When Cursive takes the stage at Winchester Bar, the ramshackle home of volleyball and karaoke recently purchased by a consortium that includes members of the band, you’ll see some old and new faces.
The band’s core — frontman Tim Kasher, guitarist Ted Stevens and bass player Matt Maginn — will be joined by new permanent members keyboardist Patrick Newbery and cellist Megan Siebe. Drummer Pat Oakes will be sitting in for returning member, drummer Clint Schnase.
It’s a big group that creates a big sound on the band’s new album, Vitriola, recorded at ARC Studios with wizard knob turner Mike Mogis. To my ears, it’s a return to the classic bash-rock style Cursive became known for beginning in the late ’90s on its many Saddle Creek Records releases.
My simplistic (and there’s no one more simplistic than I) take on the record’s theme is that Kasher’s getting older and these songs reflect his anxiety about aging and/or the struggle and futility of life (versus say, songs about his struggles with relationships (Domestica) or religion (Happy Hollow)). There’s also a political theme that runs through a few songs that’s hard to miss, though I wouldn’t consider this a protest album.
During a phone interview that took place a few weeks ago, Kasher talks about the new album, the band’s new record label, 15 Passenger (which they own and operate), working again with Schnase and buying yet another volleyball bar to run alongside The Club called O’Leaver’s.
Tell me about Winchester? Why did you buy it? What are your plans? What do you feel about playing there?
Kasher: Winchester is a bar that went up for sale a handful of years ago and the fellas that are in this group business that we have saw it as an opportunity. And Chris Machmuller (of Ladyfinger fame, who also runs O’Leaver’s) also has been wanting a kitchen for some time, and that has a restaurant as part of it. O’Leaver’s is also going to be utilizing its kitchen soon. But those are the reasons, I mean, the volleyball, essentially. They know how that works, so they thought they’d go for it. I like the spot myself. I guess we all liked it, you know?
It is bigger. It’s got a stage, it’s got good cheeseburgers and you’re cornering the market on volleyball. You guys are becoming the volleyball kings.
Yeah, it’s funny, we have definitely become the volleyball people. And it’s really not that far out of the way. It’s just kind of relative to what we understand and which direction we go in Omaha.
So, you’re in Chicago, right?
No. I’m in L.A.
So, you’re in L.A. and they call you and say ‘Hey, we’re thinking about buying Winchester. What do you think?’ Because it couldn’t have been your idea, right?
No. It was not. The whole process really took a while. I guess it is over a year ago now, and we just kind of talked about it and considered it. But I only offer as much input as is necessary, only if there is any major red flags, but I don’t think that has ever come up for me. I’m just kind of happy to let them do what they do.
Alright, so tell me about the album. Everyone says it is this angry album, but I think it’s just delightful. I like ‘Remorse,’ which is my favorite Cursive song since ‘From the Hips.’
Thanks. That’s actually a song that Patrick Newbery brought in. This is the first time that we more completely wrote with Patrick. He worked on I am Gemini but it was a little bit after the fact. He kind of came in and rounded the edges and put organs and different things on. But this time he wrote from the start and I encouraged him to bring songs in, too, and that was one of the things he had lying around. So I put some melody and vocals on it and it’s a nice piece.
Yeah I assume you’re playing that live?
No. We actually haven’t been.
Perhaps we should.
I don’t know, I guess for us it felt like more of the appropriate somber deep cut for the album.
You’ve really analyzed this record more than any of the others I think. It’s amazing the stuff you’ve said about it in interviews. Does that much thought go into it? I mean it seems no darker than the other records.
Sometimes it just has to do with what the press says, you know? Prior to being released I kind of scratched my head and I’m not sure what to think of it and I wonder what others think of it. Others kind of enlightened me to what their impression is and what their perception of it is, so then I just kind of start going along. So apparently this one came off as a lot darker and heavier than what, though, I’m not sure. Because I agree with you, every Cursive record is pretty heavy, I guess. Happy Hollow was probably in a little bit of a different direction, but…
It sounds like you’re getting older to me, that’s all. You know. In the same way I’m getting older, too. You’re getting more pissed at stuff.
Yes, that’s true.
So, tell me how it’s going in terms of putting this out yourselves versus Saddle Creek Records? I talked to (Saddle Creek label chief) Robb Nansel and he said ‘I think they just wanted to do it themselves. I’m not sure why they want to do it themselves, because it’s such a pain in the neck, etc.’ Has it been difficult doing the label for you guys? Is it more work than you thought is was going to be?
No, I don’t really think there’s been much of a problem. Also Saddle Creek has a lot of bands. They have a lot more moving pieces as a result of that. We are very boutique, as you can tell. It might be a better question for Matt and Ted, but it’s been actually pretty enjoyable and we do have a distributor and stuff, too. It’s not like every role has been thrown in our laps.
