Cursive’s Continuing Career
Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
Since the band’s conception, Cursive has lacked a set-in-stone identity. Like its music, the outfit is ever evolving.
Cursive, made up of Tim Kasher (lead vocals, organ, piano, keyboard, guitars), Matt Maginn (bass, keyboards), Ted Stevens (guitar, keyboard, backing vocals), and Cully Symington (drums, percussion) formed in 1995, and have dealt with lineup changes and two hiatuses. The band has still prevailed, though, and its Buffalo show Friday night aims to prove that.
Despite the yearlong hiatus in 1998, the band didn’t lose its momentum. Instead, the reformation and addition of Stevens helped them produce one of their most acclaimed concept albums, Domestica, in 2000. The project, written as a one-act play, revolved around the painful dilemmas of divorce.
A loyal following has stuck it out through Cursive’s many ups and downs.
“[We have] a bit of an unusual approach,” Stevens said. “At times we have an eccentric approach, and I think sometimes when you color outside the lines a little bit you attract a certain group of people who like to do the same thing.”
The band’s unconventional methods have led it to create many concept albums, like the aforementioned Domestica and The Ugly Organist, about the empty sex life of the title character.
Although the band members consider themselves part of the “hard rock” genre, Stevens believes that title is vague. The multi-faceted musician thinks being categorized as just “hard rock” doesn’t encompass the everything that Cursive is.
The group’s vision and dream of expanding its sound came alive in the 2001 album, Burst in Bloom. The addition of cello player Greta Cohn and her elegant fills balanced the band’s sound.
“The original goal was to add a cellist and an additional member that would play timpani and auxiliary percussion,” Stevens said. “It was our idea of building the band up from a four-piece [band] to a big band.”
After another hiatus, Cursive reverted to its original four-man roster, as well as returning to their stylistic roots with 20006’s album Happy Hollow.
“That’s the material [that] is very representative of the music we were making in high school,” Stevens said. “It dates back to the band that Cursive was before Cursive [existed].”
Stevens appreciates that fans are passionate about which Cursive period they prefer.
“I think that’s the goal when you’re a musician,” Stevens said. “The sad truth for most musicians and most songwriters is that you hit your peak early, and then decline artistically. If there’s one group vision we have, it’s that we’re progressing.”
At their upcoming show Cursive will perform material from 2000 to the present and will promote their new album I Am Gemini, which debuted in late February. Instead of their usual four-man lineup, Cursive will include Patrick Newbery and his work in synthesizers, trumpet, and guitar into their evolving sound.
Cursive’s latest concept album continues this evolution. Compared to past concept albums, I Am Gemini used a different recording technique, according to Stevens. This project was treated as a traditional rock experience in the studio, and the band was focused on creating new guitar tones while shaving off the reverb from past records to create a more hard-edged guitar-rock record.
Lyrically, the album tells a story reminiscent of Fight Club, and Kasher’s take on an old ghost story. This story eerily describes a man who inherits a home from his parents and realizes there’s a spiritual entity lurking in the home representative of his twin brother. Throughout the album, the man undergoes a revelation that the ghost could possibly be himself all along.
Although Cursive will perform the different styles and nuances of their musical generations, they stress that it’s all about having fun and trying to perfect their sound on tour. Although they want to keep their standard mix of songs, Cursive also plans to improvise pieces.
“We hope that we’re getting better and that we’re coming up with new ways to entertain and express ourselves,” Stevens said. “We think we’re doing it, and we’re out on the road trying to convince people that we’re still doing it.”
Cursive will perform at Mohawk Place on Friday night alongside Cymbals Eat Guitars and Conduits.