Cursive: An Interview with Matt Maginn

Matt Maginn was a rad interview. Actually the whole band is amazing. Every time they would come to SD we’d meet for a drink, an actual bout of drinking prior to their playing. No attitude, just kindness. A band on the road. I’m still on the fence with regards to their latest record but I enjoy the body of their work, sometimes listener and band aren’t in the same place. I’ll have to take another shot at Happy Hollow. An awesome split they did with Eastern Youth called Eight Teeth to Eat You With should make its way into your collection ASAP!

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Tim Kasher sceams that line in the song of the same title in Cursive’s new album, The Ugly Organ, without being perfunctory and with a vengeance reserved for Russian poets and mafioso’s. Cursive’s new album is at times both introspective and slighting, with reference to the band in the third person that sounds surprised that they are playing music. Cursive formed in 1995 when members of the March Hares, Stephen Pedersen, Matt Maginn, and Tim Kasher asked drummer, Clint Schnase to join their new project. From there the band recorded a four song 7″ called The Disruption, on Maginn’s fledgling Indie label Saddle Creek (home to Bright Eyes and The Faint). Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes, was Cursive’s first full length, also released on Saddle Creek. Blinding Stars, is in effect, a an early indicator album, one which tells a tale of what is to come, with brilliant songs and gut wrenching lyrics and Kasher’s unique wail, it had the pretension of a brilliant future.

Matt Maginn, childhood friend of Tim Kasher and the driving low end of one of the most prolific bands in the indie rock world has the world at his fingertips. He helped start and works for the mid-west powerhouse indie label, Saddle Creek, which hosts artists like Bright Eyes, Sorry About Dresden and The Faint. Matt started playing music in his youth, around the age of 14 he started playing in a band yet he had been ‘messing around’ with instruments since he was a young boy. Matt played bass in some early incarnations of Cursive and finally ended up forming Cursive with his friends in the last few years of high school.

Cursive had been looking for a way to add a new dynamic to the already unique sound of Cursive and decided instead of going for the typical keyboard addition, settled on the idea of adding a cello to the band.

“Cello and violin and more of the classical type of instruments, you don’t expect them to be in a rock band a lot of the time. We were looking for a way to add another dimension to the sound and cello provided that. So we went on a luckily very short search for a cello player and it did exactly as we hoped. We wanted to, rather than just add your typical keyboard, which we also did add, we wanted to find an instrument even farther removed from the rock genre.” Matt says.

Indeed, Cursive’s cello makes their brand of rock haunting and interesting without sounding experimental and maintaining certain aesthetics of rock and roll. So while you still had the elements of Cursive’s superior songwriting at work, there was an addition of a distinct new voice to the sound, Gretta Cohn’s contribution to Cursive has rounded out their sound, softened the edges so instead of looking at a high gloss photo, one is forced to look closer, and beneath there is more beauty, like a musical collage.

Writing in Cursive consists of similarities with other bands and their contemporaries, yet the added voice provides fresh challenges. “Usually the ideas of the songs are brought in by Tim and Ted. And everyone writes their own ideas into what they are doing. So they bring the basic framework and we build the rest.”

Tim and Matt have been playing together their whole lives. While they were 14 and 15 years old they played in March Hares and later formed Slow Down Virginia. Matt took lessons, “Everyone, at least all of the current members of Cursive except for Gretta took similar paths (in reference to lessons). We all took lessons for a year or two, to kind of learn the basics and then went out on our own after that. It helps you to develop your own sound and voice, rather than become too trained.”

Matt’s musical influences range from everything from The Clash and the Sex Pistols to U2 and REM to more, “Bizarre, random bands like Squeeze, Guada Canal Diary and other bands like The Specials, The Jam, Untouchables, just all over the place really.”

Matt was one of a number of people who help start Saddle Creek Records. He says that, “It was sort of like a collective where everybody did their thing and would pool their money together to help release the records. It really existed that way until 96 or 97 then it was sort of restructured by Rob and Mike Mogiss and in 98 Rob quit his full time job to work on the label. It was a conglomeration of current members of The Faint and Cursive that sort started the label.”

A lot of what goes into running an independent label is being thrifty, having a bunch of kick ass bands on the label and being smart about expenditures. Matt adds that, “the way Saddle Creek is run its still a collective, other bands helping each other out and even helping other bands out in Omaha. It’s pretty community oriented.”

The Ugly Organ, was recorded at Presto, Mike Mogiss’s studio in Lincoln, NB. “The way he does it there he records the main instruments; guitars, drums, base and cello onto two inch analog tape and then dumps it down into digital. So you get the ease of use with digital and the analog sound.”

Cursive is coming to your town, touring in support of The Ugly Organ, with Pedersen’s new band, Criteria. There is hundreds of bands out there but Cursive is one you should go and check out.

For more info, go to www.cursivearmy.com

Or info on Saddle Creek, visit www.saddle-creek.com

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