Cursive’s Multi-Layered Approach to Music, Story-Telling Continues on ‘I Am Gemini’
Published: Friday, February 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2012 14:02
Cursive's done it again – made a concept album. Again. Their latest, I Am Gemini (February 21 on Saddle Creek) begins with a reunion of two twin brothers who were separated at birth. The twins, Cassius and Pollock, sometimes appear to be the same person upon closer inspection of the lyrics, which are presented as dialog in the liner notes. Regardless, the formerly conjoined twins exist as the respective epitomes of good and evil and their reconciliation is the classic clash of those entities. The final product is theatric and much more than an album. I Am Gemini has some of the heaviest work from Cursive in a while.
College Times dished on the character dynamics with front man Tim Kasher via e-mail.
College Times: This was the first time you had the whole story in mind before writing the lyrics. What initially inspired the characters and tale of Cassius and Pollock?
Tim Kasher: I've had an interest in writing a story about the internal argument we have in our heads — the conflicting voices telling us what we should and shouldn't do. Battling consciences. It always seemed a bit too cheesy, the earlier incarnations, but characterizing them as conjoined twins separated at birth made it more appealing to me.
When did you realize their story was something you wanted to translate into an album with Cursive (instead of making it your next solo project, a screenplay or short story)?
It's subject matter that fits with Cursive's music a little better, in my opinion. Mostly, it was just the idea that was kicking around while we were working on these songs, and it seemed to apply to the music well, so I went with it.
All of Cursive's latest work has been concept albums. Do you think you'll ever return to discordant, narrative-free albums?
I'd like to. I've started a handful of albums with the intent of keeping them "concept-free", but they always end up thematic in one way or another. Maybe the next one! I'll keep telling myself that.
Did you find any part of the process for I Am Gemini lyrically or musically limiting?
Sure, the mere fact that it follows these strict guidelines for the story limited the songs from branching out to other ideas. As for the music, I'd suggest that the story encouraged weirdness in the music: I had an interest in taking the songs in odd directions to give the story more dynamic.
There's a lot of archaic diction in the lyrics. It feels kind of early 20th century and has more in common with poetic verses than lyrics. Did you consciously cross that distinction for this album?
I did. Since we were doing something that resembles opera, I wanted to give the lyrics more of a classic feel. We also wanted the story to exist in no particular time period, but certainly not in the present.
You decided to include stage directions and narrative in the liner notes. Do you think the non-lyrical side of the story is expressed musically or that it's possible to fully experience the album without them?
I think the album can be experienced in any fashion the listener chooses. We have a tendency to develop these additional layers to the music for people who have an interest in delving deeper into the content. But we don't consider it necessary, merely suggested. And when we do a full script like this, I suppose you could say it's heavily suggested, ahaha. But we still consider these to be songs, first and foremost, we understand they will be played on iPods, played on shuffle, and that's perfectly fine with us. But again, there is a lot more to the album if one is curious to take it on, and we hope they do.
The songs are heavier than previous releases. What do you think brought that out of the band?
Quite simply, we agreed we wanted to do something heavier this time around. I thought as we got older we would want to play heavy music less, but that hasn't been the case thus far. It's just a lot of fun to play loud, to play heavier, and we are setting out to have some fun.
On most of your work, the press likes to draw parallels to your personal life. I know Gemini isn't your zodiac sign, but do you think the duality of the twins is something you relate to?
The root of this album is very much myself, and I've enjoyed taking similar content that I've covered in the past and fictionalizing it to the extent we have. It's odd, how intimate they feel to me when I'm singing them while still seeming so fictional.
Is there any story or meaning behind the names?
Sure, they reference the actual Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, but I wanted them to have their own names so they could have a chance to be their own characters.
What will the shows on this tour be like? Should fans expect a set list that plays chronologically through I Am Gemini?
At this point we are continuing to play sets as we always have, the traditional rock and roll approach of playing our catalog with new songs mixed in throughout. Perhaps we can take on playing it as the full album some time down the road.
Is there rhyme or reason behind kicking off the tour before the album release?
No, not really, just anxious to get out and play!