Cursive’s Tim Kasher shares his love of Lifetime movies and staying hydrated

We all know art is hard.
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Tim Kasher of Cursive, with pal. // Courtesy Kasher

Cursive is the best band in the world. This is an empirical fact, and we will go down swinging on that stance.

The Omaha rock group has existed in various iterations since 1995 and has a penchant for concept albums with a theatrical flair. Lead singer Tim Kasher has drawn listeners through albums about the bleakness of small Midwestern towns, the pain of art, and an opera about Geminis.

Oh, and they have a cello player who absolutely whips. Honestly, just not enough eclectic cello in bands these days.

Around Cursive’s show two weeks back with Thursday and The Appleseed Cast at The Truman, we hopped on a call with Tim Kasher to discuss touring post-pandemic, Happy Hollow, and so much more.

The Pitch: Let’s kick it off with an easy one. What’s the most junk movie or TV show you filled your time with during lockdown?

Tim Kasher: We watch a ton of Lifetime movies.

[passionate agreement sounds] yes, YES.

I just think they’re great. And I find this a bit more complicated than most would, because there is so much going on that you can’t just write off as “dumb.” There is an art to telling this kind of stories, and professionals are making it. They’re still wildly funny on some levels, and it is all working within formulas, but I respect them. And the formula is like…neighbors snooping around too much and getting other people killed. Who doesn’t love that?

This is part of that argument that nothing is actually “bad art.”

People shit on these movies, but I wind up thinking about them because they share a look and a feeling and it is cohesive. The people behind the scenes get their assignments to work within these genres and do an incredible job at seeing it through. The story generally works top to bottom and that’s more than I can say for a lot of other films. I respect the craft.

Hallmark movies are terrible.

You’re on tour with Thursday and The Appleseed Cast. It’s a dream line-up for us from 2003. How did this come together?

This hasn’t been part of the story elsewhere, but this tour is a pandemic tour. We had it slated for fall 2020 and it just kept getting pushed back. We never even got to announce dates the first time around, because pandemic hit so fast. It became clear that the tour was not going to happen. Rather than trying to get back out as soon as possible, we told our booking agents to push this all the way to January 2022. Figured that would be safe.

Of course, that still wasn’t the case. We wound up with people in the tour group getting sick and had to reschedule the first two weeks of the tour. And we were in a pretty tight COVID bubble for safety even before that. I’m happy to be touring but there’s the part of me that wishes we could wait until absolutely everything is cleared up. But that may never happen? So we’re trying our best.

I didn’t feel comfortable going to the show in January, but I also wasn’t going to miss a Thursday/Cursive show. So when you delayed by a few months, that was a relief, because I didn’t have the self-control to not show up to a thing I knew was a bad idea. But then, you guys started your tour back up the next night in St. Louis, and there’s a part of me that was like “Well, maybe I should drive to St. Louis then,” even though adding a road trip element to this was an even worse plan than the first time around. It’s kinda funny how we all have a bit of brain chemistry that, with a deadly pandemic, even very smart people have certain things that they’re like, “No, here’s the blood pact. I’m gonna risk it all for that.” Knowing that about people, I imagine that you must have had some really difficult conversations around asking yourselves, “When is it responsible for us to hit the road again?”

It’s been two years, and we still don’t fully know how to make a surefire safe plan. Even when we started with that St. Louis show, we were asking ourselves if that was too early. You just hope that everyone coming to that show is being smart and safe in their life. For ethics and whatnot, you can’t control further than yourself.

I’ve been going to some shows in LA, and they’ve been fine. Still didn’t mean I was like “Oh God, I cannot wait to get back on the road.” But it’s felt much better lately.

If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be going across the country and asking everyone “Hey, please come to my show!” I wear masks, I stand at the back of the venue away from other people, and I try to make the choices that I feel safe with. You certainly had a right to go to St. Louis if you wanted to, but it sounds like you weren’t comfortable with that on a few levels, and that’s fine. That’s what being an adult is.

Might be an odd compliment, but I feel like the average Cursive listener is probably a smarter person than the fans of [mentions a band coming to KC] whose fans I have far less confidence in.

That’s a thing to consider, especially in how you interact with a band live.

If you go see Thursday, to what degree does that require you being up front and pushing each other and shouting along. If that’s how you need to engage with that show, that’s a bigger question than, “Should I go see this acoustic show?”

But we have vaccines and boosters, and we’re all chasing some semblance of our old lives. I’m supportive of the concept that we’re making a handshake with each other, that we’re all trying our best to be safe and appropriate.

Tim, you seem like the sort of guy that I imagine after two years stuck inside, you might be the type to emerge with some exceptionally manic energy. Like, is there any part of you that’s like we’re gonna go on the road for 300 days, or start our own festival, or record four albums at the same time? What’s in your head?

I learned a lesson in this period: I’m not sure if I’m an introvert or an extrovert. I think a lot of people would laugh and say I’m obviously an extrovert. But to me, I live a really, like, internal life; an internalized existence. I feel shy a lot, but I love taking the stage—and I need to command the stage. This feels natural but I spend a lot of time thinking about it. As long as I can keep writing, I’m happy.

