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Cursive: Back to the Basics

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: November 2, 2005

w/ Back When and The Stay Awake
Nov. 4, 9 p.m.

w/ Criteria & Race for Titles
Nov. 5, 9 p.m.

Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

As I write this, there are shrewd opportunists fetching bids of up to $20 on eBay for $2 general admission tickets to Saturday's sold-out Cursive show at Sokol Underground. When I tell this to Cursive bassist Matt Maginn, I can imagine him quietly shaking his head. That wasn't the plan, he says over the phone from his office at Saddle Creek Records, where he's getting ready to knock off after a long day of managing manufacturing and retail for the label.

The $2 tickets for both the Nov. 4 and 5 shows was one of a series of acts designed to get the band back to its roots after emerging from a hiatus that began in August 2004 -- acts that included a fake-name tour and returning to the first real studio they ever recorded at.





But first, the hiatus. From the vantage point of anyone following the band, it looked like Cursive was on the verge of breaking through to wide-scale rock-star status in the summer of '04. In the wake of the critical and commercial success of their CD, The Ugly Organ, the band had been hand-selected by Robert Smith to open arena-sized shows for The Cure.

Then to everyone's surprise, Cursive unplugged their instruments and walked away. It was called a hiatus with no fixed return date. As Kasher's other band, The Good Life, began a winter tour, thoughts began surfacing that the hiatus was permanent, even among members of Cursive. "I think in order for us to come back from it with true enthusiasm, we had to be comfortable with the idea of not coming back at all," said Maginn. "Even though it was never discussed, there was the possibility that the break would be permanent."

Maginn made the most of the time off. He stayed busy at Creek, working through details of the simultaneous release of two Bright Eyes records. He and drummer Clint Schnase took on the rhythm chores for Bright Eyes' Vote for Change tour -- you know, the one that featured an artist known as "The Boss." Maginn also lent a hand in the studio for guitarist Ted Stevens' other project, Mayday.

"I enjoyed my time off, everyone did," Maginn said, "but toward the end of spring (of '05) I was getting antsy. We realized we wanted to do it again, but this time have more fun doing it. We'd been burned out. We figured we would try to not let touring rule our life as much, and also work on the 'wish list' of things we always meant to do but never had time to."

First on the list was "playing parties or something small," Maginn said. In early September, the band announced on that fans should watch out for bands Flippy and Hambone, T Lite & the Heavies, Jazz Hessian, Cursifix, Stuffy Dumbf***, and Sgt. Snippy, adding "Oh boy, if you like seeing Cursive you should really see these shows." They augmented that with an e-mail sent via their mailing list telling fans about the "secret shows." In the end, most of them sold out.











"I think in order for us to come back from it with true enthusiasm, we had to be comfortable with the idea of not coming back at all."



"The idea is to give ourselves a little more freedom, to not be so one-sided in how we live our lives."



Next on the wish list is revisiting Junior's Motel, the legendary recording studio founded in 1972 by former Hawks member Kirk Kaufman located about 100 miles north-northwest of Des Moines. In the '90s, every local band with any punk aspirations recorded at Junior's if only for the cheap rates. Among them were early Kasher bands The March Hares and Slowdown Virginia and, of course, Cursive.

"It was pretty exciting," Maginn said of his first Otho experience. "We showed up in the pitch black of night. The guy showed us how to run the equipment and went to the bar. We had no idea what we were doing. We lived there the whole time and recorded all day and night."

To recapture that spirit, Cursive is headed back to Otho this winter to record demos for their next full length, which will be recorded at Presto! Studios. "Otho will help us figure out what we want to lay over some of the songs," Maginn said. They hope to have a master April 22, with a finished CD in hand by the end of summer '06. That'll be followed by -- what else -- touring. But this time it'll be different.

"We're going to have more breaks built in," Maginn said. "We all have family, friends and other projects that we don't want to be away from for too long. The idea is to give ourselves a little more freedom, to not be so one-sided in how we live our lives. It's a necessary approach for the band's survival."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Nov. 2, 2005. Copyright 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.