Sled Island preview: Cursive
By Jesse Graham
I was first introduced to Cursive when I was a fresh faced fifteen-years-old. Having been recently broken up with by, at the time, the love of my life, I laid in bed listening to a mix CD that she made for me entitled: “Sorry Jesse.” It was the usual hormonal break up mix, a bit of Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan, Smashing Pumpkins, and by the tenth song in I was more bored than depressed. But then, Cursive’s The Martyr punched through and interrupted the shitty melancholy mix tape. The eerie screeching guitar tugged at my heartstrings and Tim Kasher’s whiskey soaked screams awoke the emotions stirring within me. I was hooked.
Cursive has been a predominate influence in my personal soundtrack. Their songs have helped me through heartbreak, personal discoveries of what it means to be an “artist,” and helped me confront my own “Peter Pan Syndrome.” Every Cursive record sheds light on areas of our lives that we attempt to hide. While Domestica explores Kasher’s divorce, and The Ugly Organ explores nights of empty bottles and even emptier sex, their new album Mama, I’m Swollen explores a more mature dilemma: the melodrama that comes with hitting thirty in a society that claims you should have your shit figured out by then.
“I mean most people that aren’t robots have been in the same positions (laughing). Although, maybe I’m wrong, there are sociopaths,” jokes Matt Maginn, bassist of Cursive, when asked about the personal emotions underlying each song. “But really, I feel that music can help remind you of those feelings, as long as you’ve dealt with them properly, it can be almost liberating and give you a healthy perspective on them.”
Originally forming in 1995, after the break up of Slowdown Virginia, Cursive release their debut record, Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes, in 1997. While the album received mixed reviews from critics, it captivated audiences with the raw emotions that drenched the lyrics and the powerhouse of musicians backing-up Tim Kasher’s gut-wrenching vocals. With six records under their belt and countless EPs no one in the band would imagine themselves here sixteen years later. “In 1995 we really set incremental goals for ourselves,” states Maginn. “We never really strived to be rich. I think we just feel lucky not to be broke.”
Over the years Cursive has explored their concept of music. With the introduction of the cello in their fourth album, The Ugly Organ, and brass horns in Happy Hollow, every record has a distinct sound from the last. “It’s tricky with public awareness, people come to expect every record to sound different. However, we’re not trying to ‘redefine’ our sound, more like ‘redefine’ each record,” says Maginn.
In 2000 Tim Kasher started a solo project called The Good Life. This quickly established itself as its own group and provided Kasher an outlet to perform songs that he felt didn’t fall stylistically into Cursives guidelines. He has since released four albums under this title as well as his own solo album The Game of Monogamy. With both The Good Life and his solo project acting as outlets, Kasher has been able to focus on both his personal and professional life, while still writing kick-ass songs. However, as anyone knows, sometimes it’s hard to keep those two lives separate.
“Yeah, [Tim] always had really two sides that he kept quite separate,” Maginn claims in regard to Kasher’s multiple projects. “They really mixed together in Mama I’m Swollen, it wasn’t by any means a Good Life record though. I think it was a counter reaction we feel to challenge ourselves with our music. He had a great outlet with his solo record and now we get to challenge ourselves more.”
After 16 years in the industry, the members of Cursive have grown both as musicians and individuals. Fans have watched as they’ve changed both their content and musical style, explored their darkest emotions, and, most importantly, matured as musicians.
“I think one of the main things I’ve learnt is how to play (laughing)… I mean back when we started we would just play it by ear. Yet by introducing professional musicians we’ve kind of lost that quirk and edge and went to something more composed. But we realize that and are trying to start playing by feel rather than math,” says Maginn.
With Mama, I’m Swollen finished and touring winding down Cursive is able to focus more time on their next record. Fans are already chomping at the bit in anticipation.
“I think we’re looking to go into something a little more angular and aggressive,” says Maginn when asked about the possibilities of a new record. “Not aggressive in that shitty new metal way, more like Matt Good when he was still in Georgia. It’s pretty intense but not drenched in emotions. I’m kind of grabbing at straws to try and explain it in case that’s not obvious.”
Well, either way, be sure to check out Cursive at Sled Island. Make sure to buy the guys a couple of drinks or, ideally, me because I’ll for sure be there.