Cursive turn their torment outward on first album in six years 

click to enlarge Tim Kasher and company are happy to be reunited, but admittedly saddened by the fact that Cursive is disappearing from public schools. - TONY BONACCI, COURTESY CHROMATIC PR
  • Tony Bonacci, Courtesy Chromatic PR
  • Tim Kasher and company are happy to be reunited, but admittedly saddened by the fact that Cursive is disappearing from public schools.
Over the two decades since Cursive released their debut album Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes, critics have often referred to them as an emo band, a designation that, depending on your point of view, can either be a blessing or a curse.

In a sense, that was all but inevitable: Bandleader Tim Kasher, an Omaha native, attended high school and shared a label with Conor Oberst, whose Bright Eyes was one of the earliest recipients of the emo tag. One early L.A. Times review claimed that “Cursive’s charismatic and confessional vocalist Tim Kasher proved they don’t call it ‘emo-core’ for nothing.” A later appearance alongside Oberst and the Alkaline Trio as a character in the online EmoGame didn’t help matters.

And then there was the first date of a 2007 tour opening for the more metallically inclined Mastadon. “I remember this big guy with a big shit-eating grin on his face,” says Kasher. “And the entire time we played, he was just flipping me off. And his smile was saying like, ‘Man, no offense, but you know I hate you, right?’ I really just laughed it off, but I was also thinking: Great, here we go, we’re doing the entire U.S., and I guess this is what I signed up for. Thankfully, that was the first and last time that we really ran into bad mojo.”

Three years later came Kasher’s solo debut, The Game of Monogamy, written in the extended aftermath of a collapsed lung and a failed marriage, and recorded with members of Whitefish, Montana’s Glacier Symphony.

But these days, Cursive is more likely to be designated as post-hardcore, a no less vague term that at least sounds less vulnerable, even if the band doesn’t. Vitriola, their first album in six years, was released this past October on Kasher’s own 15 Passenger label, and tempers its angrier rock inclinations with the inclusion of cellist Megan Siebe.

But on songs like closing track “Noble Soldier / Dystopian Lament,” Kasher and company shift from solipsism to lyrics that are decidedly more outwardly directed: “I used to fall for anarchy, but loved the world too much / I used to fall for rioting, till the sentry locked us up,” he sings, before segueing into an outro in which he regretfully repeats “Now I fall in line.”

“When I was working on that song, I was like, ‘All right, here we go, I’m going to make this entire record about dystopia,’” explains Kasher. “I kind of talked myself out of that, but I still left that song on there and let it close the record as a kind of mini-story, I guess. It’s like, as a capitalist society — as the new Roman times — are we all going to fall flat on our collective face? I don’t know, there’s this collective anxiety that we’ve developed over the last few years of wondering if our time is up.”

Vitriola also marks the return of original drummer Clint Schnase.

“Getting back together with Clint was so cool, just getting to throw jokes around in the practice space and knowing that the way he plays was going to influence what I wanted to write,” says Kasher of his Cursive co-founder, who left the band for domestic life back in 2006. “We’re not surprised by people’s adoration of Clint, and some of them will be a little let down when they see he’s not behind the drum set. But he’s still happily raising a daughter at home. Even when we were 21 years old, we’d have conversations in which he’d tell me that he was a homebody.”

Kasher, by contrast, relocated to L.A., where he leads what he refers to as a hand-to-mouth existence, and has never lost his sense of wanderlust. Last summer, he hit the road for a solo living-room tour, an experience far more intimate than fronting his band in much more sizable venues. So did touring Trump country on his own make Kasher feel more, well, vulnerable?

“You know, it was like I wanted to feel vulnerable,” he responds, invoking his inner songwriter. “But instead I was just alone all the time.”


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