Lazy-i Interview: Tim Kasher, Pt. 2 (his voice, criticism and his ugly album art explained); QUASI, Jeffrey Lewis tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 11:49 am October 3, 2013
Tim Kasher, Adult Film (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Tim Kasher, Adult Film (Saddle Creek, 2013)

by Tim McMahan,

And here’s Pt. 2 of the Tim Kasher interview. Pt. 1 was posted yesterday. Both parts are in this week’s issue of The Reader. Pick up a copy at your local news rack or bar or coffee shop or convenient store today.

Over the Edge: Leftover Kasher

Like the headline says, here’s some leftover wisdom from Tim Kasher that didn’t make it into the feature story.  I thought it would be a shame to leave it on the cutting room floor.

For example, nowhere in the feature story did I explain the title of Kasher’s new album, Adult Film, and the origin of its hideous cover art. Hopefully Eric in production has a copy of the artwork to include with this column so you can see just how repulsive it truly is. So gruesome is the cover that I almost dropped the CD’s jewel case when I took it out of the promo mailer’s envelope.

The artwork is actually quite simple — it’s a nude head-and-shoulder photo of Kasher covered in some sort of greasy, slimy substance, as if a giant woman-thing gave birth to him full-grown only moments prior to the shoot. Mixed in with the shiny, viscous substance are bits of what look like shit or placenta or snot balls. Even Kasher’s well-combed hair lays flat like it hadn’t been washed in a couple weeks. The photo is just straight fucking gross; so ugly you can practically smell it.

The art is made all the more disturbing by the placement of the words ADULT FILM in yellow all-caps on top of a black bar that blocks out Kasher’s eyes, as if to hide his identity even though his name appears right above his head.

Creepy. Needless to say, there had to be some sort of meaning behind it.

“There’s not a ton to it, and I feel like I suffer when I explain it,” Kasher said sheepishly. “I just quite simply saw the two words ‘adult film’ in my head and I separated them from what they’ve come to mean in our society. I tend to play around with words, and it occurred to me how odd those words were together. They’ve come to mean ‘pornography’ and nothing else. but if they had never been used for pornography they would conjure this gross thought; this film that people collect that gets wrinkled and corse as it goes old and untouched.

“I think (in that context) it’s fitting for the album’s subject matter. That meaning casts a wide net. It’s a catch-all for mortality and getting older, but also about career and dating and aging and whatever pursuit you happen to be in.”

He said said he’s “a little uneasy with the porno aspect” of the title. As for the guck, “It’s Vaseline and dirt; potting soil and some mulch and some green dye to give it a bit of a sheen.”

Aren’t you glad I asked?

At one point during our interview I also asked Kasher about his vocals on the album’s roaring, rolling opener “American Lit,” and told him it reminded me of something from Slowdown Virginia, one of Kasher’s first bands from way back in ’93 that some say was a starting point for what would become the Saddle Creek scene.

“That’s a relief to me,” Kasher said. “I sing lower almost always now. I’ve been having vocal issues over the last four years. I write in low registers just in case. I just can’t stay on top of it. I don’t know when it’s going to go out next, with bronchitis or something.”

That was a surprise. So was Kasher’s comments about Help Wanted Nights. I mentioned that Adult Film was my favorite Kasher album since that classic 2007 album by his other band, The Good Life. It turns out that Help Wanted Nights also was notable to Kasher, but for a different reason.

“It was the first time that I got bad reviews,” he said. “It knocked me down for like two days, and then for the next few records I watched (the reviews) a little bit more than before. It became a sick curiosity, and I got a little obsessed.”

Kasher said he eventually got past his preoccupation with critics. “I’m not going to do that anymore,” he said. “It’s not that I’m against critics, it’s that they’re not the ones who I should be writing for.”

Help Wanted Nights was actually a sort of soundtrack to an unproduced script of the same name. Written a few years prior to the album’s release, it was the first script Kasher tried to get produced, catching the interest of a handful of Los Angeles money people. Still, six years later, the script remains unshot.

“I set it aside just before I began working on (The Game of) Monogamy (Kasher’s 2010 debut solo album). It had some renewed interest for a few months.”

Kasher hasn’t given up his silver-screen dreams. “I have another script being worked on to go into production,” he said. The new one is about couple swapping — ironic, considering the title of this new album.

Kasher said the movie business is “a hard game with a lot of money involved I keep writing and handing stuff out, and here and there get reactions. I’ll cautiously kind of let it play itself out and see what happens.”

