Reviews

Novena on a Nocturn

Author: Jeff
11/10/2000 | Delusions of Adequecy | www.adequacy.net | Feature
Tim Kasher has been busy. Earlier this year, his band Cursive released their much-anticipated new album, Domestica, following a break-up and regrouping. And this fall, Kasher released his first solo project, recorded under the moniker The Good Life. Two albums in one year isn't easy, but for a singer and songwriter who puts everything he has into his music, it's a great thing.

Kasher has always written intense, pointedly personal lyrics, and The Good Life's songs are no different. He has been writing these songs for several years, and now that the album is out, the outlook for The Good Life as a band of its own, rather than a Cursive side project, is bright. I spoke with Tim on the phone after he got back from The Good Life's first tour, and he told me about the new album, Cursive's latest album, and how it all fits together in his life.

Delusions of Adequacy: So tell me about The Good Life. Why did you decide to do this side-project?

Tim Kasher: These are songs that I've been writing since I started playing guitar. I've always worked in full-band settings, with Cursive or bands before that. Most of the time, these are songs that I've been playing on a local level, like I'll play in coffee houses and stuff like that. Since I was already doing a band, I didn't want to saturate the one city you play in, you know? So I'd play friend's houses, coffee houses, and people would record the shows and listen to tapes, but it never seemed important to me at the time to pursue it any further than that. It was always in my mind to eventually do it, assuming I was fortunate enough to do it on a national level.

DOA: There definitely seems to be a difference between the music on The Good Life's album and Cursive…

Tim: Yeah, I think it's the whole stereotype, like now that I'm getting older, I'm starting to play more low-key music. But I've been playing this style of songs since I was 14. Some of these songs are two years old, and some I wrote just to finish this album. They range from 1994 to the last few years.

DOA: Which do you enjoy more right now? The more low-key, melodic stuff of The Good Life or the all-out rocking songs of Cursive?

Tim: I guess I tend to like whatever project I'm working with at the moment. I definitely burn out a little on both of them. Right now, The Good Life is really exciting. The album just came out, and we're about to do our second tour. Cursive is in the process of writing new songs for an EP, so I guess I'm spending more mental effort on cursive.

DOA: Ah, a new EP? Tell me about that.

Tim: Yeah, we're hoping to release it around May or so. We're considering making a few changes as far as music style goes, so we might postpone the release. I don't know yet.

DOA: I heard a lot about Cursive's style going to change when the band got back together after breaking up, yet Domestica was really a development on the Storms of Early Summer style. Are you changing the style a bit now?

Tim: Yeah, I think the new Cursive album is definitely more intense than we had thought it would be. We are definitely trying to go into some different areas, but I felt uncomfortable put out the album posthumously after breaking up. And then getting back together a year later, I was having a lot of difficulty with people thinking 'why get back together, if you sound completely different? Why are you still called Cursive?' I guess I felt it was necessary to have some kind of continuation of what Storms was.

DOA: So what has the response been to this new project, for Novena on a Nocturn?

Tim: Well, it's still fresh enough that I, I'm kind of a pessimist, so I think will be probably be negative response, but I haven't gotten any of that yet. I think I will. But the response so far has been really optimistic. I'm worried if people are willing to accept this, their hard-rock songwriter doing soft rock music, and I really wanted that to be ok. That was the reason I haven't done this three years ago, I was so worried about it. I mean, I don't think I would feel comfortable if Quicksand did a side project like that. But then I want to be conceived as a songwriter who can't be pigeonholed.

DOA: Do you feel like you guys get pigeonholed? Like into that whole emo thing?

Tim: Sometimes. I guess I'm trying to establish myself. A lot of indie rock falls into pigeonholes, like it's just one specific style. I would love it if I could feel like a part of breaking open some of those ideas, loosening some of those genre-specific problems that the scene has. Like, I run into plenty of hardcore kids that love Ida. That's not that weird now, but there's still lot further we can go. It's frustrating. Music is music, you know?

DOA: Absolutely. Ok, I want to ask you about the theme to both of these albums. The latest album from Cursive had a kind of deeper, sorta heavy fee, and The Good Life has a very personal feel. What is that about?

