Matt Maginn – Cursive (2009)

I first heard of Cursive through this weird arcade-style web game called Emogame that was featured in Kerrang! magazine when I was about 16 or something.

It was a brightly-coloured 2D platform game in which you could control ‘famous’ musicians from the emo/hc/punk rock world and use 7-inch records to slay enemies such as fake goths, jocks and sell outs.

Among the many musicians featured in the game was Tim Kasher from Cursive who, alongside Connor Oberst (Bright Eyes) was portrayed as a cynical drunk and was arguably meant to be one of the more respected characters.

During the whole first level the main riff from Cursive’s The Great Decay played on a loop, and other references were made to the band as well as others such as American Football, Mineral, The Promise Ring, Sunny Day Real Estate and Atom and His Package, all of whom went on to become favourites of mine.

I then bought Cursive’s The Ugly Organ in 2003 and played it to death. It was creepy, angry, desperate and amazing. I found it hard to relate to some of the darker and more ‘adult’ subject matter but it was just this big nightmarish circus freak of an album laced with moments of dark brilliance and sometimes triumphant beauty. It kicked my ass basically and I’ve been a fan ever since.

They came to Glasgow in 2009 to play a cross-city festival and I emailed questions to bassist Matt Maginn who actually took the time to answer them fully and without any fuss or arrogance over the fact it was essentially a ‘new band’ feature and they’ve been around since the late-90s.

Anyway, here’s the resulting conversation below.

(Interview was around June 2009. Original article can be found here)

So, for those that still may not be acquainted with the band, can you give us a brief run down on how the band first came to be?

Matt Maginn: Well, Tim (Kasher, vocalist/guitarist) and I were originally in another band called Slowdown Virginia that broke up, and after a short time we decided to start Cursive with Steve Pedersen (also from Slowdown) and our friend Clint Schnase. We released a couple records and broke up in 1998 at which point Pedersen left town. We got back together and released Domestica in 2000 joined by our friend Ted Stevens on guitar.

What was the first song you wrote together?

MM: Hmmm… I think it was called “Classic” or “Coal Mines and Cattlefeed”

How does it feel to still be doing this – over a decade down the line and six albums in?

MM: Weird. We never believed we could survive making music even as a second job. It’s a real privilege that we don’t take for granted. We can play music and not have to take on a full time job. Six albums seems daunting but we’ve had so many breaks that it feels like different eras too. Like whole periods that have passed as different sections of our lives.

Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process behind Mama, I’m Swollen? Was there anything significantly different about the making of this particular record in comparison to previous releases?

MM: The process itself has remained the same pretty much through each record. The biggest difference this time around was that we all lived in different towns. So, rather than spend two to three nights a week working on new music we would all travel to either Omaha or LA and practice for about a week straight working 10-14 hours a day or so. We did that about 5-6 times so we ended up with a lot of time writing together and many songs to pick from.

When you write your material these days, how do you push yourselves to still make music that sounds fresh, not just to the fans or the critics but to yourselves? Are you easy to please?

MM: I think we are not very easy to please. We tend to pass over songs that sound too much like something else we have done. We like to keep stretching out boundaries. Something to mention too is that for a band like us, stretching our boundaries does not always mean writing something overly experimental but can often mean doing something more straightforward. On the flip side, I still think our favourite approach is to try and create a song out of something unconventional. We just like to try it both ways to keep our heads fresh.

Being involved with the independent labels Saddle Creek and Team Love, what are your opinions regarding the various digital advances we’ve all witnessed over recent years? Do you feel it’s a tough time to be involved with or run a record label these days?

MM: I think it is definitely a tough time for labels. I think the digital advances will end up working out for everyone but it’s the transition that is tough. Unfortunately for all of us a recession has hit during this transitional and transformative time so that has compounded the struggle. It all actually seems like a natural cycle of sorts. The same technology that allowed labels like Saddle Creek and Team Love to grow and thrive also requires them to adapt over time as that technology continues to grow as well.

How would rate the musical environment in Omaha these days? Stronger than ever?

MM: Seems really strong. I am not there enough to be a real judge. But I would say it was strong from about 1992 to now.

If you could pick a song or overall piece of work that you’re most proud of, what would it be?

MM: That is a tricky one. I think I will have to pass on it.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? Are you pretty much road-bound for the duration?

MM: We hope to wrap up a tour of the rest of the states this summer and then play it by ear after that.

What would you say has been your best/worst show so far?

MM: The best show was our most difficult one to pull off. It was at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY on March 9th. We had barely slept and just finished working out our new drummer Cully. There was a tonne of stress and pressure and that got us to kick it into high gear and play one of the best sets of our lives. Also, I gotta hand it to the monitor engineer, Dan, he is the best we’ve ever had. Love that guy.

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