“Rise up, rise up. Live a full life. ‘Cause when it’s over, it’s…done.”
Tim Kasher was 32 when he first sang those lyrics, the final verse of Cursive’s church-shunning epic Happy Hollow. With that 2006 release, the band was riding in the wake of its breakout LP, The Ugly Organ, and Kasher had already amassed another respectable following with his project the Good Life, which started in 2000.
The Good Life began as an outlet for songs that didn’t conform to Cursive’s disjointed art-rock catharsis, but it grew among indie circles on the strength of full-band singles like “Album of the Year” and “Lovers Need Lawyers.” In 2007, they released Help Wanted Nights, an album meant to complement one of Kasher’s unreleased screenplays. It’s easy to see why, even after penning Happy Hollow‘s closing remarks, Kasher’s own life didn’t seem so finite.
But whether you interpret those words as mantra, warning, or both, the lines seem to loom heavy now for Kasher, who celebrated his 40th birthday last year.
“[People] have this perspective shift,” Kasher explains during a phone interview. He’s discussing the Good Life’s latest LP, Everybody’s Coming Down. The album is the band’s first since Help Wanted Nights, which sees Kasher meditating on some of his old favorites: mortality, in “How Small We Are,” and love’s complications, in “Forever Coming Down,” among them. In “Midnight Is Upon Us,” the two ideas are married nicely — nice as you’ll get in one of Kasher’s self-deprecating yarns, at least. In that song, Kasher unpacks his hesitations on the two in one swoop: “We could’ve had a family, a littered legacy/Now instead of photo albums, it’s a house of record sleeves.”
But in Everybody’s Coming Down, Kasher’s not marking the end of life’s timeline, nor the end of a relationship. On this LP, he’s weighing the beginning of life’s second act.
“Even if you’re a staunch atheist at 20 years old, you’re still 20,” Kasher explains. “You have this vague sense that you have all the time in the world, an endless amount of time to pursue whatever fancy you have. At 40, that’s just not there. You recognize what you’ve lost — I shouldn’t say lost, but with time, you’ve spent a lot of it already. The infinite starts to feel like the finite.”
But does the consideration of death make him anxious?
“I do feel anxious,” Kasher says. “I felt anxious for a long time. This is a funny thing: One of my creeds for most of my young life was that I wasn’t afraid of death. I think the reality is that it’s because you just don’t have to worry about it. You’re just not worried — you’re terrified. Actually, right now, I shouldn’t suggest that I’m terrified. I think it just makes me upset.”
It’s the first question that animates Kasher among the obligatory album cycle chatter. Kasher’s already hashed out the timelines of the Good Life’s recorded reunion, which has been eight years in the making. But all the “reunited band” questions? Like, “how’s it feel to be back in the studio with your old buddies?”? To Kasher, that’s boring.
“I feel like upon getting these questions, it feels too cheesy and saccharine,” he says. ” ‘Oh, we just love getting back together!’ Because it’s just true, it’s just dull. But we’re old friends, and it’s nice to have this excuse forced upon us to get together.”
But yes: The Good Life’s new full-length is practically a logistical miracle. Bassist Stefanie Drootin-Senseney lives in L.A., guitarist Ryan Fox lives in Portland, Oregon, and drummer Roger L. Lewis lives in the band’s native Omaha. Still, if an interesting reunion tale is what you’re seeking, Kasher says to check in with hardcore darlings Refused or Conor Oberst’s punk outfit Desaparecidos, who got a guest spot from Kasher on their reunion LP, Payola.
“That’s the stuff of legend,” he says. “That doesn’t feel like us at all. We’re just like — we did some records in the last decade. This feels smaller to me, and I hope that doesn’t sound dismissive. We didn’t quit being a band, but we quit putting records out and we quit touring.”
That’s not to say listeners are getting a done-to-death version of the Good Life. The time apart led to freedom, and with Everybody’s Coming Down, the band achieved a new sense of freedom and identity, one that Kasher attributes to releasing two solo records under his own name, The Game of Monogamy and Adult Film.
“I was a little more precious about them being my songs before,” Kasher says. “Look at Album of the Year or Help Wanted Nights. They were acoustic-based albums, and maybe more personally mine. This record’s not. It feels like the band the Good Life that compiles it….This isn’t Cursive, this isn’t my solo band. This is us.”
With Everybody’s Coming Down, Kasher, Drootin-Senseney, Fox, and Lewis have crafted another reliable set of Good Life tunes — perhaps more realized than any of their past releases. And any addition to his solid back catalog is significant to Kasher. “I wish that I wouldn’t admit that,” he says. “But to be fair, yeah, I have this ego that I, like most all of us, struggle with. I hope by recognizing that and admitting it, it helps other more pure parts of my psyche maintain an interest in making music just for the sake of making music.”
You’d be hard-pressed to believe in ulterior motives from Kasher. After all, music is what he’s built his foundation on, and like he said in his early thirties: Live it up. You’ve got to admit, though: Everybody’s Coming Down makes for a pretty great start to Kasher’s second act.
The Good Life’s Everybody’s Coming Down will be released via Saddle Creek Records on August 14. They return to New York on August 27 to play the Bowery Ballroom. For ticket information, click here.