Tim: Well...Well, what do you mean?

DOA: Well, a lot of people said Domestica was your break-up album. You got divorced, right?

Tim: Well, the break-up definitely is in there. People kind of tend to write about what's going on in their lives. That's something Ted (Stevens, of Cursive and Lullaby for the Working Class) and I spoke a lot about, where we wanted to go with the lyrics for that album, what we wanted to do with these characters. Initially, the album was supposed to be fictionalized. It's first and foremost about the small day-to-day problems with domestic life. I mean, these are experiences most of us have gone through. Inevitably, real life things come in and out.

With Novena, there was a difference. Domestica still has a foundation of these fictionalized characters that we wanted to develop, and a lot things occurred there that I can't relate to on a specific sense. They were accounts from my own life and other people around me that I would watch. Novena on a Nocturn is more of a non-fictional base.

DOA: So The Good Life is your more personal writing?

Tim: Yeah. Well, Storms of Early Summer had a lot of personal aspects that were not fiction. It feels funny to call Domestica fiction.

The Good Life is definitely more personal. Like when I think about those songs, they're very specific. I can pinpoint what was going on when I wrote them.

DOA: Do you plan on doing more recording as The Good Life?

Tim: Yeah, as long as I can keep up with both bands, and at this point, I don't see any reason why I can't. That's the other reason why I decided to push to get this release out this fall. I thought it was the first available window I had where Cursive was not releasing something. I finally felt like I had some free time. By the time we get through this first album, that's how it comes off, as a solo side project. But by time we get our next release out, I think people will see as much more of a unit. We'll come off as much more than just a Cursive side project.

DOA: So The Good Life is now a band, not just you?

Tim: Yeah. I did about everything on the album, but then I got these great people together for touring. There's Roger Lewis, he's the drummer, Mike Heim on keyboard, Landon Hedges on guitar, and Jiha Lee - she'll be our new pianist. Mike has started playing accordion too.

DOA: Well, you guys perform great live. I saw you recently open for The Gloria Record. How was that tour? And they recorded that song for you too, they said, "I Was Born in Omaha?"

Tim: Yeah. (laughs). I could never ask for a better first tour. We really had a great time with them.

And with that song, (Gloria Record singer) Chris Simpson was born in Omaha, too. I think that's their best one, really a great one. On tour they played four new songs, and they're all just off the hook.

DOA: You guys are still in Omaha, right? It seems like we've been hearing a lot about Omaha lately. What's the scene like there?

Tim: Yep. Well, The Faint is the other premier Omaha band right now. They're our best live band that we have, probably the best band we have. Ted with us now is in Lullaby for the Working Class. He's really a songwriter, he just keeps writing. There's this guy, Joe Knapp, who's in a band called Son, Ambulance. That's the next real anticipated release.

DOA: What's his stuff like? I've heard Saddle Creek mention him.

Tim: Yeah, he's another singer/songwriter, like Connor (Oberst of Bright Eyes), Ted, and myself. He's going to get a ton of exposure in the spring. He's doing a split EP with Bright Eyes. There's four Bright Eyes songs and four Son, Ambulance songs. And it's not just one and then the other, but they go back and forth. It's just unbelievable. And the Son, Ambulance songs are just as good as the Bright Eyes songs. That one's going to be on Saddle Creek too, probably out in February.

DOA: Excellent, I'll be looking forward to that. So are you guys still on tour? What are your plans now?

Tim: Next we'll be doing an East Coast tour in December, but it's still up in the air who we'll be supporting. We'll be back out west again in February. It only make sense to go back and forth between the West Coast and the East Coast. Living in Nebraska makes that really convenient.

Cursive only goes out on tour for like two, two-and-a-half weeks at one time. That's a great way for Matt (Maginn, bass) to stay in Omaha long enough to keep his job. He's got a really good job that he really likes, and they do appreciate it if his touring doesn't exceed three weeks. They're really good about it.

And we just played The Good Life's CD release show last night. We already have two new songs. We just keep pushing forward.

DOA: Well, I really look forward to seeing you guys again. Thanks for doing the interview, Tim.

Tim: Thank you! Take it easy.


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