Interview: Cursive

For 17 years, Cursive have been producing emotive, complex and at times conceptual indie-rock albums from their home base of Omaha, Nebraska. Having struck gold with Domestica, a somewhat bleak look at a floundering relationship, in 2000, they’ve become regulars across the American indie circuit but rarely make inroads into the European market. They’ve been a long time coming, but with their latest concept album I Am Gemini – the creepy idea of examining the intertwined lives of conjoined twins separated at birth – out now, vocalist Tim Kasher takes up the latest branch of Cursive’s story…

You’ve been around a full 15 years: what have been the key points in the last decade-and-a-half that have bought you to where you are now?

I suppose it’s just been fairly consistent touring. We’ve put out a handful of albums; each album seems to resonate differently with different folk, different ages.

There have been a few shaky moments over the life of the band, not least when drummer Clink departed a few years back. This is your cellist’s first album, too. How have Cursive evolved as a musical entity over the years?

We’ve intentionally taken some different directions for each album. As a result, we’ve had to let some people go whilst inviting others in. We attempt to not exhaust any one idea or concept too much.

Do you pay much attention to how the music scene is evolving around you?

Sure, it’s certainly interesting. Although it can be pretty hard to keep up with all the bands! At the very least, we have a sociological interest in how genres of music ebb and flow.

The concept of an album about two twin brothers physically separated at birth seems both euphoric and, mentally, somewhat distressing to deal with. How did you come up with the idea, and how has it impacted on your live performances?

I suppose it is a bit distressing; the concept is based on the conflicting voices in our heads, which can certainly be taxing. We came up with the idea as a reflection of what the music that we were writing was like: a bit chaotic and a bit disjointed, which seemed to me a bit like music with a multiple personality disorder. [laughs]

This isn’t your first themed idea. Do you think it’s important to come up with a deeper angle to your music, given that a lot of modern hits can seem so throwaway?

It certainly isn’t imperative; it’s just a thing I like to do. I like binding songs together under one album. It just makes sense to me, doing it that way.

There’s a booklet with the album that could be used as near-instructions for its theatrical production. Is that something you’d like to get involved in?

Haha, no, not really. I had grand ideas initially of making some grand production, but those were just daydreams. By the time it was completed I had already shaken that off, preferring to think of the album as just that: an album that tells a story, not a companion piece to some greater story.

For obvious reasons, this album is a lot less personal than previous efforts. Did you find it easy to relate to the characters?

This story is fleshed out in a very fictional setting, but the characters are still quite personal to me. So, yes, unfortunately they are all too relatable. I wish they weren’t. A joke there.

I can imagine that blending such a complex, emotive album in to unrelated material can prove challenging live. How do you fuse together years’ worth of material into a setlist?

It’s not so difficult, actually. Despite the new album being one story throughout, we still consider each song as separate from each other.

What’s been your most interesting tour experience to date?

Each tour has something new pop up, or at least, I hope each one does. Mostly, we like the opportunity to make stops in new cities. This time around we made it to Spain, which I quite enjoyed.

We hear you’re also involved in a screenplay production. Is it a challenge balancing difficult artist outputs?

Nah, I mostly see it as a great way to kill time. [laughs] I just love to write, so that’s how I fill the days, including days on tour.

After the European tour, what does the future hold for Cursive?

Looks like a lot more touring for this album, well into next summer!

I Am Gemini is out now on Saddle Creek.

As published in AU Magazine, June 2012.

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