By Phil Leckman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
In these days of Web cams, "Temptation Island" and "Big Brother," the notion of privacy often seems a trifle old-fashioned. But everyone in the public eye relishes the idea of airing dirty laundry for an audience's approval.
"People talking about my personal life instead of talking about the music, stuff like that - I think it's ugly, like a miniature version of People magazine" said Tim Kasher, the singer and guitarist for indie rock band Cursive, which plays Solar Culture tomorrow at 10 p.m.
And while the Omaha, Neb. band is still a long way from the pages of America's premier gossip mag, Cursive has first-hand experience with the media circus.
"Domestica," the group's most recent album, is a concept album telling the story of a difficult breakup. Penetrating and emotionally wrenching, the album is clearly the product of someone with a front-row seat to a romantic meltdown.
But, Kasher argues, that didn't necessarily mean that the story behind the lyrics had to be spelled out explicitly.
"I think that when you do write about these personal experiences, people, assuming they don't know much about you, can listen to it and be like 'well, maybe it happened, maybe it didn't,' but they're still relating to how that reflects their own situation," he explained.
Andrew Gardner, the singer for local indie band Wise Folk Malcontent, said he shared Kasher's conviction that ignorance, for an audience at least, is often bliss.
"Because there's ambiguity, we - the audience - can relate because these things have happened to us all," Gardner explained. "It seems like the songs say enough as it is, and it's not really anyone's business as to what (they) are explicitly about,"
Unfortunately for Kasher, the personal subjects behind "Domestica" did end up making their way into the media spotlight. While the album's characters are never referred to by name, the biography that accompanied promo copies of the record focused explicitly on the difficult divorce Kasher had recently experienced. Soon, the album was being interepreted as Kasher's own story.
"I don't blame anyone but ourselves, really," Kasher conceded. "I guess what I mean was that I really didn't see that as coming out as such a big issue - I mean, why would people really care?"
But indie-rock fans did care. Granted, the hubbub over Kasher's relationship was played out via tiny online music 'zines, not on the E! network, but that didn't make it any less of an invasion, Kasher said.
"I guess it got a bit tiring, the intrusion," he said. "It's unattractive to me - after it all happened I realized I just felt like a really unattractive person."
Even worse, Kasher said, was the thought that fans would think he was trying to profit from his misfortune.
"It really feels gross to feel like you whored out your dramatic experiences, and that's really sick," he said. "Like Tonya Harding or someone like that, exploiting the dramatics of your life and making money off it. If ever I've been perceived like that, it makes me feel terrible."
Gardner echoed Kasher's misgivings about revealing too much.
"To write such heavy stuff puts yourself on the line, because you know the people involved are going to hear about it," Gardner said. "It's like 'great, all my personal life's on a record and everybody knows about it.'"
When Kasher re-formed Cursive two years ago after a year-long hiatus, it wasn't for the purpose of exposing his romantic troubles, he said.
"It was just like 'hey, let's get back together,' and we started writing songs, enjoying it again, just kind of feeling where we wanted to go," said Kasher.
What was produced was a "concept album," featuring songs linked by a common theme rather than just stand-alone singles. The idea of reviving this format, long sullied by association with overblown 1970s rock operas, was more interesting to him than the album's subject matter.
"Just for years and years I've had it in my head to kind of write an opera, really score out a musical, even," Kasher said. "I love music and I love storytelling, and I've always kind of wanted to bring it together - it's age-old, it's not like I'd be the first, but in this industry or scene it's not very common, you know?"
Kasher conceded that "Domestica's" subject matter was intensely personal. But this was only natural, he said.
"It's that old Creative Writing 101 maxim - you should write about things you know, or things you're familiar with," he explained. "When you try and start an idea from scratch, as in a world or an existence that you're just completely unfamiliar with, the day-to-day specifics are difficult to come up with - they just kind of come out as artificial."
Gardner agreed that it is difficult to remove one's self from one's music.
"You can disguise things and create them," he said, "but you pop up in them anyway - the person who creates the song is in the work, even if it's in a tiny way."
Kasher, at least, said he would much rather leave leave the personal meaning behind his songs up to his listeners' imaginations.
"I would have been much happier to stay anonymous through the whole thing, and that's definitely a lesson I've learned. Hopefully I'll never trip up like that again."
Despite his huge misgivings at the hype "Domestica" has generated, however, Kasher says he is proud of the album's content.
"I never would have written the album differently - I'm happy with what came out. It's just a matter of what was exposed through the bio."
"I mean, I have the right to write about my own experiences. It's just too bad that my own experiences have been exposed so much."
Cursive plays at 10 PM tonight at Solar Culture, 30 E. Toole Avenue. Mala Vita opens the show.
Tickets are $5. Call 884-0874 for more information.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3