Catching Up With Tim Kasher
Whether he’s crooning about a compliment-crapping ego or likening a committed relationship to a backwoods slasher scene, it still rings true after almost 15 years that Tim Kasher’s at his best when he’s giving himself a hard time. The self-aimed jabs are just as present as ever on the Cursive and Good Life frontman’s second solo album, Adult Film, which follows 2010’s excellent exploration of the settled-down life on The Game of Monogamy.
And while Adult Film is unmistakably Kasher—look at playful deconstructions of storytelling in “American Lit” or “A Raincloud is a Raincloud,” or the aforementioned tales of love-gone-terrifying in “You Scare Me to Death”—the songwriter takes a simplified approach to production, dressing down these electric tunes to bring his wry tales of relationships and self-examination to the forefront. Here, Kasher’s backed by his touring band for Monogamy, which includes Sara Bertuldo on bass, Cursive bandmate Patrick Newbery on keyboards and horns and Dylan Ryan on drums.
We spoke with Kasher about the album, which was released today through Saddle Creek Records, along with his love for Bob Odenkirk and how watching films like Children of the Corn help him contemplate his own art. Kasher has also kicked off his U.S. tour, and you can see those dates here.
Paste: With a song like The Game of Monogamy’s “I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Here,” there’s an urgency to write your story. On Adult Film’s opener, “American Lit,” it feels like you’re questioning the point of telling these stories altogether.
Kasher: As in have I considered stopping?
Paste: Maybe not stopping, but are you re-examining the purpose of songs and storytelling?
Kasher: I don’t even consider that at all. I think anything that I do, or a lot of us do, it’s definitely not a constant. There’s certainly a second-guessing. I do that a lot. I mean a lot of lyrics that I write, I’m often just giving myself a hard time. Pushing my own buttons, questioning myself, like “Why am I doing it at all?” It’s an exercise, so I intend to frustrate myself most often with it. I would never want to stop. I guess it’s just harder to ask myself why I’m even doing it at all sometimes.
Paste: Is the title Adult Film meant to be a nod to your last solo album? You examined The Game of Monogamy and this is the dirty thing that comes after?
Kasher: I like that suggestion. That’s great. It’s not really an intention I had. I’m always really open to different interpretations—especially at this point of an album being released—where now I’m talking about it for the first time with people whose assignments are to consider these things. I think sometimes it can be fun to take suggestions. I think that’s good. I’m at fault for not falling too much further from the tree on the last album I did, at least from a solo perspective. Which you know, I’m pretty comfortable with, I’m okay with that.
Simply put, I think I stumbled upon the phrase and I’ve never really dissected it before. Clearly we all know what it means, but that’s just it, it’s one of those words that has changed, that’s lost its original meaning. Unless your sole meaning was pornography, it works like putting “adult” and putting “film” together. That’s actually a really weird way to start thinking about it. Then it just comes to me that it’s kind of an umbrella for a lot of the stuff that I’m writing right now.
Paste: For “Truly Freaking Out,” you touch on a lot of themes you’ve covered before like death, but this seems like you’re at your most frantic. Was there an event or realization that inspired this?
Kasher: I think just getting a little bit older and all of us, a lot of people are getting older. I think there are more instances of people you know getting sick, and we’re all kind of going through it, I just happen to be writing about it….[laughs] I know I’m being vague about shit, and I know that I’m not really helping much. It’s like we’re getting older and now you know people are getting sick. It’s frustrating and taxing. You just have to look ahead and just recognize that there’s so much more that you have to prepare yourself for, and maybe we actually can’t mentally prepare ourselves for that, it’s just kind of going to hit you when it does.
Paste: You touch on sickness within family with the closing song, “A Lullaby, sort of,” and I feel like you haven’t really written about that much.
Kasher: I think I intentionally don’t. I think it just kind of turns me off. Some writers are great at it. I went and saw Bob Odenkirk and David Cross last weekend, they’re kind of touring around that new book they have, doing some standup and doing some Mr. Show sketches. They’re doing standup, and Odenkirk’s joke went into family, on raising children. When I say that, doesn’t it sound awful and dull? Like, ‘Oh my gosh I can’t believe he’s going into that arena. Oh, that’s boring, overdone…’
The point being, I think Odenkirk is just great. It was the same material but just more smart, it’s funny as hell, so much more clever. I don’t think I’m biased, he’s just a smart guy. I don’t know what the guy’s name was but I saw a guy on Jay Leno last night do the same act. It was just awful, just regurgitated tripe. It’s sometimes good to see really awful stuff, when it’s regurgitated like that because it really helps you address your own stuff. I watch a lot of really bad movies. It really kind of helps me address like “What is it that you’re doing?” [You’re addressing] kind of that inner, sickly voice that’s like “What the hell are you doing that’s better than me?”
Paste: What are some of those bad movies you’ve been watching?
Kasher: You know, due to the blessings of Netflix I’ve been watching the entire Children of the Corn series. There’s so many of them. I got exhausted, I actually haven’t finished it. There’s a lot of them. I think Netflix has like seven. Then you start getting into them, the approach changes, you have to start giving [the sequels] actual names, like whatever’s in vogue at the time.
Paste: Like Corn Harder?
Kasher: Yeah. [laughs]
Paste: A lot of Cursive’s last album was written in Atlanta, but for Adult Film, you wrote it in Chicago. Do your settings go as far as to determine the actual project you’re working on?
Kasher: You know, I don’t really have an answer for that. I just don’t know. I would say my answer is yes, absolutely. I’m sure it does. I personally have, it’s kind of like your suggestion that perhaps Adult Film suggests this post-monogamy concept, which you’re probably right. I just hadn’t really thought about it that way before. But I guess that’s kind of what I want to say. It would make sense as far as like the approach is a lot different than Monogamy and it’s a lot more tongue-in-cheek and a lot more, perhaps, bitter. But certainly where you are is affecting what you’re writing about.
Paste: Do you feel the need to get out of town to start a new project?
Kasher: I love to do it, but it’s kind of a luxury. I love to do it, I mean really most of everything I do is a luxury. I appreciate getting to do it. And I’ve been moving around a lot, I love doing that because it does kind of help me out. It excites me, you know, that sense of adventure. I got to walk around the city of Atlanta when I was writing that last album. Now I’m walking around the city of Chicago. It’s just neighborhoods I don’t know, running and finding new bars and restaurants, and now I’m walking down these Chicago streets and they remind me of songs I wrote. It was just kind of nice to have that.
Paste: Can you tell me about shooting the cover photo? It looks very uncomfortable.
Kasher: [laughs] Yeah, it’s not so wild really. It’s a lot of Vaseline with a lot of dirt and mulch. And some green coloring as well. The people I work with are great, and they did tests and stuff prior. They came up with what they thought would work best and they did a good job.
Paste: I thought I saw hair in there, but I could be wrong.
Kasher: [laughs] It’s probably clumps of mulch.
Paste: With Cursive’s Ugly Organ turning 10 years old, was that a landmark that brought out some self-examination?
Kasher: For whatever reason I think that I’m feeling just fine in that sense. I guess in the timeline of things that I’ve released, it all seems fine. Again, that seems like it was at least 10 years ago. [laughs] It all feels really healthy actually. The other day, I think Cursive’s first record turned 16. I think that sounds great though, because that’s a completely different time for me. It was so long ago. If that’s just 16 years ago, that seems great. It seems like I’ve lived a lifetime of all this—of being with those guys and doing that.