Reviews

Help Wanted Nights

Author: Dane Sundseth
09/10/2007 | Indieschmarm.com | www.indieschmarm.com/ | Feature
On 2004's Album of the Year, Tim Kasher detailed the various highs and lows of a year long relationship and made it a break out success for The Good Life, gaining praise from critics and fans alike. Having spent the last two years recording and touring behind his other band, Cursive, Kasher is back with Good Life accomplices Ryan Fox (guitar, keys), Stephanie Drootin (bass) and Roger Lewis (drums) to release Help Wanted Nights.
Kasher's recent move to Los Angeles from Omaha was partly due to his interest in writing screenplays and Help Wanted Nights is meant to serve as the musical backing to his first script of the same name. Meant to take place in a small town bar over the course of a week, it follows the perspectives of different struggling relationships that like his past lyrics, focus on the bar room fueled variety, "so pour me a drink and don't pour it too weak and grab it from the top shelf " ("Picket Fence") and "I love your suffering, like gravity loves a stumbling drunk" ("Keely Aimee"). While lyrically the new album doesn't mark much change for Kasher and his touches of clever word play, musically, this latest offering is a much simpler affair than any of the group's previous work, stripped down numbers that rarely feature more than guitar, keys, bass and drums.
Indie Schmarm was able to talk to Kasher about the new album, his move to LA, and what lies ahead for either The Good Life or Cursive.
Indie Schmarm: Over what course of time were the songs on Help Wanted Nights written and recorded?
TK: I started writing songs for it as far back as 2004, but the bulk of it was worked on Summer and Fall of 2006. We recorded it in a few sessions throughout the winter, Jan-Apr.
Indie Schmarm: Help Wanted Nights is based on a screenplay of the same title you wrote, correct? What made you decide to write a screenplay and have there been any new developments with getting that project produced?
TK: I've always wanted to write screenplays, but only just recently got into it. I've always wanted to write with a fuller narrative, without the restrictions of verse and meter as song writing tends to have. I'm working with a few people, trying to gather a small budget to hopefully shoot next year.
Indie Schmarm: All the songs here are meant to take place in the same small town bar, are they from many different perspectives or from one person's point of view?
TK: They are from a few different perspectives, but that's just how I see it, a few different struggling relationships. I don't think that's imperative information for the album, though, but if I'm not wrong I think there could be some conflicting perspectives??
Indie Schmarm: 2004's Album of the Year was a concept record that followed the cycle of a year long relationship in a very richly produced cohesive manner. You seem to have taken a simpler more straightforward approach with this record, the songs tell singular stories and the performances seem to live more in those moments. Was that an intentional approach you took?
TK: Yeah, it was. I enjoyed writing "Album…" quite a bit, I was plugging songs into a specific narrative, there was only one option for the album sequence as a result. For this record it's just a group of songs, but based on a fictional group of characters from the script. So this time around the narrative was the script, and the songs accompany that narrative. Though, the narrative isn't completely necessary… for either album actually. Many people never realized there was a narrative on "Album…" Trust me, I wouldn't have known either, had I been on the other end of the speaker.
Indie Schmarm: You have long cited the works of writers, Charles Bukowski and John Fante as big influences to you, even name dropping them on the title track to Album of the Year. Help Wanted Nights has many songs that focus on that same type of self-sabotaging drunken romance, a series of one night stands and bitter ends, how much of it is fiction and how much is autobiographical?
TK: For the record, I'd like to say that I'm NOT a big admirer of Bukowski, I had cited him on the last record because I had started reading him early on in my formative teenage years and to this day I recognize how it has affected me. But hell, he's alright, and I do like Fante quite a bit. And however much is fiction and how much is isn't? I'm learning to answer that question less and less as it doesn't do me much good; if it is auto-biographical, I'm a drunk dick, and if it's not, then it isn't authentic!! Lose lose.