Part of the joy of life is doing things yourself and running your own business. The bars are kind of like that as well. It’s a challenge, and I think everybody kind of likes the challenge.
Is it more financially satisfying?
You know, probably not. But that wasn’t part of it. Those were the conversations we had with Robb before we ever made the decision.
Money really wasn’t the driver?
No, we were always clear about that. Money is not a factor at all because we actually know that money won’t be a factor. There’s not some big slice that we’re getting, you know? It’s a modest business.
So it’s about controlling the product then?
Yeah, yeah. And feeling good about that and representing ourselves.
Why hasn’t Cursive issued a Greatest Hits album? Or a live album, you know? Conor’s done a live record, The Faint did Capsule (a retrospective). When are you guys going to do your Greatest Hits collection?
We never talk about it. It’s not a terrible idea.
Well, it brings up the question if whether they’re even relevant in an era of streaming?
True. I mean really, it’s just almost like making a play list. I think we’ve already done that. We still have an interest in documenting what we do live, and that’s still a conversation we throw around. We still haven’t pulled the trigger on that. But that would probably be our version of a “best of” record.
Like… Cursive Live at Oleaver’s, maybe?
So where does the band live these days?
Actually everybody is here in Omaha. Except for me.
What’s it like having Clint Schnase back in the band?
It’s a blast.
How did that come about?
It was just great timing. Everything clicked together really well. As 15 Passenger, Matt, Ted and I saw it as a means to slowly re-release our catalog under the same umbrella. But as we would have those conversations it was always just kind of fun to play around and say, ‘Jeez, we could really do what we want, we don’t have to set any perimeters.’ And the obvious conclusion to that would be, ‘I guess if there’s anything we were to release, it would probably be a new Cursive record.’ So we asked ourselves, ‘Are we doing another Cursive record?‘ Because we sincerely never know. Every record we do, we never really talk about another one.
So doing 15 Passenger kind of helped stimulate us, made us curious and gave us something to work toward. It would be kind of cool to release another Cursive record on our own label. So that idea was very slowly marinating between us, and then out of the blue Clint reached out and (said), ‘If you guys ever want to do a record again, I’d love to.’ And so hearing that we were like ‘Actually, we’ve been talking about doing another record, so if you wanted to then that’s perfect.’ Once he reached out to us, we were just like ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got to do it.’
I assumed he kind of pulled away for personal or possibly family stuff and now he must have some time to do this.
I probably shouldn’t speak on his behalf, but I think that’s quite fair to say that he wanted to kind of settle down more and start a family. And I think for him his daughter is like a young lady now, so I think he felt that he could dedicate a little more time. But I don’t think he would ever like to do the heavy tour circuit again like we used to do. (Pat Oakes is the band’s tour drummer and will be playing the Winchester show). Even when we were young and we were doing that, it really wasn’t his bag. And Clint was always very vocal about that.
He’s just a crazy drummer. I mean he’s one of my favorites, so muscular and aggressive.
For me it really shines through. I’ve loved the other drummers we’ve played with, they’re just amazing. But the actual Cursive drummer is Clint. That’s the sound of what we are and what we do, you know?
How’s Megan enjoying being part of the band? She’s kind of been touring with you for years before this anyway, right?
Yeah, Megan and I have become really close touring partners. She does solo tours as well now and it’s great. We get along great. We’re great friends and I think she’s enjoying herself.
So tell me about what’s next. What are you guys working on after this tour is done?
Well, I kind of had to ask myself that. I wasn’t really sure. I always want to keep moving forward, writing stuff. So after some consideration of what it is I do in this life, I just started writing songs again. So I started working on another solo record that I’ll hopefully put out next year. I’ll see how it goes. And then, of course, I’ll always have scripts. I’m having a string of good luck right now, so I’m hoping to give that a shot this summer.
So another movie possibly (Kasher wrote and directed 2017 feature film No Resolution)?
Yeah. But I don’t want to jinx it. I’ve had those things fall through so many times in my life, but I’m trying to stay on track to shoot it this summer.
What about the label? There’s rumors about another band joining the label.
Yeah, we have two things and maybe a third thing. I don’t think it’s stuff I can talk about yet, because it’s another thing that, if it falls through, that’s like… And then there’s a secret announcement that we are going to do for one of them, too, and who knows?
So, anything else? Anything else going on that you want to mention?
We’re excited about doing Winchester. Excited for people come out and see it. I imagine a lot of people probably haven’t yet.
Cursive plays with mewithoutYou and The Appleseed Cast Saturday, May 25, at Winchester Bar & Grill, 7002 Q Tickets are $22, showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to winchesteromaha.com.