“I think it’s the intimacy of where you live,” Kasher says. “All the darkest secrets we have are contained within that structure.”
The house that provides the setting for most of Cursive’s new album, I Am Gemini, keeps darker secrets than most. The album’s epic, Queen-esque opening song, “This House Alive,” spends most of its time introducing the house itself, and it’s pretty clear the place is haunted.
“This doesn’t really come out in the story, but it’s intended to be the main protagonist’s biological parents who willed the house to him after they passed away,” Kasher says, laughing at himself for disclosing such minutiae. “There’s all this additional story that I wrote—it was frustrating that I couldn’t get it all into the lyrics.”
“This House Alive” is as graceful and as teeth-gnashingly heavy as anything in Cursive’s discography, but for Kasher, it serves a very specific purpose. “Mostly, it’s setting a tone for—it sounds kind of silly for an album—but it’s setting a tone for a mystery,” he says.
Even for a band that’s known for meta, self-referential albums that reward repeated listens, the story of Cassius and Pollock—conjoined twins separated at birth who drive each other to madness when reunited later in life—is pretty unusual. While Kasher’s lyrics have dabbled in the fantastic and fairy tale-esque before (see 2003 record The Ugly Organ, which features a handful of Pinocchio references), this is Cursive’s clearest concept album. Musically, it’s also the band’s weirdest, honing Cursive’s carnival-like qualities and exploring its tendency to play “wrong” notes for dissonance. This has always been a band with a sense of humor, but I Am Gemini is less funny than willfully operatic—almost cartoonish.
Kasher says he prefers a blend of “stark realism” and theatrics in Cursive’s music. And “as much as we’ve tried over the years to deny this, I think we really lean toward [being] goth,” Kasher says, laughing. “I love Dresden Dolls—I can hardly get any of my friends to listen to it. We wish so badly that we could be not a part of a Hot Topic world, but at the same time, I go into Hot Topic and I think I like all the stuff in there.”
Cursive is not, at the end of the day, a Hot Topic band—even if the haunted-house album cover of I Am Gemini would look good on a teen-sized black T-shirt. Kasher is widely (and fairly) regarded as one of indie rock’s finest songwriters—albeit one whose introspective writing has lately leaned toward self-ridicule. “As I’m getting older, it’s getting harder to take any of this seriously at all,” Kasher admits. “I’m probably in danger of becoming an absurdist.”
Besides, rock ’n’ roll always seemed a bit of a joke to Cursive. “We don’t believe in ourselves enough to pump our fists and take it seriously,” Kasher says. Funny, then, that the band should find a certain gravity in a story about conjoined twins and a haunted house.