Saddle Creek | The Good Life | Reviews


Album of the Year

08/01/2004 | | | Feature
The title Album of the Year isn't about arrogance. It's about relationships. And just like every other album from The Good Life, leadman Tim Kasher completes the task of painting an unpretty picture of the union of man and woman. The Good Life was originally conceived as a side project to Kasher's other band, Cursive, as a way to expand on the more subtle songs he had been playing in coffee shops around Omaha. But eventually The Good Life grew into another full-blown project for Kasher, with drummer Roger Lewis and multi-instrumentalists Ryan Fox and Jiha Lee joining on as permanent additions after 2000's Novena On A Nocturn. Album of the Year is unlike its predecessors in the sense that it's virtually free of keyboards and samples. However, it shares a striking similarity to the others in acting as a therapy session for those who have had their share of rocky relationships. Recoil chit-chatted with Kasher while the band was on their way to a show at Schuba's in Chicago.

Recoil: There are less keyboards and samples on this album than on the previous records. Was this a conscious effort?
Tim Kasher: We just wanted to go for more natural and organic instrumentation. We thought it sounded more appropriate for it. It's really just a response to how the bounds are going.

R: Do you think it is safe to say that Album of the Year is to The Good Life what Domestica is to Cursive?
TK: It is definitely vocalized again on two people and their relationship. I think The Good Life album got completed a lot more and is more actualized. It's more cohesive overall. I don't think it's as dramatic as Domestica, but it definitely shares a similar type of storytelling.

R: What's the difference lyrically between The Good Life and Cursive?
TK: The Good Life has always been easier to write the lyrics for. It's more of being honest, being who I am, and what's affecting me. And Cursive is always trying to push the boundaries of what it is I could write about. I ended up finding it very difficult to write Cursive lyrics and felt like I was trying too hard to be something that I wasn't. I basically came to the conclusion that as a lyricist, I'll remain Tim Kasher and write in whatever style I write in, and let the music and interpretation be different for the bands. That being said, I still recognize differences in the sense that the music has more anxiety and is more aggressive for Cursive. But I think it's the same storytelling style for both bands.

R: In the liner notes of the album, you thank some people for their advice on the percussion work. How was the approach on percussion different from the previous albums?
TK: Initially we had really ambitious ideas about all the things we were going to do on the record. I worked with some different percussionists throughout the making of the record. Even though they didn't get a chance to play on the record specifically, they were people who I played with and who helped develop the percussion and rhythms of some of the songs.

R: Can you explain the concept of the last track, "Two Years This Month?"
TK: It's kind of the wind-up to tie together the whole record. I consider the first song to be a prologue, the ten songs in between the concept or story, and the last song the epilogue. It's a collage of all the other songs on the album. I guess the idea was supposed to be to sonically or orally give the idea that over the years all these songs are written after this couple had strayed away from each other. That's kind of what that collage is, and then the explanation at the end of the song, that it's been two years this month.

R: Why did Jiha Lee leave the band? How did getting Stephanie Drootin to replace her come about?
TK: Stephanie's been a really good friend of ours for a long time. Jiha and I are good friends now, but we've gone through a lot of rocky relationship things over the years that have made it kind of difficult to continue to pursue a band together. But I was really honored to have her sing on that song ("Inmates") and I'll be seeing her tonight.

R: Most of your songs are about relationships and the downside of them. Do you have to put yourself in a certain mood when you're writing songs?
TK: No. During the writing of it, it's not necessarily a horrible feeling. It's probably more after you go through a lot of experiences and you come out from it and you reflect back on certain things. I do write about relationships a lot. I only continue doing it because I keep feeling like it has indulged so much of my life. Maybe it's just being in this age where it feels like that's supposed to be the next step, to mate. But I only keep writing on the subject because I think I have a bit more to say about it.

R: Do you ever feel like you're expected to write about relationships?
TK: Yeah, but I wouldn't let that... I would hate it if I ever felt like I was obligated to write about that or anything else for that matter.

R: Cursive is set to join The Cure on their summer tour. How did the gig come about?
TK: We're really ecstatic about doing it. They just threw their feelers out and asked us to jump on. We were planning on being done touring and going on hiatus for a while, but then that came up and we were like, 'We really have to do this.' We're really not doing it for the advancement of ourselves. We're just doing it [so we can] look back and say, 'Wow, that was really cool.' We got the chance to do something more than we would have ever imagined we would get a chance to do.

R: You were responsible for introducing Rilo Kiley to Saddle Creek, and they eventually made a record with you guys. What are your thoughts on Rilo Kiley leaving Saddle Creek for a major label?
TK: The record is great. I hope it works well for them. I hope it does whatever it is they're hoping to get out of it. I think Saddle Creek would have done a great job with the record, but I'm not saying that because of hard feelings or anything. I actually think that Saddle Creek might have been a safer choice, just because it's proving itself to be so secure, at least for the moment. But it's not about security or safety necessarily. I think they just wanted to take a leap out there and see what happens. I'm sure they'll come up on top. It's a good record. They worked on it really hard.

R: You make your living as a musician. How hard do you find it for people to take what you do as being a valid career path?
TK: It's a good question. I'm sure there would be two camps about it. Those two camps would probably be people who are like, 'That's great that you get to do something off of your own merit, off of your own writing. But god, I don't envy having to travel around so much and be constantly away from home.' And the other camp would be like, 'Whatever, you guys are like the shit, man. You just go out and party every night and what's so hard about that?' So yeah, I'd say they are both right.

R: For a while Saddle Creek was getting a lot of hype. How much have things changed for everyone involved in the label over the last couple years?
TK: I think it's kind of sad that it's never going to be the way it used to be. I don't know if it ever could be. Everyone gets older. I guess I shouldn't dwell on the way things were, in the sense that none of us use to make a dime off of anything; we use to just play really small shows for each other. We held each other up so much and all hung out so much together. We all have different friends now. We're all friends still, of course, but we all have different people to hang out with, or we have families. It's all about getting older. In ten years I'm going to miss these days, these Saddle Creek days.

R: Do you feel you are treated differently now when you come back home?
TK: Omaha is a pretty laid back town. There's really not much pretension. If somebody like me for instance were to run around trying to be pretentious or trying to have some air about me, people would be really disinterested pretty quickly. In other words, I don't feel like there's any special treatment or anything like that. If anything, there's disillusionment and a lot of talking behind people backs because of bitterness or jealousy. I just hope that I don't give off any reason for people to feel that way.

R: How long do you see yourself being involved in music? Do you see yourself doing this forever?
TK: I think momentarily while [Cursive's 2003 album] Ugly Organ was doing so well I thought to myself, 'Oh wow, maybe I have a lot of years to get a chance to do this.' But those thoughts didn't last very long. Now I'm just hoping that I can try to be a writer as long as possible. And it might not be very long, but that's okay. As long as I can keep writing, I can go back to working day jobs. Basically I've decided that being a writer is what I do; it's what I wanted to do and it's still what I want to be doing. I think there could easily be ups and downs throughout my life. This happens to be an up, and I'm sure there can be plenty of downs.
Album of the Year

Album of the Year

LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3