Cursive's Tim Kasher on Two Decades of Domestica

Cursive: older, wiser, lost in the woods
Cursive: older, wiser, lost in the woods Courtesy of the artist
click to enlarge Cursive: older, wiser, lost in the woods - COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Cursive: older, wiser, lost in the woods
Courtesy of the artist
James Brown may have been the hardest-working man in show business, but Tim Kasher certainly deserves some consideration for that honor in the emo/post-hardcore business. As the frontman for Cursive and The Good Life, Kasher has released a steady stream of albums over the last 20 years.

Initially formed in Omaha in 1995, Cursive put themselves on the underground's map with 2000's Domestica. A concept record about a disintegrating marriage, it established the hallmarks of Cursive's style: Kasher's strained yet impassioned vocals, excoriating lyrics, and their frenzied bursts of razor-sharp guitar work.

Cursive have been particularly busy these last two years with the release of two albums nearly back to back —2018’s Vitriola and last year’s Get Fixed. Set to play the Crescent Ballroom with Cloud Nothings on January 30, Kasher talked to us about the 20th anniversary of Cursive’s Domestica, the making of Get Fixed, and his credo about not letting money dictate his artistic choices.

How much of Get Fixed was written during the Vitriola sessions?

We had more songs than we wanted to put onto one album, cause we didn’t want to do a double album for Vitriola. So we ended up laying down a blueprint for songs like “Get Fixed,” “Barricades,” and “I Am Goddamn” and set them all aside — with this feeling of we love these songs, but we need to have a tighter focus on what we’re producing right now.

There seems to be a recurring theme of being trapped in your community, your body, or the legacies of your family, either by yourself or others. I was wondering if exploring those themes on Get Fixed was deliberate or just developed organically as you were writing.

Stuff like that just comes out naturally. Some of those overarching themes come from where we stand in the current political climate: feeling helpless, like our hands are tied, and not knowing if we can actually elicit change. This feeling like we’re going in the wrong direction, a train that’s careening off the rails. But there are also these other elements on the record that are more about mortality and death, about being literally trapped in our own mortality.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Domestica. Do you find it challenging to revisit these songs? Considering where you are now in life, is it hard emotionally connecting with the material you wrote at a very different time and place in your life?

I’m not sure where myself and the audience meet up exactly, in terms of interpreting those songs. I’ve been more or less playing those songs for 20 years, and they’ve become a part of my head, of the Cursive canon. And they’ve transformed for me, but to the audience that I’m playing to, those songs could be very specific for them, something that invites them to remember their dorm room from their first year in college or maybe a terrible relationship that they suffered through and listened to Domestica a lot during that period.

What I’m thankful for is that I don’t feel detachment. They still feel very vital as part of the performances that we do. I don’t look back at those songs and feel ashamed or embarrassed or go, “Oh God, who was that melodramatic kid?!”

On Get Fixed's "Content Conman," you sing about how it'd be great to write with no audience in mind. A lot of musicians I've talked to over the last couple of years have brought up this feeling of obligation in their work. They need to keep putting out records and touring to stay relevant and to keep themselves afloat. Do you feel that you need to release records as often as you do to keep yourself on the radar, or is it just that you enjoy creating and putting more and more stuff out there?

I ask myself that question all the time, and I try to be really careful about that. It’s a credo that we developed about 20 years ago, which is that if you’re ever making decisions based on money you really, really need to step back and think twice about it. Make sure you’re making the right decision because if you’re being swayed, if finances are becoming a factor into what you’re doing artistically, you might end up fucking up. So I do have to ask myself that every now and then, and that’s probably a lot of what “Content Conman” is about.

I’m fortunate enough to be doing this as a career, but it’s a pretty hard-working one. I kind of have to keep doing it. I think it’s good and healthy to ask oneself, “Are you doing this because you want to do this record, or is it because you feel like you need something for the fall of 2020?”

Cursive are scheduled to perform on Thursday, January 30, at Crescent Ballroom. Tickets are $25 to $35 via Eventbrite.
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Ashley Naftule