Tim Kasher | Speaking about Adult Film

Tim-Kasher 75I have songs that I’m working on, and they’re just going through my head almost all the time; you’re almost always hearing your own music.


Tim-Kasher 500

For years, Tim Kasher has been perfecting his craft of meticulous songwriting. His music, no matter which form it’s presented in — be it solo or as a member of Cursive or The Good Life, is always totally exposed and brutally honest. This kind of honesty makes interviewing Kasher a lot of fun, and I got just that when I got the chance to speak with Kasher about his newest solo offering, Adult Film, his relocation to Chicago, and St. Vincent.

How do you make the decision on which musicians you’ll use on your solo projects is it song by song, project based (solo vs. Cursive), or something else altogether?

Well, I have a touring band that I’ve worked with for a couple of years now, so I made a conscious effort to include them on some of it [the album] because it’s just kind of nice to go out with those songs because the musicians have a closer tie to some of the songs and parts that they’ve worked on. But, because this is under my own name, I can kind of exercise some freedom of working with whoever might come to mind. Playing with Nate Kinsella was something that I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, so that was great to work on about half the record with him. Really, the rest of the musicians and crew are just rounded out by musicians I’ve come to know throughout the years. I have a flute player that toured with us a couple years ago who did some things on the album; you know, just getting to know a lot of musicians.

You’ve mentioned before that working solo is lonelier than working on other projects like Cursive and The Good Life. Do you ever feel that loneliness creep into your music?

I haven’t really thought of that before … I guess that could certainly be the case. These songs sit with just me for so long, and I don’t really share them at all, not even with close friends or anything. People who kind of help manage things with me don’t even hear the songs until after they’ve been mixed because I don’t have a lot of reason to share them. I don’t know — questions like this I usually tend to not have an answer on them. Different external factors, like location and whatnot, will find a way to affect the music or come out in some way. I think you’re right about this being kind of a singular effort — it shows, but I’m not really sure how.

How long did it take for you to decide on the final title for the album, Adult Film? Were there any other titles kicked around?

There were some that were kicked around, but I guess, right now, I don’t feel the need to mention what they were since they didn’t make the cut! [laughs] They didn’t make it for a reason, so I won’t share! Once I hit on the title Adult Film, it just became clear to me that I generally look for a title that feels like an umbrella for the rest of the album to fit under. I feel that it covers each song on the album in one way or another; maybe some songs are more broad in that meaning than others, but for the most part, I’m continuing this exercise of writing similar content but with the variable of, this time, feeling quite a bit older. I also thought it was, you know, working in a tongue and cheek kind of way, too. That term, “adult film”, has come to mean only one thing in our society, and it was kind of fun to play with those words and deconstruct it.

Were there any songs that didn’t make the cut from Adult Film that might see new life as a future Cursive song?

Well, yeah, there’s a lot. There are a lot, but I don’t think I’ll be doing a b-side to this album. I could be wrong, but I don’t see doing a traditional b-side thing, which is a shame because there’s a lot of stuff, but I kind of keep it all documented. Yes. I do keep those all filed and it’d be shame to not use. I have a lot of stuff that I feel it’d be a shame to just not use or ignore. I don’t know, just thinking about it, there’s a lot. It’s not that they were necessarily bad; it’s just that they didn’t get enough attention or the time needed to be great.

Do you feel that the change of scenery that you have now that you’re in Chicago has changed how you approach your songwriting or your writing process at all?

No, not really. As far as everything, again, externally from album to album – the outside world will always factor into your writing, but really it’s just a different set of four walls.

What prompted the move and why Chicago as opposed to anywhere else?

I get that question a lot just from friends and family, and I don’t have a really good answer. It’s only eight hours away from Omaha, and I work out of there a lot for music, so that’s really handy to me. I also have some close family in Chicago. My sister, who just had a daughter, lives a mile away from me now, and I have a lot of cousins that live here, too. I also have grown to really respect Chicago over the years; I used to kind of look down on Chicago as being an overgrown, bloated Midwest city, and I don’t feel that way at all anymore. I think it’s kind of great, and I’m excited about where I live right now. It’s the Midwest’s great metropolis, and I think that’s neat because I’m from the Midwest. There’s a strange kind of kinship from arm’s length distance; I think it’s really great.

I think it’s great that you and many of the Omaha musicians still love and respect the Midwest, and it feels like it’s never left any of you. It doesn’t matter your age that love for the Midwest is still there.

Yeah, and I don’t think it ever will. There’s a certain kind of mindset that the Midwest has, and I really love it.

You mentioned earlier this year that you feel like you haven’t gotten any better at guitar despite playing it for half of your life. Do you still feel this way now, months later and even after recording Adult Film?

Yeah! I think that’s just the way it is for me. I suppose I could really bust my ass at some specific aspect of guitar playing, like rigorous classical music regimen, and I’m sure I’d improve, but I don’t want to do that anymore. I know my chords; I’m good at finger-picking and strumming, you know, and I just don’t know. I mean, I bet I’ll be better with time, but I’ll just have to wait until I’m 60 to see how I feel about it then.

Do you typically listen to music while you write or record?

It’s really a shame, because I kind of can’t listen while I’m writing. When I write, it’s really void of other music because all those little moments where I’d usually be enjoying music, which would be coffee in the morning, going for a walk, going on a drive, or having it on while I’m doing something else, but when I’m writing music I can’t. I have songs that I’m working on, and they’re just going through my head almost all the time; you’re almost always hearing your own music. When I’m recording, though, I listen to quite a bit of stuff, and I think that can be really helpful because you’re kind of keeping tabs on stuff and whatever those artists are doing that you like. I don’t think it’s too healthy to take things on in the writing process, though, but when recording, I think it’s healthy to keep an ear out on all the techniques of other people’s stuff that you like.

Do you recall what you were specifically listening to during the Adult Film recording?

Yeah, I think a really specific one is St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, and it’s very specifically because I was really blown away by that production and lucky enough to hire the same producer. John Congleton works on all of Annie’s stuff. He was mixing the Adult Film record, and I was able to pick his brain about how he did different things on Strange Mercy — it was a great experience. It was awesome. I got to hear firsthand some of their techniques and then he knew exactly what I was interested in; there was an immediate direct reference. It’s such a good record.

Wow, that’s amazing. Strange Mercy has been one of my favorite albums in the past five years. Were there any specific parts within that record that you were able to pinpoint with John that you wanted to incorporate into Adult Film?

Well, mostly I think that Strange Mercy does a great job of having a great lead melody and that, generally, for Annie is based off of her guitar work, but then in production really evolving that into some multi-toned thing so that you’re not sure exactly what you’re listening to. It always sounds new and exciting, and that’s something I’ve really been chasing after for years, with other albums, too, and John helped with that. It was a continued approach to wanting to do that, but, again, with a slightly tweaked approach because it was kind of something I was doing. It comes down to just layering different sounds and that’s on this record as well. That production came in handy.

Do you have a favorite track on Strange Mercy?

Oh man, offhand it’s hard to pick just one. I think it’d probably be “Champagne Year,” though. I like that one a lot. Throughout the whole album, the production is really just amazing.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Tim! We’re very excited to see you on Thursday.

No worries, thank you. I’m happy to come back to St. Louis. | Jenn Metzler

Tim Kasher plays The Firebird this Thursday, Nov. 14, at 8:30 p.m. with Laura Stevenson and The Glass Cavalry. Tickets are still available and are $12 general admission.

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