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The Good Life: A Year in the Life...

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Oct. 20, 2004

The Good Life
w/The '89 Cubs, Neva Dinova
Oct. 26, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

Want more Good Life? Check out the March 2002 Lazy-I profile.

The first thing you'll notice when The Good Life takes the Sokol Underground stage Oct. 26 is that the beard is gone.

Friends and fans of Good Life frontman Tim Kasher know what I'm talking about, as do readers of A feature about the band at the all-news website Oct. 11 included a picture of Kasher on stage looking like a cross between Grizzly Adams and the Unibomber, his dark hair an unkempt bird's nest of shag falling into his eyes, accented by a huge curly beard that would look right at home on the face of ZZ Top.

"You're just a little too late," Kasher said after a sound check at famous D.C. club The Black Cat where his tour landed last week. "I shaved the beard and now I have a Rollie Fingers mustache that I like a lot better."

Seems the beard was more than just an Appalachian fashion statement. "There was something behind it at one point," Kasher said. "I had a lousy summer and I made an off-hand remark that I wouldn't cut my hair until I learned to set my life straight. Maybe things have gotten better."





Certainly Kasher has plenty to be happy about, thanks to the bouquets of accolades tossed by the national music press at the new Good Life CD, aptly titled Album of the Year. He and the rest of his band that includes bassist Stefanie Drootin, guitarist Ryan Fox and drummer Roger Lewis, are becoming renowned as the dark, lonely soul behind the heart of indie rock at Saddle Creek Records, especially now that label leader Bright Eyes has found new life in political evangelism.

The full-length, a follow-up to the Lovers Need Lawyers EP released earlier this year, is a rollicking, burlesque song-cycle that takes listeners through a year's worth of the love, devotion, betrayal, deceit and regret that earmark Kasher's view of the relationships he celebrated and suffered over the past decade.

"It's a linear story of one year," he said of the album. "Each song is another month in one relationship that has a little bit of bliss and distrust and denial before it starts all over again. It's looking back at what my 20s were like now that I just turned 30. I think it's what a lot of people go through trying to make relationships work out."

But only the type of relationships that begin like the CD's opening track, with the booze-soaked lyrics: "The first time that I met her I was throwing up in the ladies' room stall / She asked me if I needed anything I said I think I spilled my drink." And end in futile resolution, like the album closer where, after a sound collage of performance noise, Kasher sings a cappella "It's been two years this month / Since the last time we spoke / And it's starting to seem / That the only thing ever lasting / Is this vow of silence."

The Good Life's music accents Kasher's pictures of everyday life with theatrical panache. The album is a Hedwig collection of tunes suited for performance in full costume by a cast of characters playing out a story set in Kasher's reluctant home town of Omaha, with each act going from a whisper to all-out rock jubilee. It's a far cry from Kasher's other, more famous project -- the angular, punk rock band Cursive, which he also fronts but which recently has gone on hiatus.

Kasher says writing multi-hued stories for The Good Life is more comfortable than the black-and-white-and-red bombasts he pens for Cursive. "The Good Life's music is where I come from," he said. "If I weren't to do Cursive anymore I don't know if I would need to write hard, aggressive music again. I wouldn't get around to it. It's not what I sit down and write. I sit down and write Good Life songs."

But he quickly added that it's the difficulty and challenge of writing Cursive songs that keeps him doing it. "That's what I like about Cursive -- it's not easy, and that struggle results in innovation."







"Each song is another month in one relationship that has a little bit of bliss and distrust and denial before it starts all over again."





"If I weren't to do Cursive anymore I don't know if I would need to write hard, aggressive music again."



With The Good Life scheduled to tour through this winter and beyond, and with no plans for Cursive in the immediate future, word began surfacing that Cursive's hiatus had become permanent. Kasher was quick to dispel the rumors.

"I love those guys too much to not do it anymore," he said of Cursive. "Right now I feel good about getting away from it and just working on different stuff. I guess what's gotten harrowing about the rumors is that we refuse to say when we'll do it again; it seems too loose-ended. Saying 'We'll get back together a year from now' is too much of a deadline for us. One of these days we'll get back together."

Kasher said the pressure to follow-up on the success of Cursive's last CD, the highly acclaimed The Ugly Organ, is another reason for his reluctance to move forward with his other band.

"I want to preserve what we've worked on for so long," he said. "When I write another Cursive record, I want to make sure I really believe in it. I don't what the cloud over my head where I second-guess my motivation."

In fact, Kasher doesn't want listeners to think that anything he does is motivated by money, fearing the perception that he's been corrupted by "money wrapped in songwriting." That said, no one is more interested in his bands' success than Kasher, who eagerly seeks out the latest Soundscan numbers as soon as they're available. Despite that, he sees songwriting and commerce as two very different worlds.

"I consider the practice of songwriting to be fragile, and I don't want it to become corroded by money," he said. "Anything to do with money will ruin it."

It's that attitude that many believe has kept Cursive and The Good Life firmly planted inside the artist-friendly confines of Saddle Creek Records instead of on a major label. Kasher knows that his personal ethics would be an ill fit in a world where commerce always trumps art.

"I don't even worry about that," he said of major label dreams. "When it comes to songwriting, I would never compromise. If I was signed to a major label, I would let them sue me before that would happen. I would wait tables before allowing something to compromise my credibility as a songwriter."

And, he added, he knows that a decision such as putting Cursive on hiatus would never be tolerated by a major. "The hammer would come down," he said.

Instead, Kasher's happier doing business with friends. "The way I see it, major labels represent the temptation of job security. Saddle Creek has done so well that at this point in my life I wouldn't consider leaving them. I'm fortunate to be involved in an independent business with friends that are also independent."

Being independent also means being able to do personal projects. After The Good Life finishes a tour of Japan in early November, Kasher plans to continue work on a project with singer-songwriter Todd Grant. A local legend of sorts, Grant released Strangled Soul on -Ismist Records in 1995. He went on to front Lincoln band Compost before dropping out of the music scene altogether.

"Todd's a good friend and a role model," Kasher said. "Roger (Lewis) and I have been working on this for a while, and we plan on putting some stuff together in the studio in November or December. It's Todd's songs with me and bass and Roger on drums. I'm pretty excited about it. A lot of people are just happy to see Todd reemerge."

But other than the Grant project, Kasher said he'll be spending most of his off-tour time just chilling at his apartment. Known as an insatiable road warrior, Kasher has become somewhat comfortable with life off the road.

"Roger and I were saying how excited we are to come back home and just go to the grocery story and stock the refrigerator," he said. "I look forward to just having an apartment and being able to watch an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm while I watch pasta boiling."

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An abridged version of this article was published in The Omaha Reader Oct. 20, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved. Photos by Bryce Bridges.