Tim Kasher's "career in masturbation"
Cursive's singer-songwriter is into his band ... for now
If Cursive has one defining attribute, it’s ambivalence. The long-running, Omaha-born band has had a mercurial history, breaking up at least once in the late ’90s and taking a series of hiatuses after each album, beginning with 2003’s The Ugly Organ. Frontman Tim Kasher has seemed only intermittently sold on the whole enterprise, frequently retreating to his side project, The Good Life, or other creative pursuits, like filmmaking. The apprehensiveness continues as Cursive turns 14 and releases its solid sixth album, Mama, I’m Swollen. The album is Kasher’s most ruthless examination yet (which is saying something) of the Peter Pan syndrome inherent to life as a full-time musician—“a career in masturbation,” he sings in “Mama, I’m Satan.” In advance Thursday’s show with P.O.S. at Turner Hall, Kasher recently to Decider about getting over his bouts of maturity and how making a film isn’t the same as being in a band. (A longer version of this interview originally ran in The A.V. Club.)
Decider: You talk about Peter Pan syndrome on this album, the feeling of perpetual adolescence. Is that something you’ve thought about a lot?
Tim Kasher: Yeah. I had to get over a hump. I don’t know when it was, like five years ago, feeling like just doing rock ’n’ roll—and that’s really what Peter Pan-ism is—is obnoxious. It’s totally obnoxious. What I do is obnoxious, and I recognize that. I consider myself an obnoxious person. And I think that’s good. I think what I’m explaining is that I came to terms with that. I’m 34 now—I think when I was 30, I had a bout of maturity.
D: What did that entail?
TK: I started really railing against this obnoxious, loud music and thought that I really shouldn’t be doing it anymore. But I tell ya, it’s a hump, because it’s something I got over. I think I’m just so privileged to be getting to do it, and just really lucky that I get to hold onto as much youth for as long as I can, ’cause I think in my mid-30s, I’m already hitting these creepy midlife-crisis feelings. Also, this comes into play a lot: I’m the youngest of six kids, and when you’re that, you never really become an adult, and I’m so happy about that. At this age, I think, “Even if I end up becoming a dad or something down the road, I don’t think I’m ever going to be an adult. I’ll just be a kid raising a kid.”
D: So how did you get over that hump? Just by realizing you were lucky to be doing this?
TK: Yeah, I think so. I recognize that publicly or in writing, people in your field of journalism are calling us out on why we go on hiatus after every record, which is completely fair because it really is ridiculous, but where that comes into play is, maybe the hump isn’t over. Maybe you caught me at a really positive moment where the record’s out today, and I’m really excited about it. But at the end of this touring cycle, maybe I’ll be like, “God, I can’t believe I’m such an obnoxious person, screaming on stage every night, demanding the people’s attention.” So it’s probably something I’ll always grapple with, but at least for this interview, I’m sticking with the fact that I shouldn’t take it for granted. There are other benefits it allows me. I take my lyrics really seriously. I get to impart my thoughts to people, and I have a group of people, a collective of people, who pay attention to that. It’s great to have that outlet.
D: So it’s not necessarily just a career in masturbation, as the record says?
TK: It definitely is. I’ll stand by that. It’s definitely a career in self-indulgence.
D: How did writing work this time, with you living in L.A., and the other guys in Nebraska and Missouri?
TK: This is the first time doing it this way, and it seemed to work, so we would probably do it again. Instead of getting together three to four times a week, [where] I would have to be sure to have at least two songs prepared each week to show, now we just have to be condensed. So when we would meet up, I would have at least seven songs prepared, and I would do my best to send acoustic demos out to everybody beforehand, and I’d write out all the chords. It was kind of like a class. [Laughs.] Which was kind of a weird difference for us, but it felt similar. The only thing that wasn’t the same was getting together and being able to hammer things out over and over again. The songs felt much more lively when we recorded them than in the past, where we would really beat songs down when we get into the studio.
D: Does working that way make you appreciate the time when you’re together more than when you used to, or at least not take it for granted?
TK: Yeah, I really didn’t think about that until you just said it. Absolutely, in the simplest way, it was a lot of fun and was something to look forward to. You are not living in the same town anymore, so when you get to meet up with your friends—again, that is just a very simple pleasure. When you all live in the same town, going to practice three or four times a week wasn’t always what you felt like doing hungover. [Laughs.]
D: What’s the status of your film, Help Wanted Nights?
TK: I was really hoping that I was going to come out and do these interviews and tell everyone what the shooting date was and who was in it. [Laughs.] But the production company I was working with, when the big recession scare came, I was immediately wiped off. [Laughs.]
D: You’re having the full Hollywood experience of coming so close and then having everything pulled out from under you.
TK: It’s very frustrating. I keep wanting to backpedal and just get into short-story writing or something—just something where all I have to do is find someone with a press and just put it out by myself. For a whole career so far, we got to do everything ourselves and have been able to—and to go into a field where you have to be so dependent on so much money and so many other people, it’s just driving me insane.
D: Have you started working on other scripts?
TK: Yeah. I mean, in the process of trying to get that one made, I wrote what I daydream would be the next movie. Although I think making the second movie is going to be even harder than making the first. Like some people think, “What if your first movie does really poorly?” It’s going to be really hard to secure financing if your résumé is like “I made this incredibly shitty movie.” [Laughs.] But yeah, I did write one in the meantime, and I’m starting yet another one, and yes, it is totally frustrating after years of writing things to try and get them to release them. It’s sobering writing things and having them collect dust on the desk, you know? That’s all right, though—it’s all practice.