In case you
haven't heard, Omaha punk rock band Cursive is back, and better than ever.
With work under way on a new CD at Lincoln's Dead Space studio, the band hopes to start
up where it left off after its late-1998 breakup -- headed to the top of the indie rock
heap. The 4-member power pop band found itself on the outs seemingly moments before making
their next step to indie stardom.
myself," said singer/songwriter Tim Kasher from the back stockroom of USA Baby, where
he works his day job in receiving. Despite guitarist Steve Pedersen's plans to leave Omaha
to attend law school in North Carolina, Kasher said the breakup was mostly his fault.
"There was an end in sight as far as Steve was concerned," Kasher said.
"I decided to move to Oregon to work on a different (band) project. After it fell
through, I found myself back to Omaha."
The decision to break up couldn't have come at a worst time. The band had just released
its first full-length CD on Saddle Creek, "The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of
Song." The 11-song opus was a culmination of the driving, heavy indie-rock style the
band had cultivated on their critically acclaimed debut, "Such Blinding Stars for
Starving Eyes," released on the national indie label, Crank! Records. But without
tour support, the new CD languished on the vine like an unpicked grape. Fans didn't even
knowing it existed.
Kasher was away from Omaha only from August to November 1998, but Pedersen, it seemed,
was gone for good. The band, which also includes bassist/vocalist Matt Maginn and drummer
Clint Schnase, didn't play together again until April 1999, later performing a reunion
show with Pedersen in July. Finally, Ted Stevens of Lullaby for the Working Class picked
up Pedersen's guitar chores. "Ted was right there all the time," Kasher said.
"He was overlooked because of his involvement with Lullaby. With our bands, there's
an on and off season, and right now Ted has plenty of time to work with Cursive."
"I decided to move to Oregon to work on
a different (band) project. After it fell through, I found myself back to Omaha."
"There's more life in the music than
there has been in the past. We've become more melodic."
Back at full
strength, Cursive immediately began writing songs during weekly practices. As a result,
Kasher said the nine songs chosen for their new CD are the freshest they've ever had going
into the studio. Titled "Domestica," the CD will have a tighter focus than
Kasher's usual cosmic viewpoint. "Storms of Early Summer
" took on the
world's problems on a universal scale. The CD's booklet even hinted at a conceptual
framework, breaking the recording into two parts: Act 1: Man vs. Nature and Act II: Man
Vs. Self, with song titles such as "A Career in Transcendence" and "When
Summer's Over Will We Dream of Spring."
"This time I wanted to write something smaller and more tangible than
universal," Kasher said. "I switched to writing about relationships and the
Musically, the songs are even more high energy than the bomb-blasts on
", but not necessarily hard rock, Kasher said. "There's more
life in the music than there has been in the past. We've become more melodic."
Cursive, Bright Eyes, Lullaby for the Working Class and The Faint make up the current
line-up of critics' darlings grazing comfortably in the Saddle Creek Records stable. Dead
Space studio, where the Saddle Creek bands record, is pretty crowded these days, as Bright
Eyes puts the finishing touches on his new CD to be released some time this spring.
Cursive's "Domestica" has a March 27 release date, but could be delayed.
"Though it won't have been released nationally, we'll have the record in hand when
go on tour in March," Kasher said. The band will be headed southwest before veering
to southern California, ending the tour March 18 at the prestigious South By Southwest
Festival in Austin, Texas, perhaps the largest indie music showcase in the country. Later
that summer, Cursive hits the road again, touring between the east and west coasts.
Because the band broke up before "Storms of Early Summer
" was released,
they hope to get twice the bang for their buck, supporting both it and
"Domestica" on the tour. "I'm really looking forward to being in the
situation of having a new album and getting a chance to go out and play for people
again," Kasher said.
Part of their
summer of shows will include Omaha, and maybe even some gigs outside the Cog Factory
confines, where the Saddle Creek bands play almost exclusively. Kasher said the bands all
respect the Cog and its organizers, who work so hard for little. "When we play a
Sokol Hall show, it's with a little bit of guilt," he said.
Regardless, Kasher said the band feels they could do a better job playing around Omaha,
and are considering a first-time gig at The '49'r. "We always took the philosophy
that we shouldn't overplay any given city," he said. "I can't see why anyone
would want to see us that often. We play so seldom here that when we do play, the shows
are very special."
The lack of local stage time and the national spotlight have resulted in some calling
the Saddle Creek bands 'elitist.'
"I dont know how the elitist concept came about," Kasher said.
"Conor Oberst (then in Commander Venus, now in Bright Eyes), Lullaby and Cursive all
started on national labels and returned to Saddle Creek. For Cursive, it's not that we
ever looked at ourselves as 'larger than Omaha' or anything like that. Our promotion
vehicle started nationally. If you start there, why would you digress from there?"
"... it's not that we ever looked at
ourselves as 'larger than Omaha' or anything like that. Our promotion vehicle started
nationally. If you start there, why would you digress from there?"
"The amount of comparison is funny,
really. Comparisons have been made by people who didn't know we knew each other."
have been different if they had first focused on growing an Omaha following, he said.
"Then we would have been viewed as a local band doing well nationally. It just didn't
work out that way.
"We love being from Omaha. Nationally, Nebraska gets a lot of respect, and that's
fun. On one hand, we love being labeled as an Omaha band, on the other hand, it's kind of
fun that we're underdogs in our own city."
It's ironic, considering that the Saddle Creek bands have helped develop Nebraska's
image as sort of a hotbed in the indie music world. As you read this, Bright Eyes and The
Faint have CDs on the College Music Journal (CMJ) charts, and both bands recently have
been featured in national music magazines.
Is there a thread that weaves the four Saddle Creek Records bands together?
"We define ourselves by consistency in our song writing," Kasher said.
"We've taken strides to find our own sound."
Cursive distinguished itself from The Faint's New Wave synth-driven sound and Bright
Eyes' and Lullaby's mellow acoustic folk ramblings by being a full blown rock band, with
heavy guitar and breakneck melodies. They're is as close as Saddle Creek gets to punk
rock. Despite that, a familiar sonic thread echoes in Kasher's and Oberst's yearning,
howling vocals and Lullaby's hollow, faraway melodies.
"We all just grew up together and then strove toward a similar feeling in song
writing," Kasher said "The amount of comparison is funny, really. Comparisons
have been made by people who didn't know we knew each other. One time Conor was doing an
interview while I was in the room playing accordion and the reporter asked if he was
influenced by Tim Kasher. She had no idea who I was."
Copyright © 2000 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved. Published in The
Reader Jan. 20, 2000.