The Echo Presents
Tim Kasher (Cursive / The Good LIfe)
Laura Stevenson, Jake Bellows
1822 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, California, 90026
This event is 18 and over
Tim Kasher, with his bands Cursive and The Good Life or as a solo artist, has continuously pushed musical boundaries over his career, which has produced 17 LPs and EPs over 20 years. His fearless attitude is easily evident: he’s known for switching up sounds between his bands or his solo work (even switching up sounds on each project’s albums), crafting intricate concept albums (two of which – Cursive’s 2003 LP The Ugly Organ and 2012 LP I Am Gemini – featured play-like stage directions), and transforming songs originally conceived as a soundtrack for his self-penned screenplay into a standalone album (The Good Life’s 2007 release Help Wanted Nights).
Kasher’s forthcoming third solo album No Resolution (which will also be the first release from 15 Passenger, the new label founded and run by Cursive) is no exception, delivering what is arguably his most ambitious and intrepid work to date.
No Resolution is the natural continuation of Tim Kasher’s constantly evolving body of work. It is his most cinematic creation, a moving and cathartic collection of soundscapes that feels more like a suite of movements than a standard pop album, complete with instrumental breaks conjoining the nine songs. Fittingly, the 15 pieces will be featured in Kasher’s directorial debut film of the same name, which he also wrote, to be released later this year. Across the album’s strong story the characters – an engaged couple on the brink of a break up – grapple with the specific and the broad, including the restlessness of adulthood and smothering external pressures; relationships in various states of transition and the walls built within them; distrust, indecision, and despair; and the existential anxiety that drives a deep need to leave a mark on the world.
Filled with lush arrangements, No Resolution is some of the most beautiful and finely orchestral music from Kasher, yet it is also his most subdued and understated work. The string arrangements that dominate the album don’t simply hang in the background or accent the pretty melodies, they move the songs forward and force out the melodies as guitars do in traditional hard rock music. There is also a warm sophistication to No Resolution, with its fluid vibraphone tones, and also exhibits Kasher’s deft pop hand, with sudden horn blasts and dynamic shifts.
Kasher recorded the album at The Hobby Shop (with Andrew ‘mudrock’ Murdock) and at home in Los Angeles, CA, the Shape Shoppe in Chicago, IL (with Nick Broste), and at ARC Studios in Omaha, NE (with Ben Brodin), with additional arrangements by Patrick Newbery (Cursive, Oquoa) and percussion arrangements by Dylan Ryan (Sand, Rainbow Arabia).
Laura Stevenson is finally learning not to worry. After more than a year of national and worldwide touring following the release of her critically acclaimed album Wheel, both headlining, and alongside such varied acts as Against Me!, The Go-Go’s, Kevin Devine, Tim Kasher of Cursive, and The Gaslight Anthem, the songwriter made the move from her between-tour home base of Brooklyn, to upstate New York’s Hudson River Valley. There, she rented a nineteenth- century Victorian, a former brothel in a cement-mining town-turned hippie-enclave, and converted the attic into a makeshift studio. It was in this space that she and her band went to work arranging and demoing the eleven songs she had written that would make up Cocksure, Stevenson’s fourth album. The record features musicians Mike Campbell, Alex Billig and Peter Naddeo, who in various incarnations have performed with her for over seven years, as well as newcomer Samantha Niss, a long-time Hudson Valley resident and the veritable go-to drummer of the region.
Where 2013’s Wheel was full of lingering uncertainty, harkening to Stevenson’s folk and country leanings, Cocksure is a straightforward, to the point, emboldened rock and roll album. Although some existential dread still peaks through the cracks, Stevenson treats themes as heavy-hearted as sudden and tragic death, self-imposed exile in small windowless rooms, and that back-of-your- mind anxiety that the road you’re on may not be the right one, as their own signs of life; a life that is brightly colored by those realities.