One last thing I forgot to mention in the feature: Adult Film doesn’t come out until next Tuesday, Oct. 8, on Saddle Creek Records (of course). You should pick up a copy when you go to see Kasher and his band celebrate its release at The Waiting Room Saturday night. Whatever you do, don’t judge the record by its cover.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at

First published in The Reader, Oct. 2, 2103. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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One of the biggest shows of the month takes place tonight at Slowdown Jr.

Some of you may not be old enough to remember Quasi and the Portland band’s seminal 1998 album Featuring “Birds,” but it was one of the defining albums of the late ’90s and the high water mark this band. Frontman Sam Coomes had just left two pretty successful bands — Donner Party and Heatmiser, a band that also featured Elliot Smith — to form this band with Sleater-Kinney’s Janet Weiss. Featuring “Birds” came out of nowhere and was a critical smash thanks to ultra cool songs like “I Never Want to See You Again,” “The Poisoned Well,” and of course “California.” Heck, every track is good.

Six more albums followed, including their just released Mole City, which came out Tuesday on Kill Rock Stars. Tonight’s show kicks off their tour in support of that album.

Joining Quasi is Jeffrey Lewis, who’s album End Result (2007, Rough Trade), is one of my faves. Lewis has recorded with Kimya Dawson and most recently with Peter Stampfel. Our very own See Through Dresses opens. You get all three for a mere $15. Starts at 9. GO!!

Also tonight, Louisville, KY singer/songwriter Cheyenne Mize (Yep Rock Records) plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Eli Mardock and Blue Bird. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And The Waiting Room is hosting another Songwriter Death Battle featuring 40 or so local singer/songwriters passing around John Klemmenson’s beat-up acoustic guitar for one song apiece. Hear Nebraska has the line-up info right here. $5, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Interview: Tim Kasher Pt. 1 (on Adult Film, O’Leaver’s, The Good Life, and getting older); Marisa Anderson tonight…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:57 pm October 2, 2013

TIm Kasher promo photo

This is (sort of) the first part of a two-part feature/interview with Tim Kasher. Pt. 2 appears in this week’s column, which is essentially outtakes from Pt. 1. Look for that tomorrow. In the meantime…

Tim Kasher’s Adult Film

The Cursive frontman celebrates the release of his second full-length solo album.

by Tim McMahan,

There’s a lot of death on Tim Kasher’s new album, Adult Film.

On the record’s first single, “Truly Freaking Out,” Kasher wrestles with the idea that his friends and family will all die some day, and he isn’t too happy about it. He bleakly points out over rolling keyboards: “I know, I know, I know the end is near / I know, I know it’s all downhill from here. / We’re all cascading to our graves / Tugging back at gravity’s reigns.”

At age 39, has Kasher, a staunch atheist, finally come to the realization that dead means dead, and there’s no coming back?

“I touch on it a lot it seems throughout the record,” Kasher said via cell while walking to Logan Square in his newly adopted hometown of Chicago. “There’s this kind of sobering that comes with age that anyone of us experiences who has gotten older and on the other side.”

One of Kasher’s dreams in his youth was to be a jazz drummer when he retires. “I wanted to be the cool guy that plays at a bar down the street,” he said. “Now that I’m turning 40 next year, I’m putting that aside. You start having sober realizations of how much time you have left. I also know that so much time has been nicked off, trimmed, shorn from our existence. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted time. I want to keep having more time, if anything.”

He may never become the next Buddy Rich or Joe Voda, but if the clock quits ticking for Kasher, he would leave behind an impressive list of other musical accomplishments that his loved ones would be proud of.  Kasher is arguably one of the best personal songwriters to come out of Omaha in the past 20 years, alongside his old pal Conor Oberst and local folk legend Simon Joyner.  Since ’97 he’s written and produced 12 full-length albums both as a solo artist and with his bands Cursive and The Good Life, almost all of them released on indie label Saddle Creek Records.

An entire generation of Nebraska singer/songwriters credits Kasher both as an influence and a survivor. In a time when musicians are being strangled by the economics of a financially crippled music industry, Kasher has continued to make a living doing nothing but music, though he’s beginning to diversify.

Last year he became partners in one of Omaha’s most notorious bars — O’Leaver’s on South Saddle Creek Rd. Kasher is a co-owner along with Cursive bandmates Ted Stevens and Matt Maginn, and long-time O’Leaver’s manager Chris Machmuller, lead singer of Saddle Creek band Ladyfinger.

“It’s hard to consider it my bar,” Kasher said. “It’s really their bar, but I’m glad to be able to contribute monetarily.”

While portfolio diversification was the main reason for joining the partnership, “the first reason was because Matt was interested in buying it,” Kasher said. “We’ve been working together forever and he’s always wanted to diversify but wanted to do it in a way that seems enjoyable. Who wants to buy a paper company because he hears it’s a good investment?”