Indie Schmarm: Do you ever worry that people might take your lyrics literal and assume you live your life in a similar way to how Bukowski lived his?
TK: I've grown up enough to recognize that there isn't much romanticism into drinking rotgut wine in some hot, roach-riddled one room apartment writing drunken poetry. But I know there are plenty of young men out there that would disagree. I know people have these assumptions about me, but it's truly inaccurate - it's like the question, "So, are you sad all the time?" These are just things I happen to be writing about at this time of my life. And alcohol has a tendency to muck up a lot our stickier situations, or cause them, for that matter.
Indie Schmarm: You recorded this album with A.J. Mogis, and recorded it on tape. Do you usually work with analog when recording or was there something special about this collection of songs that you thought using tape would particularly enhance?
TK: I've always recorded to tape, but have been getting away from it more and more as technology shifted to digital recording. The last few albums I've done only had drums, bass and a little bit of guitar recorded to tape. This record is meant to be sparse, to represent us as a four piece, so to help drive that point home we made the decision to stick to the 24 tracks on tape.
Indie Schmarm: Musically, what were some influences that you think come through on this new album?
TK: Oh, Neil Young has been a little problematic for me lately as far as influences go. Much of the recording process I mentioned above is a result of my falling in love with "After the Gold Rush".
Indie Schmarm: You've recently re-located from your long time home of Omaha to Los Angeles, what were your reasons for the move and will it affect your duties with Cursive and The Good Life?
TK: I've always wanted to move in the very general sense, something my parents instilled in me at a young age, to go away for college, to be adventurous. I was planning on moving to New York, but got cold feet and moved to LA at the last minute. I'm glad, because New York is somewhere I can imagine myself living, but if I didn't move to LA now, I would have never lived here. Maybe I'm just telling myself that. But I like it here, for the most part, it gets so boring to bag on LA - it's really a beautiful part of the country. Practicing is more difficult now, but manageable (we hope). I'm flying into Omaha for a week of practices later this week, for example, and I guess that's how we're going to work it out.
Indie Schmarm: Are there certain things about LA that you are enjoying that Omaha couldn't offer?
TK: Sure, small run films, even the smallest run films. A lot of culture that we say we'll do, but rarely go through with. The ocean, mountains, better weather, my brother has a plane so we've been flying around the coast!!
Indie Schmarm: The once closely knit Saddle Creek/Omaha family doesn't seem to be that way anymore. With two of it's largest figures moving out of town (Oberst to NYC a few years ago and you to LA recently) and outside acts like Two Gallants (San Francisco) and Tokyo Police Club (Ontario, Canada) being added to the roster. Do you feel like the label has lost a lot of it's DIY and home grown aspects?
TK: Hmm… no, I think it's just a label doing it's best to stay strong as it moves into a new generation of bands. I don't think Saddle Creek should try to re-create the 'way it was', but instead continue to grow organically, which is what it's done from the start.
Indie Schmarm: You've consistently said that neither The Good Life or Cursive are side projects. Yet in the past you've expressed uncertainty about the future of both. Do you anticipate either one of them at any point to become your one and only project?
TK: EH, this is another question I'm learning is better not to answer, I'm always walking away from either band, just to come back and do another record a year later.
Indie Schmarm: Do you know what you'd like to work on next after touring behind this Good Life album?
TK: Sure, I'm writing a Cursive record at the moment.
Indie Schmarm: Cursive and The Good Life seem to lie at the opposite ends of the spectrum, both musically and lyrically. While Cursive's latest album Happy Hollow explored socio-political topics and The Good Life continues to focus on the personal, is this why you have the two projects? To satisfy both muses?
TK: I don't really know why I still do both of them, actually. I'd like to think I could combine all those aspects under one moniker. I know why I had two bands initially, it was because I felt these different styles wouldn't gel on the same record. But why not? I guess, at the time, it was an issue of taste.
Indie Schmarm: Thanks Tim!
TK: Thanks!!
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