With influences ranging from The Lemonheads, Liz Phair, and The Replacements, to early Weezer and the Smoking Popes, Cocksure maintains Stevenson’s unique vulnerability, and steadfast devotion to a solid and honest melody. In the writing process, she challenged herself to be true to whatever was going to come out of her, with many of the tracks featuring melodies that were purely stream of consciousness. “I felt like over-working it would suck some of the spirit out of the songs… this record needed that spontaneity. Spending so much time editing and second guessing yourself takes all the life out of it.”
This sense of spontaneity was maintained in the way Cocksure was recorded. In May of 2015, Stevenson and her band traveled city-bound to Room 17, a studio located in her old neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. “It’s this very positive and amazing space, and Joe Rogers, the engineer, was so enthusiastic about what we were doing. Everyone was comfortable enough to just really play and not get caught up in anything else.” All the main instrumentation on Cocksure was performed live, no clicks/no punches, under the watchful eyes of Rogers and producer Jeff Rosenstock, Stevenson’s long-time friend and collaborator. “Jeff was the perfect person for the job. All of his Bomb The Music Industry! and solo recordings have this energy to them, they’re like living things. I wanted to capture some of the magic he has.” The album was later mixed and mastered by Jack Shirley (Joyce Manor, Deafheaven, Tony Molina) at Atomic Garden Studios in Palo Alto, CA.
Self-assurance is a new hat for Stevenson, and on Cocksure she confronts her usual tendencies toward self-deprecation head-on. “It’s freeing to stop being so hard on yourself, and to quiet down all of the outside noise,” she says. “Once you’re able to do that, you can actually write what you should be writing.”
Jake Bellows had quit music. Or so he thought.
After fronting Neva Dinova for more than 15 years which included five full-lengths, a split EP, and countless tours, he packed up his dog and moved from his native Omaha to his girlfriend's hometown of Los Angeles. Two days before he left he recorded 18 demos with musician and engineer Ben Brodin (Before the Toast and Tea, Conor Oberst) at Brodin's insistence. Once in L.A., Bellows got a job installing sliding-glass doors and sold his Les Paul to buy a Datsun pick-up truck.
Though he had no plans to form a new band, he played the occasional solo show, performed with Whispertown, and continued to write songs. In early 2011, an invitation arrived from Omaha's Film Streams Theater for Jake's old friend Ryan Fox (Our Fox, The Good Life), also living on the West Coast, to perform an original live film score. Fox enlisted Bellows and Brodin to collaborate and the trio began to compose and discuss improvisational ideas over long-distance. Since they were all going to be in Omaha and had a long history of playing in each other's bands, Brodin and Fox nudged Bellows into booking studio time to record some of his dormant songs.
Fox and Bellows drove from LA to Omaha that November in a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle that didn't have heat, a speedometer, a fuel gauge, seatbelts, or radio. They made it as far as Lincoln, NE, before the car caught fire at 4 in the morning. Later that week the trio performed the score to The Adventures of Prince Achmed. That weekend, they entered ARC Studios for a feverish recording session, arranging and writing parts on the fly with an impromptu band including Heath Koontz (Neva Dinova), Todd Fink (The Faint), Whispertown bandmate Morgan Nagler and other old friends. Committing quickly to intuitive arrangements the band recorded 17 tracks in a little more than a week. They worked remotely on the record throughout that winter and spring, adding overdubs in basements and bedrooms across western North America.
The group reunited in Omaha to debut the new songs at a couple of shows one week the following June. Excited to release the new material on their own terms the band put out a preview EP on cassette, Help, at the end of 2012. The new music is underpinned by philosophical conviction and shaped by an interest in physics, cosmology and mythology. Bellows returned to music with a renewed sense of the intrinsic value of art and its ability to express the commonality of human experience. His debut full-length, New Ocean, offers a mix tape of different kinds of songs hanging out on one record - love songs that are not necessarily ballads despite their introspective gauziness, with left turns into drunk-in-the-sun bossa nova and blue-eyed-soul ruptured by fuzz guitar. Bellows believes that songs change the fabric of the universe through the very frequencies they emit. As such, the record attempts to create the world he wants to see instead of reflect the world that is. "Our theory of the beginning of the universe is the big bang - a sound," Bellows said. "What gave birth to the universe is our one tool that we can change the universe with."