Cursive’s Tim Kasher | Letting Songs Breathe

prof cursive_75I hear most of the differences there, in the drumming. I hear simplicity.


There isn’t much left to be discovered about a musician who has had a successful 15-year career, yet Tim Kasher remains a kind of enigma. Cursive’s latest album I Am Gemini is the band’s ninth album since their 1997 debut, Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes. The lead singer, songwriter, and overall mouthpiece of the band spoke in detail to PLAYBACK:stl about his writing process, the differences between albums, and the band’s current lineup.

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You’ve said in the past that you tend not to write lyrics until you know that a song will be used or recorded; what is the process behind that, and what determines whether or not a song makes it on to an album?

It’s definitely flawed, but my process includes considering what to make a B-side and things like that. In terms of dropping songs, it’s kind of dangerous because you put a decent amount of work in to these songs. I decide fairly early on if a song is just not going to work and it’s really unfair. I mean, I’ve learned, as I’m sure many other serious songwriters have learned, that it’s all pretty flawed. It’s interesting, too, because sometimes songs make it on to the album that I think are boring or think, “Oh, this kinda blows,” but I’ll throw it on to complete the album and some of them end up being some of the biggest songs on the albums. That process doesn’t make it right, like throwing on a song to finish it, but I write so much that, as a result, I have the privilege of dropping some songs to focus on others.

To answer it more simply: There’s not one correct or regular formula; it’s just that I might prefer this composition or these certain notes to others.

Do fans often come to you at shows to tell you that one of your less-favored songs is their favorite?

I should say no and that it doesn’t happen very often. I would like to officially say that I don’t really put “throwaway songs” on albums [laughs], but I do. There are certainly songs on every album that we feel are going to be the strong songs, the ones to really lead it, and other ones that just kind of fall to the wayside. The song that continues to surprise us that we continue to play is “Driftwood” off of Ugly Organ. That was a song that was on the “B-team” so to speak, and we were just ready to not put it on. It’s fun that that specific song kind of humbles our own opinions; our opinions are unsafe, I guess, because we were pretty off about that song.

What dictates whether a song is used for Cursive or your solo efforts?

Well, there isn’t any one thing. I just write albums by album and project now. So, when I sit down, I kind of have an album in mind that I’m working toward. I guess it comes to mind that “Sure, I can work on a solo album,” or I can get the guitar and work on something particularly Cursive-sounding and I’ll probably just work on that. So, it’s not like I just tuck it away for a later day.

After working on one project or another, do you ever have to step back and change your thought process or writing process, though?

Yeah. To put it simply, I just approach writing Cursive songs by looking for interesting guitar parts and stuff like that. On top of that, I try to apply good melodies. When I worked on Good Life stuff, I usually let someone else take the lead, and I wouldn’t pay as close of attention to musicality because I’d kind of hand it off to someone else.

What is it like having a band that doesn’t practice weekly or might not even see each other on a daily basis compared to how it had been in the past, where you practiced together a few times a week?

Eh, I don’t know. I actually think it’s very normal, but I think that’s just kind of because of where I am in life right now. I’m in Chicago now and there aren’t really a lot of reasons to practice a few times a week. I think that, because of living in Omaha, in the past, that’s just the way we did it: rehearsing a lot. Now it’s just a different approach. But instead of practicing multiple times a week, I’m writing songs. I’m writing more often, and when we get together, we just really practice hard but for a shorter amount of time—with less frequency, because we’re all over the map now—and it’s great.

When I spoke to Ted [Stevens, guitarist] a few months back, I asked what differences he noticed going in to record I Am Gemini compared to albums past. He’d said that the changes were very intentional. He also added that your producer, Matt Bayles, was highly skilled in creating a record of this “rock” or “concept album” magnitude. What were those intentional changes?

You know, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that the drumming is different. I hear most of the differences there, in the drumming. I hear simplicity. Not that it’s bad or that I’m saying anything less of our drumming on past albums, but I can think back to each album’s writing process and each drummer brought something different to the writing sessions. Working with Cornbread and his sensibilities and interests and knowing how he wanted to do the music was different than anyone else. He and I came together with a lot of different ideas for the band. We went in to it with the intention to change things up a little, wanted to do something different with the catalog. It ended up being a lot more groove oriented.

With Cully, we had an interest in constructing each and every section of the music, section by section, and rebuilding it so that it was fresh and different. I like the approach of all of our albums, and wouldn’t say that I have a preference and I really let songs breathe more, but Gemini is the on the other end of the spectrum.

Our other major difference was our producer. This was the first time that we ever got notes prior to going in to recording. Bayles helped up tighten up compositions, which was really helpful. Mostly, I’d say that the biggest differences with Happy Hollow and previous recordings were done in Omaha and with Clint [Schnase, past-drummer], and we practiced weekly, but everything changed after that.

I asked Ted, so I have to ask you: Do you have any favorite memories of playing in St. Louis?

Well, we’ve played a handful of venues in St. Louis, but the old venues like Creepy Crawl and Mississippi Night were always nice. Those shows were totally fun, and Creepy Crawl was a fun little place. Now one of our favorite places to play is Off Broadway—St. Louis has something really special in that venue. It’s a great spot for the city, and it’s always cool to have Off Broadway to stop in and play shows. | Jenn Metzler

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