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When Tim Kasher, the fabled lyricist behind Cursive and The Good Life, talks about the albums that have influenced him, his voice suddenly perks up. He sounds positively excited to explain the basic, raw sound of The Go-Go’s hit album, Beauty and The Beat.
Kasher’s been writing songs since puberty and has, happily, been putting out albums almost as long. Although he did not plan it this way, the albums he’s put out have switched off each year between Cursive and Good Life. Last year Cursive’s new album, Happy Hollow made a thousand girls weep. This year, The Good Life’s new album Help Wanted Nights, is sure to do the same.
The album, like other Good Life albums, is a heart-wrenching tale of twisted lovers and dramatic evenings. The difference is, this one’s as stripped down as they get.
“I’ve tried to do something different with every record I put together,” Kasher explains, “We wanted to go in the opposite direction from what most Saddle Creek bands have been doing and what I have been personally doing, which is adding more and more instrumentation to the songs.”
It’s true, over the years Saddle Creek bands have seemed to playfully one-up each other with expanding stage shows, symphonic instrumentation and thicker sounds. There was Bright Eye’s tour with a full orchestra and Cursive’s addition of a cello player until recently when they added a brass section.
Help Wanted Nights however, has the basic four-piece sound and feel. This is where that classic Go-Go’s album comes into play.
“The thing about the Go-Go’s is that they’re such a commercial band, but you listen to Beauty and the Beat and it’s a really good record,” Kasher says. “They really sound like a garage band. It’s pretty bare and we all wanted to do something that was more reminiscent of the way bands recorded before the digital format came in.”
The new album, like other Kasher imprints, has an autobiographical feel. “Heartbroke,” a brief, seemingly upbeat ditty, hits closest to home for those who’ve ever been in the kind of relationship that rips up your insides, leaving you useless on the couch for weeks.
Though The Good Life’s songs often literally describe one man’s day, Kasher dances around the prospect of them being about his life, citing fiction writers as allies.
“What’s good about fiction writers is that they are able to hide behind people wondering what’s true and what’s not true,” he explains, “a lot of it is autobiographical to a point, but if my close friend was to go through the record, he would say this never happened.”
Up until recently the majority of those friends could be found in Omaha, his hometown. After Omaha was branded by the media as a hip, young town (mostly thanks to Saddle Creek bands) Kasher found his inclusive music scene thrust into the mainstream. He swears he didn’t feel the effects but did see the way it changed the vibes.
“I feel like Omaha just happened to be the ship that sailed, where you used to be carefree and then all of this came around,” he said. “I’m not just talking about the Saddle Creek bands, but just bands in general started having a new objective. It stopped being ‘Hey lets just play!’ It started being this thing where a band is a lucrative career so everyone would take it so seriously and try really hard and it just really changed. It’s hard to get it back.”
Having recently moved to Eagle Rock, an increasingly popular Los Angeles neighborhood, Kasher has mixed feeling about the city. He had planned on moving to New York but switched last minute and headed west with his girlfriend and their dog.
Los Angeles just happened to be the spot they landed in, Kasher says. “As far as the shortness of life, I just wanted to make sure I kept moving to different places and take in experiences. My initiative was just to move in general. It’s nice but I don’t think this is the type of place that I would really settle down. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it.”
Help Wanted Nights is out 9-11-07 on Saddle Creek
“Heartbroke” from Help Wanted Nights - [mp3]
“You Don't Feel Like Home to Me” from Help Wanted Nights – [mp3]