Photo by Shervin Lainez
When it comes to writing about the darker side of relationships, there are few songwriters more adept than Cursive and The Good Life frontman Tim Kasher, and his third solo album No Resolution is no exception. The album juxtaposes Kasher's more traditional-sounding compositions with orchestral interludes, all of which will be featured in his directorial debut movie of the same name, which will come out later in 2017. However, the album doesn't need visual imagery to craft a moving story that centers around an engaged couple's restlessness surrounding a deteriorating relationship, and as it usually occurs in real life, there is no resolution. We caught up with Kasher, who now lives in Los Angeles, to discuss his subconscious fear of having children, how he writes for multiple bands, and why he decided to start a new label with his Cursive bandmates to release No Resolution.
Noisey: First off, I want to apologize. Recently on Twitter we were discussing the brilliance of Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer and I think we may have bummed out some of your fans. Do you think a lot of people think that because your music is so serious you can't enjoy reality television?
Tim Kasher: Maybe, but I grew up mistaking artists and writers for being like that, too. Even people like Charles Bukowski or Ernest Hemingway, it's like, you read A Movable Feast and it's [Hemingway] outlining an afternoon and it's very serious. He's very much moping around and being very sullen and reading a lot. [Laughs] That's not how he was. If anything, he was really brash and a big drunk and probably a very obnoxious man. I like him a lot but just kind of stating facts.
Speaking of facts, you don't have kids but a recurring idea on songs like "Runts" is the idea of starting a family. How did that figure into the writing of No Resolution?
I've kind of been having this half joking discussion with some friends lately that my anxiety about having children is akin to like Stephen King's need to write horror or something. [Laughs] I think my subconscious is super terrified of the prospect [of having kids] and it has been for a long time. If you go back to your teens and twenties, you're scared of making a mistake, but now I'm an adult—I'm, like, past an adult—the anxiety still exists. We could sit down with a therapist and find out if it's Catholic upbringing: Has it been instilled in me that I'm supposed to have children yet I'm scared that I'll fuck them up? I don't really know.
Do you ever surprise yourself with what's floating around in your subconscious when you're writing lyrics?
Definitely. I've sort of been joking lately, talking with other writer friends about how obnoxiously transparent it's become that almost everything I've written over the past ten years always ends up being about how some guy knocked up some girl. [Laughs] There's this constant fear that permeates my writing about having kids or something like that. I'm married and I'm in a very comfortable and safe space to have a child. We talk about it, and she's a bit younger than me so there's not an immediate need to have to call it yet.
When did you write these songs?
I started it quite some time ago and that has a lot to do with deciding to do a Good Life record [2015's Everybody's Coming Down]. So it wasn't like a painstaking, consuming effort from 2013 until now, but I think Laura Stevenson can kind of help cite that I sent her a demo of "Runts" in the spring of 2014 or something like that. Basically, I started writing these songs and then got together with Good Life about doing a record, so these songs continued being written but it ended up being a bit of staggered process. I always made a point to keep these songs on some kind of back burner instead of dropping it all together.
I'm sure you answer this all the time but more specific to this album, how did you discern between these being Tim Kasher or Good Life songs? Because it seems less compartmentalized these days.
You're right, I do get asked that a lot. [Laughs] A stock response I have which is mostly true is that it never matters, because I write one album at a time. But this is a circumstance where I actually started the No Resolution record and then shifted over to Good Life. I've also said, and also believe, that I never set out to differentiate between The Good Life and solo stuff because I don't think there's a need; it's not like I need to put this out under my own name because I'm a big jazz aficionado and this is jazz music or something. It's just that I've been playing under my own name for all these years and not using the Good Life members or their name. The reason behind that is that back in 2008 I discussed this with the Good Life and the feeling at the time was that they spent a long time creating that band and name, so we decided if it was the Good Life it should be us. We all agreed amicably.
So is the personnel basically the only thing discerning The Good Life from Tim Kasher these days?
This is how I look at my recent catalog: Adult Film was me being out with the solo band that I was playing with and going, "Oh man, this is so fun, we have to do a rock album!" I did that and I was like, "Oh my god, this is really just a Good Life record." Again, I don't know how much differentiation there is, but I recognize that there was way less differentiation at that point in the sense I was doing The Good Life with different guys. So I decided the best thing would be to scratch that itch and do a record with The Good Life and I did. So going back to why then if I already had a batch that I thought were good that I was getting ready for No Resolution why didn't I just move them over to Good Life? The answer is kind of out of respect. It just didn't feel right and that was a really easy way to make that decision.
No Resolution is also the first album on 15 Passenger which is your new label with your Cursive bandmates Matt Maginn and Ted Stevens.
I'll ask for you: "Isn't Saddle Creek your label?" And it's just not, actually. It's something that was initially all started together and we all have witnessed Saddle Creek grow a lot and do really well the last decade. So I obviously feel a camaraderie with it and a lot of pride about it, but over the years I realized that Saddle Creek, they have their own label. And now we have our own label, too.
Jonah Bayer's favorite Tim Kasher album is The Good Life's Blackout and has never cried while listening to it. Seriously, that never happened. Harass him on Twitter @mynameisjonah.