Kasher said eight or so years ago when Cursive and The Good Life were at a financial peak, people just assumed he was “living high off the hog. I’m basing this on people I run into in other states who have lofty concepts of my success that don’t even remotely match reality,” he said.

“When someone writes a book, you figure ‘Well now, they must be loaded. They wrote a book.’ But in reality they’re actually a struggling teacher. These days most people think that I should have another job. I’m pretty much off the radar; nothing I do elicits some kind of suggestion of a lot of success, but I manage to do okay anyway. My career, at this point, has some girth to it.”

It also helps that Kasher does more than one musical project at a time. “A lot of why music is still a full-time job is because I tend to do it about twice as much as other musicians in that I release under multiple monikers” he said. “I always knew that (Cursive and The Good Life) kept each other afloat. When I set The Good Life aside it was like I had stopped my bar tending job. The money dwindled.”

Not for long. Kasher began releasing solo work with 2010’s The Game of Monogamy and its follow-up, 2011’s More Songs from the Monogamy Sessions EP.  The perennial question with every release is how Kasher decides which material will go toward which project. Cursive music tends to be harder, faster and more acidic than the lighter, more melody-driven tunes heard on Good Life albums. The music for Adult Film falls somewhere in between.

Recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago and mixed by John Congleton at Elmwood Recording in Dallas, Adult Film is the most tuneful Kasher project since The Good Life’s Help Wanted Nights in 2007. Songs like failure anthem “A Raincloud Is a Raincloud,” breakup drama “The Willing Cuckold,” and the pounding “A Looping Distress Signal” are as close to straight-up rock songs as Kasher can probably get.

Never has keyboards played such a dominant role in one of his productions. From the pounding organ on “Life and Limbo” to the wonky rolling synth on the aforementioned “Truly Freaking Out” that sounds like a Kubrick-ian nightmare to the piano-tightrope walk on “Where Your Heart Lies,” keys are on almost every song.

“We had that in mind from the onset,” Kasher said, pointing to collaborator Patrick Newbery who is credited with organ, keys, synths and horns on the recording. Newbery is joined on the record by Sara Bertuldo (bass, vocals), Dylan Ryan (drums) and a handful of other musicians caught in Kasher’s orbit.

So why were the songs on Adult Film used for a solo album?

“It’s just what I’m doing right now, and it’s logical,” Kasher said. “I want to get my own name off the ground a bit more. We’re all getting older and if I were to continue to do any of this, it’ll be easier to lean on just myself to put out an album.”

That said, there’s little doubt about Cursive’s future. Last year the band released the full-length I Am Gemini on Saddle Creek Records and spent a good part of the year on the road. Saddle Creek Records said the album had U.S. Soundscans of 10,379 and more than 430,000 track streams on Spotify. Kasher said he was satisfied at how well that record performed.

“It gave us (Cursive) a lot of vigor, we had a great time being together and felt good about the finished product,” he said. “We got a chance to play the songs every night to a lot of people who were crazy for it. It was a lot of fun. In the largest sense we’ve become a niche band. We’re kind of a small posse, but a good community.”

The future of The Good Life, however, is more in question. “I feel that all the projects are still alive. Some are more dormant than others,” Kasher said. “The Good Life is very dormant now, but we still chat and think about it. I still try to look at my schedule long-term and think where I might do this or that band. In my head, it’s not dead at all. My impression is that we’ll all get back together in time.”

Even if that time is running out. While there is a looming sense of despair on his new record, Kasher said, “We’re still living in a good age. There’s a lot of joy everywhere. Everyone is having babies. We’re on the edge between getting joyful phone calls that someone is in labor and getting calls that someone is in the ICU.”

Tim Kasher plays with Laura Stevenson and The Brigadiers Saturday, Oct. 5, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple Street. Showtime is 9 p.m.. Admission is $11. For more information, go to

First published in The Reader, Oct. 2, 2103. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Tonight at O’Leaver’s, composer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Marisa Anderson takes the stage. According to her online profile, Anderson’s second solo record, The Golden Hour (Mississippi Records 2011), features “12 improvisations inspired by Delta blues, West African guitar, vintage country and western, gospel, noise, rhythms, cycles, mortality, and praise.” Grapefruit Records, the label run by Simon Joyner, is releasing Anderson’s next album in December. Opening for Anderson is Rake Kash (Lonnie Methe’s latest project) and Zach LaGrou. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Marisa Anderson from De Kreun on Vimeo.

Also tonight, Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional’s new band Twin Forks plays at Slowdown Jr. with Matrimony and Skypilot. $15, 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.