Web Exclusive: A conversation with Cursive’s Tim Kasher
The title Mama, I'm Swollen might conjure up images of mid-century blues pioneers lamenting to their audiences, but that seems a fitting picture in the context of CURSIVE frontman TIM KASHER's career. BRIAN SHULTZ recently spoke with Kasher about some of the themes on the band's highly anticipated new album (released this week on Saddle Creek), his theatrical screenplays and what he thinks about all his fans who hope his heart gets broken (again).
Where does the album’s title come from?
It was difficult to come up with a title because we're kind of at that point where we're more broad in theme for this record than [in the past]. We came up with the word "swollen" that serves as this umbrella term that we thought could, in one way or another, describe the themes of the songs. I think we all joked that titling the album Swollen sounds like a ’90s rock band. [Laughs.] We dabbled, working in different things and came up with Mama, I'm Swollen, as [something] that places it somewhere. It’s to be provocative for one, and kind of places the character of the album in this character of Mama.
You’ve characterized this album as “folk-metal.” On a scale of purely sardonic to completely straight-faced, how serious were you?
Um... [Laughs.] I can't say. I can't admit to straight-faced, but it's also not sardonic. It is kind of something that we came up with while we were making [2006’s] Happy Hollow. The part that we really can't stake a claim on is the metal part, I guess. [Laughs.] I can't [name any] right now but I think there are bands that truly deserve that title, and I know that we're not one. So maybe [that level of seriousness] was somewhere in the middle. [Laughs.]
The themes on Happy Hollow were mainly about religious dogma. What are some of the themes on Mama, I’m Swollen?
We see it mostly as kind of a journey and interest in abandoning social--the vital structure. But then it's also kind of recognizing that it's near impossible to do that. But I don't know. That's just a conflict of Swollen. There are different themes. Songs [like] "Mama, I'm Satan" and "We're Going To Hell" seem to deal with ego, and "From The Hips" deals with sexuality.
Is “I Couldn’t Love You” meant to have a double entendre?
Yeah. [Laughs.] I think. It was [originally] called "I Couldn't Love You Anymore" instead of "I Couldn't Love You." It was actually [producer] A.J. Mogis who was the first to expose--writing it down, he asked if “anymore” was spelled with one word or two, and that was the first time that I realized I was going to have to pick one. So instead, I just decided to take it off the title. Then, in the lyrics, I kind of write it both ways.
So is that song meant to address two different people?
No, I don't really think of it that way. I think that I mostly planned it to be vague. I also kind of think that it's the way we do love people. We kind of really hate who we love as well.
Whose idea was it to sell the album pre-orders digitally on a sliding scale?
I think someone at Saddle Creek came up with it, and it's been interesting [to] give it a shot. We don't really know if it's a good idea or a bad idea. But for us as a band, we agreed to it because we like to get the interest of as many people to pick it up and listen to it as soon as possible to try and let those people gauge whether they like it or not.
Are any of the screenplays you’ve written being developed?
The main one, Help Wanted Nights, was too goddamn close to having it done in production last fall. And it fell through with the company I was working with. So now, I’m kind of starting a relationship with a different company, and we're going to try and coordinate a [shooting] date for late summer or fall.
So will that be shot as a small, independent low-budget release?
Yeah, absolutely. We're trying to scale back just about everything we can. Just about every facility or faculty, we can to try to have it done as [cheap] as possible.
And it's based directly on your other band, the Good Life?
I don't really know. They really are pretty separate ideas, but I did write those songs with the intention to use them. It's getting to be a few years now or whatever, but we'll try to stay true to that with the soundtrack.
Between “Driftwood: A Fairytale” from 2003’s The Ugly Organ and now “Donkeys,” I’m guessing the tale of Pinocchio is far and away your favorite story.
[Laughs.] Yeah. But it's something that I didn't realize. I mean, it didn't take me long to realize that I was dipping into Pinocchio again. It was probably an afternoon, it was the week that I wrote the lyrics and something occurred to me, [like], "Oh, you already did a different version of this...in 'Driftwood.’" I guess I do really love the morality--the moral storytelling and the finger-wagging in Pinocchio. I think it's very funny.
You appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman this week. How is it the band hadn’t played a late night show before that?
I don't know. [Laughs.] I know that we've made this mistake in the past, where we've had scheduling conflicts--I don't know if that's a "mistake"--but we had scheduling conflicts, and I guess I call them a mistake only because we kinda hit ourselves after the fact when we tried to reschedule things and the promotional period kind of came and went and we weren't asked back so... [Laughs.]
How discomforting is it to know that a lot of your fans are hoping your romantic life falls apart so they get another Domestica or the Good Life's Album Of The Year?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I see it as a challenge for me to have to persevere in whatever my personal life entails. I think I'm trying to become a strong enough writer that I don't need to lean so heavily on such tragedy.
That seems like the most vicious backhanded compliment possible.
[Laughs.] Yeah. It doesn't really bother me too much. It definitely bothers my girlfriend a lot. alt