Tim Kasher is best known as the main man in influential bands like Cursive and the Good Life. But that might just change following the late October release of his ambitious solo debut, The Game of Monogamy. Recorded with members of the Glacier Symphony in Whitefish, Mont. (seriously), the album finds Kasher and Cursive sax-and-keyboard whiz Patrick Newbery wandering dangerously close to '70s concept-album terrain. Thankfully, Kasher's gallows humor and musical eclecticism manage to save the day.
The Omaha, Neb., native is no stranger to albums with thematic throughlines, having addressed the demise of his marriage on both Cursive's Domestica and the Good Life's Black Out. His first-person lyrics have a certain wounded quality that's occasionally raised the dreaded E-word. A Los Angeles Times review from 2003 claims that "Cursive's charismatic and confessional vocalist Tim Kasher proved they don't call it 'emo-core' for nothing."
The fact that Kasher shares a label and went to high school with Conor Oberst, whose Bright Eyes was an early recipient of the emo tag, probably didn't help matters. Nor did his unauthorized appearance alongside Oberst and the Alkaline Trio as a character in the online EmoGame.
Last week, Kasher held forth on much of the above, including his tendency toward confessional songwriting, the collapsed lung he suffered in 2002, and his prospects for turning into a 21st-century Moody Blues.
Indy: The song on the new album that stands out most for me lyrically is "I'm Afraid I'm Gonna Die Here." Do you worry much about that?
TK: I think I have friends that worry about actually dying, like the actual action of death, but I don't think I've ever worried about that. That doesn't really bother me. I think saying I'm afraid I'm gonna die here was to suggest I'm afraid I'm gonna die before I actually did anything good.
Indy: Would you say that the collapsed lung had a lasting impact on your worldview?
TK: You know, I think about that sometimes, and I wonder if it does or not. I'm just not sure how I gauge and respond to death versus the way, say, other, healthier people do. I would say that I'm pretty comfortable, having gone through those kinds of experiences, I feel very familiar with mortality. And maybe that's something that not all of us are as familiar with, I would maybe just suggest, you know?
Indy: Monogamy opens with a symphonic overture, the tracks run together, and there's a story line or at least themes that run through it. Were you ever worried that you were gonna turn into the Moody Blues or something?
TK: No, I wasn't really. [Laughs.] I like making records cohesive. You know, if people choose to really invest in the record as a whole, then I think that there's a lot for them to take in. I recognize that that's not really the way that we listen to music so much.
Indy: What about on the road? How do you work out arrangements to pull this off live?
TK: I do have a cellist and bass player with me and, you know, a trumpet and keys and drums. So even though it's not like three- or four-part sectionals, it's still nice to have the different timbres represented.
Indy: You once said in an interview that you had a bout of maturity at the age of 30. [Kasher turned 36 in August.] I'm wondering if you've had any relapses since.
TK: You know, I think I managed to get around to realizing that maturity — in the way that I was grappling with it — was really just learning about a lot of these fairly nonsensical societal structures. I mean, I did not fit into a lot of the lifestyle decisions that 30-year-olds make, things like settling down more and maybe having children, having a proper job ... I think it's a Midwestern Catholic thing.
Indy: How comfortable are you with writing about the breakup of your marriage and other personal matters? Are there ever points where you say to yourself, I should distance myself a little more?
TK: Yeah, there are times when I say that — I'd say often — where I have to consider whether there's some kind of sensitivity breach. But really, only I and maybe certain loved ones around me really know what I'm writing about and what's going on.
I would suggest, in my opinion, that it's a skill to be able to write from one's own experiences freely, without censoring oneself, and also to be able to turn it into something other than your own experience.
Indy: OK, final question. How much would you pay to never hear the word "emo" again?
TK: You know, I kind of wouldn't have to pay anything, because I think it's kind of said its piece and moved on. [Laughs.] So I'd say maybe about four years ago I would have paid quite a bit. But I think we weathered that storm.