working, and end up working again?
T: I pretty muchh blame myself for it. I was pretty selfish, and I thought I could move, and that everything would be OK. Plus, I was married at the time, and I lost a lot of ambition. Her and I wanted to move to Portland, so we did, and I broke up Cursive, and I tried to get into bands out there. But it was very conflicting, and her and I had a hard enough time as it was, just the two of us that it was very difficult to get anything else going because there was constant maintenance just staying together. But it was a really cool part of the country to live in, and I really liked it, even though I spent a year and a half trying to get people together to play with. It's really hard to find dedicated people who you can click with, and they weren't there.
R: They were right back where you started.
T: Yeah, I ended up coming back home to people who are pretty much lifelong friends. I sort of felt like I had my tail between my legs, but they were very considerate, like 'whenever you want to play, we'll play'. And that was that.
Cursive's Domestica

Cursive's Domestica

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