Reviews

The Ugly Organ

04/18/2003 | College Times Tempe, Arizona | Live Show Preview
Formed in 1995, the Omaha, Nebraska band, Cursive, has ridden the wave of a critically acclaimed indie-act. They suffered a temporary breakup. They've traveled the country tirelessly. They had setbacks -- most recently lead singer Tim Kasher's punctured lung in mid-2002. They've evolved -- first with 1999's Domestica and then with 2001's EP Burst and Bloom, which features the addition of cellist Gretta Cohn. The band is in the process of cruising the nation in advance of their new album, The Ugly Organ, set to be released March 4. How do you describe their recent sound? It's tough -- the band calls it "a blend of organ playing, tearing and beautiful cello lines, thundering rhythms and disjointed guitar lines align(ing) in a symbiotic relationship between the instruments." But you know us. We like to keep it simple. So we'll just call it fucking good.

Last week, somewhere in the middle of Missouri -- on a cell phone that blew ass -- bassist Matt Maginn talked to College Times. In between the numerous interruptions of service there was role playing (as 13-year-olds) and Sanford & Son theme song imitations.

College Times: So I see the new disc is done and it's in production. What goes on in the period between when a new CD is recorded and the day that it's released? Why the wait time in between?

Matt Maginn: It's kind of, like, enforced by the way the business works, I guess. It's because of two factors. One is for distribution. They need stuff like about a month in advance and the other is for the press. They need it like three months to four months in advance. So usually we'll do promos. Ours went out in December for press.

Aren't you worried about it being Kazaa-ized. I mean we would never let other people hear it or swap it out (sarcastic voice used here) but you know what those other papers are like.

Oh for sure, we've already sort of noticed it. I guess we worry about it, but then we know it's going to happen. We've noticed on this tour, lots of people have it.

The Ugly Organ -- the title. Is that influenced by Tim's punctured lung at all?

That is a good question. That'd be a great one for him to answer. It's really based kind of maybe a little bit on that and then just sexuality and an actual organ.

Sexuality ... hmmm, that's interesting. I think that's what my wife calls my penis -- The Ugly Organ.

(laughs) Yeah, well, you know, it's the trials and tribulations of a relationship, which are a hybrid of sexuality
 

I'm not that familiar with Omaha. Are the bands pretty supportive of each other or is it pretty cutthroat?

Well I'll describe it sort of how at least Saddle Creek came to be and how it is now. I would say that at least in most of the bands that we know -- because there's a lot of bands in town -- everybody is very supportive of each other. I'd say any competition is only like non-aggressive competition -- just a healthy thing where you're trying to do better so that your friends like your bands better ... Saddle Creek started as a collective. Bands would pool money to raise enough to release bands who wanted to be released. They'd release one record and everybody would get paid back and then they'd do it for another band and that kind of went on for a couple years like that. The bands really worked together to build the bands and Omaha and just awareness of music coming from Omaha. Even today Saddle Creek is run by one of the friends that helped start the thing. The bands are still all involved with the decisions and everybody is still writing records to keep their friends excited. It's very communal there. I know it sounds a little odd.

The scene here is really starting to pick up. A lot of local groups are being offered record deals and starting to get a lot of recognition. Anything you've learned in the business. Any advice you'd offer for groups who want to stick together for the long hall?

Yeah, though I think no answers are the right answers. If you want to make music, just be happy with what you're doing. Don't be concerned with how big you get. Make sure that the label is on that same level with you and that everything is under the band's control on how everything is pushed and marketed. And I think bands should be getting a 50/50 cut of all profits with the labels, depending on situation. I think that's the way it should be and many labels do that - Better Looking Records, Touch and Go, Crank!. Those labels are helping change the environment. ... These labels are giving good deals to bands because they're not blowing money. At first we were confused by (working with labels) but we learned from it. You know if a label seems like it's not going over the top, that's really a good thing. As long as they believe in the music that's okay. They don't need to be making wallpaper for bands.

What are looking for from music? When you listen to a band -- are there certain triggers, certain things that you find emotionally and/or sonically appealing?

There's so many different parts of it. It's different things in different genres that get me to excited about the music. I've never been able to pinpoint it. It's probably just as simple as melodies for me. I think, whether it's some sort of dance band or folk band, it's just good songwriting, strong composition.

What are you guys listening to now? Any CD you can't get out of your head?

Neva Dinova -- I believe its self titled. I think it just came out in the fall. They're from Omaha.

So, I know this is sort of a strange question -- but with everything going on, do you guys feel like you're on the verge of something big? Are the shows getting more crowded, for example?

Yeah ... um, at least the shows are getting more attended for sure. It's kind of funny, we're excited about it and it's fun to have more people out there that are interested. But it's always been more gradual with us.

So with the new album is it a continuation of things from Burst and Bloom, cello playing and a lot of guitar work? Or are there more changes coming?

I guess it's more of a continuation. But also kind of a part it is split with what we did with Eastern Youth. All the songs are kind of written around each other, using similar ideas. ... As far as the cello, before, we had written all those songs, then Gretta (Cohn) came and laid down cello after they'd be written, whereas with the new record it's more ingrained in the songs ... so it's even better now.

So, anyway, does the collapsed lung affect (Tim's) vocal range in any way. What he can and can't sing?

Not really, if anything, since then it's been better for him, because he actually has more lung capacity then before.

You guys have a little break before you get here. What are you guys going to be doing?

We usually, I guess it kinds of depends. We've actually never had days off in the middle of tour. We'll spend it mostly with family or girlfriends or wives, whatever our people situation is. And usually we'll hit a couple local hang outs, places where everybody we're friends with go to. That way we're able to see everybody at one time, say hi and catch up with as many people as we can.
The Ugly Organ

The Ugly Organ

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