Tim Kasher talks influences behind new LP (Judee Sill, King Crimson & more)

Tim Kasher talks influences behind new LP (Judee Sill, King Crimson & more)Published: April 14, 2022photo by Erica Lauren

Cursive/The Good Life frontman Tim Kasher's fourth solo album Middling Age arrives this Friday (4/15) via 15 Passenger/Thirty Something Records (pre-order). As previously mentioned, it features guest vocals by Laura Jane Grace and saxophone by Jeff Rosenstock on the climactic closing track "Forever of the Living Dead," and the album also features percussion by Cloud Nothings drummer Jayson Gerycz, plus trumpet and cello from Tim's Cursive bandmates Patrick Newbery and Megan Siebe, giving the album a similarly orchestrated feel to classic Cursive records. The Mystic Valley Band's Macey Taylor plays bass on a song ("100 Ways To Paint A Bowl Of Limes"), and a portion of the opening track "Middling Age Anxiety Prologue" is a piece written and performed by Tim's nine-year-old niece Natalie Tetro called "Long Days."

The album has a strong folk influence, as well as some of Cursive's proggy indie rock vibes, and when we asked Tim about the specific inspirations behind this album, he named a handful of folk singers (Judee Sill, Leonard Cohen, Aimee Mann), along with some prog (King Crimson) and indie rock (Pedro the Lion). He also mentioned some non-musical influences, like Fleabag, the lockdown, and the passing of his dog. See Tim's full list, with commentary on each pick, below.

INFLUENCES BEHIND TIM KASHER'S MIDDLING AGE

Judee Sill

Of some coincidence, I came across Judee Sill when reading a piece on Chris Simpson’s influences for his Mountain Time record, Music For Looking Animals. He made a convincing argument as to the beauty of her songwriting, so I gave it a shot and couldn’t stop. For a little while there, "Jesus Was A Cross Maker" was the only thing that could brighten my mood.

Fleabag (Phoebe Waller Bridge)

I was a little late on Fleabag, but fell in love with it all the same. I was affected by the sentiment of an atheist seeking some sort of ‘higher love’ and simply not knowing where to find it. But needing it. I’m a big proponent of atheism in our culture, and am often glad to contribute to it, if only in my teensy tiny way.

King Crimson

Okay, so I can’t claim that much of anything on Middling Age sounds like King Crimson, but thought I’d mention them as an influence anyway, as I went through a bout of listening to them fanatically while working on this record. I was trying to think of what influence to cite for the subtle discordant chords I pepper throughout the record, and decided King Crimson works as a good catch-all for my interest in prog rock.

Pearl

Pearl, our sweet yellow lab, passed away during lockdown at the ripe old age of fourteen and a half, quite the impressive feat for a dog of her size. Sure, there weren’t a lot of positives to come from a global pandemic, but perhaps the best benefit for us was time at home to care for Pearl. Without any tours on the horizon, I was able to take care of her full time, hand feeding her, constantly washing her after her "messes" (poor thing), and taking her on strolls through the neighborhood in a big wagon we picked up for her at Home Depot. She had me thinking a lot about mortality, and how precious it is to simply be there for one another.

Tim Kasherloading…

Pedro The Lion

I’ve been a fan of Pedro The Lion from the start, and one of my activities during the making of this record was listening to his whole catalog, front to back. I listened for enjoyment, but also took many mental notes as to how the albums were recorded, how the sound evolved and the beautiful sparseness of his arrangements.

John Joubert

This influence is far more specific, and one that has influenced my anxieties since I was 9 years old. John Joubert was a serial killer in and around Omaha, Nebraska in the early '80s who targeted young boys. He is the boogeyman of my life, a terror that I’ve never fully shaken, which led me to write "The John Jouberts" about the wake of his atrocities.

John Joubertloading…

Aimee Mann – Mental Illness

Another popular record for me during this writing process. I’ve been a fan of most all of her albums and found this to be one of her best. To my ears, "Goose Snow Cone" is one of the best songs she’s ever written, and I can’t help but assume I’ve been inadvertently trying to write my own version of such a song, over and over and over again.

Eliza Hittman films – Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always / Beach Rats

I had the opportunity to catch up with some of Eliza Hittman’s work, and though I haven’t seen all of her films yet, I am devoted. I’d be so pleased to create something with the quiet, subtle yet devastating approach she utilizes, and I’m certain that with the way her films stay with me, they’re also finding their way into my songwriting.

Leonard Cohen – "Famous Blue Raincoat" / "Is This What You Wanted"

I love "Famous Blue Raincoat" for how spare yet perfectly placed the subtle arrangements are and conversely I love "Is This What You Wanted" for having such exciting, bombastic arrangements. I often strive for songs in both styles on a record, and found myself returning to these songs for consideration.

The Lockdown

I can’t help but reference the past two years as a major influence. We’ve been careful to not present this record as a "pandemic record," and I will continue to insist that it’s not, but it is inevitable that such a major, global reckoning will find its way into influencing just about everything we do. As I wrote about feelings of stasis and isolation I assumed I was writing about the anxieties of being middle aged, but as I look back on the record I realize it was also the lockdown impressing itself upon all my waking thoughts.