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Posted August 18, 2015 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

The Good Life: Making time to make a new album

The Good Life
The Good Life

An indie rock act The Good Life hadn’t put out a new studio album in eight years. The group just broke that dry spell with Everybody’s Coming Down, a collection of off-kilter songs. Singer and multi-instrumentalist Tim Kasher recently phoned us to talk about the album.

The band came together in 2000. Talk about what originally motivated you to form the group.
It’s a while ago now. Before [my other band] Cursive, I grew up on British pop. It was one of my favorite things. I was a pop-driven songwriter. If it wasn’t that, than it was your morose coffee shop folksinger stuff. I got a little older and started getting into Fugazi and Superchunk. I started playing more and writing more band-driven stuff. That became Cursive. I still had that initial way I wrote. Cursive started finding some success around 2000. I just thought of The Good Life as an opportunity to put out this stuff.

How do you determine which songs become Cursive songs and which ones become Good Life songs?
I don’t worry too much about it. Over the years, I started a simple process of writing one album at a time. I don’t jump albums. That would become unfair or confusing. I don’t want to think of which band to give which song to.

The group’s name comes from old state slogan for Nebraska.
It still is. They were talking about changing it, which made me think I should change the name but I was going to make the new slogan the name of my new album. They didn’t change the slogan so I didn’t get to pursue that joke.

Does Nebraska offer a good life?
Yeah. Totally. It’s my home state so I do love it. I suppose it depends on where you come from. It sadly has its own trouble with class inequality. I guess that’s everywhere.

Is it conservative or liberal?
It’s staunchly conservative. Omaha is a growing city. Omaha is nearing a million with the neighboring towns. It has grown a little more divided. It’s become somewhat liberal but not democrat all the way. It’s now closer to half or two thirds with the last election.

It’s been eight years since your last album. What has changed for the band in that time?
The band was pretty close to dormant. We did some dates in 2010. We thought about doing this album about a year and a half ago. I put out a couple of Cursive albums and a couple of solo albums. Stefanie [Drootin] started raising a family and she and her husband started Big Harp. They’re on tour with us as well. We all live in different cities. We’re all good friends so it’s nice to get back together and do this again. It was a matter of clearing out our schedules and making time to do it.

I kept thinking I should do another Good Life record. I kept doing the solo records and I had to pull the reigns back on that for a moment to do this.

Talk about your approach. Did you intend to rock a little harder on this album?
It wasn’t necessarily the intent. It made natural sense to me. Now that I have put out solo records, that’s the softer and more personal stuff. It made sense to the whole band that it should be the members of the band doing this. We just set out to make sure we put our stamp on it. The reality of it is that it’s more of a rock band. We’re excited about the album in that regard.

According to the bio the album “poses cosmic queries, contemplates regrets, questions self-worth and the power of memory vs. experience.” What inspired those big themes?
The title comes from something I try to keep loosely tethered through the album. It is what started thinking of as the dilemma about how we experience the present. We’re always reflecting on or reacting to or thinking about something from the past or working toward something in the future. It’s like dilemma about whether we ever live in the moment and whether we are ever in the moment. Do we really know how to do that? We get so excited about a given thing and then it’s gone. It’s an analogy for life. I think it’s a bit obnoxious but one of the obvious experiences that is analogous to it is the experience of orgasm. We’re driven by this need to release that and it happens so fast and then it’s done.

The guitars in “Everybody” are pretty heavy and sound a bit like Neil Young. What were you going for sonically?
That is, like many of the songs on the album, a good example of Ryan Fox on guitar. He left a large impression on the album. It’s the fault of his years of playing. He was mastering the art of guitar tones. He’s become a great guitar player. It’s nice. The chords are straightforward. I think some of the best songs are the ones that are really simple and make that impact in their simple state. They don’t have to be that complicated.

I like “The Troubadour’s Green Room.” It seems very meta, like it’s about the art of songwriting. Talk about the song’s concept a bit.
When I write stuff like that, I have a tendency to feel like I have something special on my hands. I want to make sure to apply the right lyrics so it touches on someone’s emotions or it’s relatable or it becomes some kind of universal experience. I have a tendency to deconstruct the process and end up with something more like the lyrics that are on the song. It’s an indictment of the process I’m going through. It’s not that I’m attacking myself on that level. I do intend it to be quite tongue in cheek. At the heart of it, I do just want to write good music. Everything gets complicated. You are monetizing it. You’re trying to figure it out. I’m confusing myself and keeping myself in check. I enjoy the idea of other songwriters hearing it too. It questions their reasons for doing what they’re doing.

The album’s final song, “Midnight is Upon Us,” is such a beautiful ballad. It seems like you wrote it to be the album’s final song. Was that the case?
I think openers and closers are really important to me. I keep my ears open for that. It felt like it could close the record.

Do you anticipate the band will be more active going forward?
Yes. That would be the hope. We want to keep touring throughout the year and try to keep this going.

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Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.