Omaha in the 1990s was an indie rock incubator for a swathe of bands primarily signed to Saddle Creek Records. From Bright Eyes and Norman Bailer (which would eventually morph into The Faint) to Cursive and Commander Venus, the amount of talent erupting from the unassuming Nebraska city firmly put the spotlight on music instead of Huskers football and Omaha Steaks. More national attention would follow, with The Faint touring with major acts such as No Doubt and Oberst being designated the “Bob Dylan of our generation” by Rolling Stone. Many of these bands have weathered the test of time, including Cursive.
Led by the chameleonic voice of Tim Kasher, who can go from a melodic soft whimper to an explosive rebel yell in the span of a three-minute song, Cursive has hammered out nine studio albums over the course of their 25+ year career. The group’s third album Domestica, released by Saddle Creek and produced by Mike Mogis, arrived in 2000 after the band’s first breakup (more on that later). Comprised of nine tracks, the concept of the project loosely revolves around the dissolution of Kasher’s first marriage, although it’s not entirely autobiographical. With original guitarist Steve Pedersen off at law school, Ted Stevens (formerly of Lullaby For The Working Class) stepped in with Matt Maginn still on bass and Clint Schnase on drums. The album earned Cursive critical acclaim with songs such as “The Lament of Pretty Baby,” “The Martyr” and “The Night I Lost The Will To Fight.” Twenty three years later, the band is finally getting the opportunity to celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary with a sizable Domestica tour—albeit a little late.
“I’m gonna guess the Burst & Bloom EP came out in 2001 or 2002 because The Ugly Organ was in 2003,” Kasher explains to Bandwagon Magazine. “So we’re directly actually at 20 years of Ugly Organ [laughs]. But because of the pandemic, this is stuff we were basically going to do three years ago.”
Obviously Kasher isn’t the same person he was in 2000. Now in his late 40s, the angst and uncertainty of his 20s have been replaced with more stability and the hard-won wisdom that comes with life experience. But in 1998, things were different. Shortly after releasing the second Cursive album, The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song, Kasher split for Oregon with his then-wife, leaving the band behind him.
“We’d done a couple albums with Cursive and found some moderate success that I wouldn’t want to snub,” he remembers. “Not much had happened for the band, but we all know how hard music is. Just the fact we found a little attention from some labels on the coasts, it helped get us touring and we’d found a little attention over in Europe, so it was exciting.
“But through my teens and early 20s, I was very pragmatic. I recognized that I loved music and the producing of this storytelling and songwriting, but that it wasn’t feasible. You can’t just do it—nobody gets to do it. So I left Omaha and we stopped the band. I was married at the time and that marriage is what has become connected with Domestica. The marriage didn’t work out and I ended up back in Omaha again. I had no prospects. At that point in my life, it felt like the only thing I had going for me was music.”
Working as a server at Upstream Brewery in the Old Market district of downtown Omaha, Kasher put the pieces of Cursive back together and wrote Domestica.
“That’s still the fastest record we’ve put together,” he says. “Matt [Maginn] and I still try to figure out what was going on in our minds back then or what the rush was, and I think there must have been some feeling of needing to make up for lost time for the couple of years we’d missed.”
But as he emphatically states in the liner notes of the album’s 2022 vinyl re-issue, “Domestica IS NOT a divorce record. The relationship survives. It’s more of a story about couple(s), the minutia of their daily squabbles and how difficult it can be to maintain such an intimate bond with another person. The couple in the album never split up in my storyline; I found it more depressing and perhaps more realistic that they’d stay together, despite the glaring issues.”
Kasher, who has since re-married, is on good terms with his ex-wife/bassist Kim Heiman. In fact, he had to get her stamp of approval to release a 7” by Braces, his pre-Cursive band with Heiman and Schnase, which comes with the Domestica vinyl re-issue.
While Kasher may be older, he doesn’t exactly subscribe to what adulthood is “supposed” to look like. He says, “There’s a lot of versions of maturing that I’m not really that interested in. I’ve have the luxury of not having to because I’m still doing the same work I was doing back then. But there’s other ways of emotionally maturing and becoming wiser that are great, like the growth of just trying to figure out how to be a better person. Those are the significant differences between myself, then and now. I could probably be a good mentor to that person if I were able to meet the younger me.”
As for that “emo” label Cursive was slapped with more than two decades ago, Kasher says, “That word was really being thrown around a lot in the early 2000s, and we were being lumped into it. More often than not, it was a derogatory term and we don’t want to be considered sucky. That’s essentially what emo was. It’s dangerous to denigrate art forms to say that they should be less emotionally charged. It’s just not healthy.”
Cursive is currently back in the studio working on another album, the follow-up to 2019’s Get Fixed, before they hit the road. The Domestica tour, which features Cursive playing the album in its entirety, lands at Washington’s in Fort Collins on April 21. Find more information here.