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Cursive Get Theatrical with An Ugly Organ

Tim Kasher– singer/songwriter
Matt Maginn – bass/vocals
Ted Stevens – guitar/vocals
Clint Schnase – drums
Gretta Cohn – cello

Cursive had quite a year in 2002. They happily hit the road to promote their third release, sharing the bill with bands such as Thursday, Planes Mistaken for Stars, Poison the Well, Common Rider and Lawrence Arms. Domestica, which was created after a momentary break up of the band, “I personally felt the pressure of breaking up this band and then saying it was a bad idea, let’s do it again. Not only was it releasing album’s worth of material, it was also trying to justify this is why we got back together,” says Tim Kasher, the group’s singer/songwriter. “I really felt it had to be changed up or refresh itself in some manner, but yet still be the same band.”

Domestica was refreshing to their fans and the media, resulting in their most well received album to date. But challenges were ahead of them, and their tour plans were halted when Tim’s genetic lung problem returned, causing his left lung to collapsed, putting him in the hospital and off their tour schedule.

Tim recovered nicely, and Cursive is back in the saddle again, currently on their 2003 U.S. tour and getting set to release their fourth full-length release, The Ugly Organ. It’s interesting to understand the human psyche, and what fuels certain trains of thought and artistic expression, as with the lyrical theme of certain tracks on the album. One could get the feeling that they were plucked from Tim’s personal diary, written while he were recouping from his illness, especially in the case of “Staying Alive”.

Cursive’s bassist and vocalist Matt Maginn gives us some insight on the creation of The Ugly Organ, about the support they band’s received from their local music community and fan base, and his fear of Christina Aguilera.

KB: Sorry to hear of the unexpected health issues Tim experienced last year. How does it feel to get back on the road again, and get in front of some of the fans that weren’t able to see you last June? What type of support did you receive from the Omaha music scene?

Matt: Thanks. It has been great for everyone to get back on the road starting last October. Tim received a great deal of support from Omaha and the rest of the country. It was an awesome thing to see so many good people sending help or kind words. Tim was very grateful.

KB: How do you feel your music has progressed since the band came back together?

Matt: I would like to think that our sound has matured and evolved over our whole existence. There was a large change with our reformation and addition of Ted Stevens, formerly of Lullaby for the Working Class. He brought another musical approach and critical eye to our playing that has worked well with the rest of us. He has the ability to infuse the beautiful and the ugly, and sometimes the combination of both, into our sound. Since Domestica, we have seen even more change and evolution in writing and the addition of cellist Gretta Cohn. She has become an integral part of the band and the composing process. The cello has allowed us to add another dimension to the sound that we could not [get] before. I am not sure what others think of our evolution, but we are very happy we have been able to achieve exactly what we wanted.

KB: Kudos on your new release! The lyric sheet and concepts behind The Ugly Organ seem to read and play out like an obscure, theatrical production. From where did this concept originate?

Matt: Actually this worked out very surprisingly. Tim and Ted combined their lyrics for the booklet where they were laid out. Once they were combined Ted sat down and reworked it by adding stage directions to illustrate the story going on within the lyrics. The characters had been created already by Ted and Tim but the stage directions have helped to really bring it all together.

KB: Are you guys planning out a music video for any of the songs yet? I can envision an almost Moulin Rouge type setting for “Butcher the Song”, especially with the circus like organ sounds.

Matt: That would be cool actually. We are Moulin Rouge fans. If only Christina Aguilera had not scarred the whole experience for me. We have some ideas in the works for a video but have not had time to go too in depth with them yet. Could be a fun medium to experiment with.

KB: When did you begin writing and creating each of the pieces? I say pieces, since a number of the tracks resemble an orchestrated piece of music versus a generic indie rock song.

Matt: Writing for the record goes back as far as the spring of 2001. I guess nearly 2 years before the release date. Damn.

KB: Looking at your complex and unique instrumentation, how did your band decide to bring in Gretta Cohn into the group? Her cello definitely adds a large dose of sophisticated artistry and darker moods throughout the CD.

Matt: It is funny. We wanted to add something to our sound to give it more depth. We decided on the cello and tympani. We actually bought a set of tympani and started practicing with them. They worked well but they are huge and cumbersome. At the same time we were looking for a cellist. Not easy to find, by the way, but we lucked out on our first try. Ted had known Gretta from touring with Lullaby for the Working Class. Gretta’s band had opened for them once in Providence or Boston, I think. Anyway, we called her while she was living in NYC and asked her to come down to our show at Brownies and meet us. We hung out that night, [then] asked her to come to Omaha and lay some cello down over our songs that would make up the Burst and Bloom EP. She did, and everything went so well we asked her to move to Omaha. A few months later, she was living in Omaha and we were practicing and writing. She is a brave, brave soul.

KB: “Art is Hard” seems to throw a spotlight on the growing and blatant commercialism of the music industry, or other markets where art is seen merely as a product made to be served to a paying audience versus the result of creative minds. Do you think there is a chance for change? If so, how and who do you think is making headway in getting rock bands such as yours more exposure?

Matt: That is tricky. I definitely think the industry is stagnant with copycat bands and boring ass studio records. There has been some success for great bands that have spent years touring and earning respect, like Jimmy Eat World, Thursday, and so on. That part of the industry is surprising and refreshing, but it is a small percentage compared to the mindless crap we are usually fed by the industry big wigs. Also, I think the success of bands like Queens of the Stone Age is a good sign as well. All three of those bands are playing more intelligent, interesting music then the other 98% of the industry. Hmm…I guess I am ranting now…

KB: What can you tell us about your buds in Race For Titles, and how did you decided to bring them with you on tour?

Matt: They are some friends and fellow musicians from Omaha that have worked hard for years and created a really great record that should be heard. They’re record just came out a few months ago and [they] have been playing around. We also thought we’d all have a good time touring together.


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