Feels Like The First Time: Cursive’s Tim Kasher reconvenes the Good Life

photo: Tony Bonacci

Since the Good Life formed in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2000, the four-piece have largely been seen as a side project for Cursive’s Tim Kasher, as opposed to a band in their own right. It’s not without reason: The band initially began life as a solo outlet for Kasher after the release of Cursive’s third album, Domestica, that same year. Just five months after Domestica—a not-quite-concept record about a failing marriage—was released, the Good Life’s debut, Novena On A Nocturn came out. A more mellow, emotionally introspective and directly personal reaction to the same events, it set up the idea that the Good Life was an aside, a more hushed and confessional vision of Kasher’s life, compared to the usually louder, rawer and more conceptual songs of Cursive. But that was 15 years ago. Things have changed.

“This is the first album that I think all of us see as actually being the Good Life proper,” explains Kasher over the phone from his home in Chicago. “I think—no, I don’t think, I know—that this is the first time the band really is a band. It’s representative of who all the members are. In the past, with previous albums, I had these ideas for how an album should sound, and it was more them meeting me in the middle.”

That much is apparent. Everybody’s Coming Down is the band’s first album in eight years and marks a noticeable sonic shift for the four-piece, completed by Stefanie Drootin-Senseney (bass/vocals/keyboards), Ryan Fox (guitar/keyboards/vocals/electronic percussion) and Roger L. Lewis (drums/percussion). While they all first worked together on 2004’s Album Of The Year, that record, the Good Life’s third, was very much Kasher—so much so, in fact, that it was even released in a limited-edition capacity with a second disc of solo acoustic demos. Since 2007, however, when the band put out their last record, Help Wanted Nights, there have been two Cursive records and two solo Tim Kasher albums. It meant the Good Life’s original intention was gone. They had to change things up. They had to find themselves.

“For Album Of The Year,” says Kasher, “I needed to do something that was in contrast to [Cursive’s seminal 2003 album] The Ugly Organ. I really needed to go in a different direction with my other band at that time, and so it sounds like the band were accompanying my acoustic-driven songs. And because Help Wanted Nights was meant to be a soundtrack to a script that I was working on, that also, as a result, ended up being fairly confining. I’m really proud of that record, and I see it as a development of us as a band, but for this record, we came together for no other reason than to get together and do a record.”

While Kasher admits that getting the band back together resulted in “a little bit of timidity,” at the same time it allowed for a fresh start. Musically, the album is incredibly expansive and experimental, and also propelled by a confidence which, until this point in time, has also seemed lacking in their songs—not because of the band’s capabilities, but because the music very explicitly complemented and replicated the fragile and sorrowful state of Kasher’s heart and mind. Now, though, there’s a much more spritely, musically ambitious and experimental step to what they do. It truly sounds like the band members are—gasp!— having fun.

“Everybody came together with such confidence,” Kasher explains. “After all the time we spent away from each other musically, to be able to come back and do it because we are specifically this band made such a difference.”

Yet that difference is also present in the attitude of these songs as well as their musical presentation. While Kasher has, across all his various projects but especially with the Good Life, made a career from wearing his oft-broken, bleeding and blackened heart on his sleeve and unleashing his cathartic, no-holds-barred songs on the world, this Good Life album, though far from happy, seems slightly more positive in its outlook. Kasher, who turned 40 last August, is not looking back on the past with quite such sadly bloodshot and hungover eyes. That’s not to say the extremely personal outpouring that’s defined Kasher’s songwriting has disappeared, but it’s certainly taken something of a back seat.

“That’s something I’ve been sitting with for a bit before the writing for this record started,” he says. “I’m certainly older now than I was when I wrote those other Good Life albums, and I think that age has a lot to do with it. There’s a lot of mortality to the lyrical contents and that kind of drives me now. It’s something I’ve felt like I can’t quite tear away from with the last few albums I’ve done. But I certainly don’t want to dismiss that kind of confessional writing. I think that kind of writing is really important, just for humanity. But I’ve also done a lot of it, and I think I just want to keep trying to stay fresh.”

At the same time, while Everybody’s Coming Down does mark a definite rebirth for the Good Life, Kasher can’t entirely shake the downhearted darkness that has been the driving force behind his songs for so long. His outlook may be slightly more upbeat nowadays, but as the morning-after-the-night-before title of the record suggests, it’s almost as if he’s anticipating the next crash.

“It is a typically downer title for us,” he half-chuckles. “But initially it started with what became a short obsession that I had with anticipating things so much and never feeling like you can quite experience them in the moment. We’re always just living just after that moment, it seems like. It’s kind of crass, but I think the orgasm is one of the best analogies for that. You seek the orgasm so much, and then you achieve it and you’re just so deflated.”

He pauses for a second, perhaps lost in this overtly sexual analogy, before, bringing it back to the new record. For Kasher, the perpetual goal seems to be trying to move forward while staying true to his both his heart and his muse. “I certainly recognize that for a lot of people,” he says, “I’m a kind of go-to for pouring a Scotch on the rocks and feeling glum and sorry for yourself for the evening, and that’s what they want to do when they put on a record that I write. And this might not be that record. I don’t want to be that, and I try not to be that by doing different records. But I also recognize that I tend to come back to those types of stories.”

The more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same. S

A version of this piece was published in Substream #47.