Cursive’s Tim Kasher finds Montana a peaceful retreat

Cursive, in their last Billings appearance, 06.22.09

Originally published in Noise and Color

There’s stillness in Montana that is like no other. Here the expansive country unfolds like an artist’s palette, spurring resourcefulness and originality within its residents while allowing quietude amongst the rivers, mountains, and roads. Such a state has a magnetic pull, courting musicians with its intimate setting and level of anonymity, if they so choose.

In the fall of 2010, Tim Kasher, frontman of the longtime rock outfit Cursive, left California for colder pastures. He relocated to Whitefish, Montana, where he honed his songs at the local open mic. Here Kasher was just a guy with a guitar, not the high profile musician and founder of a cultishly popular indie rock band.

A nomad of sorts, Kasher has traipsed the country for years with his Omaha-based musical groups Cursive and The Good Life. After nearly a year of touring in support of Cursive’s 2009 release “Mama, I’m Swollen,” which routed the band through Missoula and Billings, Kasher spent a cold winter in Whitefish writing his debut solo album, “The Game Of Monogamy,” a self-reflective, unapologetic take on relationships.

Not one to stay in one place for long, Kasher currently resides in Chicago and is on the road again with Cursive, this time showcasing the group’s latest release, “I Am Gemini,” an ambitious musical tale inspired by the mythological Greek tale of Castor and Pollux.

In Cursive’s version, twin brothers Cassius and Pollock are separated at birth. One good and one evil, their unexpected reunion ignites a mythological struggle, played out with a cast of supporting characters that includes a chorus of angels and devils, and twin sisters conjoined at the head.

Cursive is the longtime collaboration of Tim Kasher (vocals, guitar), Matt Maginn (bass), and Ted Stevens (guitar, vocals), who formed the band in 1995 in Omaha, Nebraska. Patrick Newbery on keys and Cully Symington on drums finish out the current group.

Released in February, “I Am Gemini” is the band’s seventh LP, and Kasher’s tenth album. Guitarist Stevens, who has played with Cursive since the 1999, attributes the band’s longevity to their love of writing and exploring different themes.

“We enjoy that process,” Stevens said. “Like any relationship, you learn how to communicate over the years.”

Cursive has constantly reinvented themselves during their career, starting circa the mid-90s when independent record label Saddle Creek, home to indie rock peers Bright Eyes, The Faint, Azure Ray, among others, was forming.

By the time Cursive released their signature album “Domestica” in 2000, they were an underground success, but broke into the national consciousness in 2003 with their fourth album, “The Ugly Organ.”

Of playing music with Kasher, Stevens said, “On the right night in the right small room, things can get pretty dynamic.” He recalls the first time Cursive played Billings, when Kasher crawled into the rafters of the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company with his guitar, then came down to play in the center of the crowd, pulling his guitar, mic and stand with him.

“Such shows feel like the old days, where we’d play house shows and small clubs,” Stevens said. “We still do that quite a bit. It tends to pay off with a lot of energy all around, which is fun.”

Stevens joined Cursive in the early days of Saddle Creek Records and was part of a core group of musicians who helped shape the Omaha music scene into a national powerhouse of indie rock music. Yet Stevens doesn’t view Omaha like that.

“Maybe I need to,” he said. “I can appreciate the greater Omaha scene, Saddle Creek, and beyond that now. Growing up with the Saddle Creek thing—we were in college and made musical bonds that lasted a long time. We started this thing, and helped each other out. It’s turned into what seems like lifetime careers in music for my peers. The scene since then has become really incredible. ”

Catch Cursive in concert on Monday, November 19 in Missoula and in Billings at Manny’s on Tuesday, November 20. Locals Brass Monkey Band and Reid Perry & the Montana Avenue Band open the show. Tickets available at 1111presents.com.

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About Anna Paige

Anna Paige is a writer, poet, and photographer advocating for live music culture, visual and performance arts, and the creative class in Montana through writing. More >>