I did miss being able to stretch out who I am on stage. Being able to do so is genuinely a boost to my health.

The last time we spoke in person, you were about to release your independent movie No Resolution. You seemed thrilled by the work you got to do around that. Do you plan to return to that kind of work? How many screenplays did you knock out during lockdown?

It continues to be difficult. I found some great success from that, and I’m linked with a great production company. I’ve got a script, and we were working hard on it, but getting anything off the ground is hard. We had to take some time away from it, and now it’s in a bit of limbo. But I’m still trying to do that hustle. One thing I’m trying to promise myself is to not fund my own movie again.

What is the worst cover of one of your songs you’ve ever heard?

Oh boy. Well, people do a lot of things online. Even the worst ones, I wouldn’t be so cruel as to name them, but I always accept how endearing it is. Perhaps the highest form of flattery?

So, after like two years of not touring, this is a sincere question on both fronts. But like, is there anything that you have to do to be back in shape to do a 90-minute show? That’s a lot of screaming but also to drink the way that one does on tour? Did you boot camp both?

I was out of shape, vocally. But it didn’t take me long to snap back. There are a lot of breathing patterns—a lot of things you don’t think about—that I was just out of shape. I’d kinda forgotten how to sing a lot of stuff. But it came back so quickly.

As far as drinking, what I’ve learned finally, after 27 years of this, is that you have to stay hydrated to keep your vocal cords working. I refused to believe that for most of my life. I’d have people suggest maybe I was drinking too much whiskey and was like, “No, it couldn’t possibly be there.” So I succumbed. I drink responsibly. It makes touring so much more sufferable because I’m not annoyed by shit all the time.

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Tim Kasher of Cursive. // Courtesy Kasher

You never got a chance to really tour behind the Get Fixed album in a real way. I saw you in KC at recordBar a few months before this, but I didn’t even get the vinyl of the album I’d ordered from you until a couple weeks before the pandemic. Feels like that exemplifies how little time you had for taking a bunch of new tracks on the read and also must have limited the amount of Vitriola that you could get comfortable with. 

The last tour that we did that ended in February 2020 was actually a good fixture. Like we were able to now, you know, I think maybe perhaps the final wasn’t like impressed or ready yet but, um, we’d already released the album so we were able to do some work with it. But generally we would have done more.

But also maybe we wouldn’t have hit the road again anyway for the rest of that year. We’d released two albums in two years and constantly toured, so we probably would have taken an extended break in 2020, regardless.

Any older songs that are coming back into the setlist after being retired a bit? Or any songs you’re excited to reinvent the arrangements on?

I don’t talk about setlists anymore, because I can’t promise a city that we’re going to play that track. But we’ve been playing “After the Movies” from our first album. It’s a song that we’ve put a pin in for 20 years, and we’ve been tinkering with that a bit. We always want to rotate stuff in and out.

Last time you were in KC, I encountered someone very drunk outside the venue who was furious you didn’t play “Bloody Murder,” and I suppose I understand why you don’t want to share possible setlist inclusions for the evening. 

Even on this tour, we basically got yelled at for not playing “Sierra” one night or “The Radiator Hums” the other. We played… so many other things though? Come out when we come through next time, I promise there’s a pretty good chance you’ll hear those. A concert can only be so long.

I’d like to ask you about the album that I feel like you’ve gotten the fewest questions about lately. Happy Hollow hit at a time in my life when it convinced me that it was okay to not be religious, not be small-town conservative, and to speak up to say ‘fuck off’ even within a tight-knit Midwest community. The Ugly Organ changed how I approach creativity, but Happy Hollow changed how I approach life and the people/beliefs around me. I’d love to know what you think about your entire discography, t’were we to have more time, but what does Happy Hollow mean to you now?

In all sincerity, that’s making me tear up right now. Not to be corny about it. We’d done The Ugly Organ, and we ended up with all this success we’d never expected to receive. I saw it as this opportunity to come out, and, I guess you could say preach in a sense?

If you had one chance to say something from a huge platform, to planet Earth, there’s a lot of pressure to figure out what the one thing might be that you want everyone to hear. I wanted to let people know that it’s okay to not believe in God—that there are a lot of pitfalls and dangers that come with organized religion.

Over the last two years, we’ve lost a lot of people in music, especially from bands that are in your orbit or who have been tour partners. While we haven’t been given a real chance to mourn some of these people the way that we should, who are the bands that you’re shocked you’ll never see on stage again?

The most immediate one is just a close friend of ours. Gared O’Donnell from Planes Mistaken for Stars passed away. I’ll miss seeing him on stage, but I’ll miss just hanging out with him more. Seeing him on stage would be a wonderful bonus though.

Kasher announced a new solo album the day after our call: Middling Age. You can pre-order that from 15 Passenger Records. There will be a tour later this year in support of the album with Kasher splitting the stage with Laura Jane Grace. Consider us stoked.



Categories: Music