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May 15, 2004

Mehab and Matt muse over Metro, melody and making more music

Editor's Note: This is the second part of a two-part interview.

On April 21, Cursive played the Metro as the headlining band for the Plea for Peace Tour. The tour, which also includes Planes Mistaken for Stars and Rainer Maria, strives "to promote the ideas of peace through the power of music." For the first part of the interview with bassist Matt Maginn, see "Talking with the Omaha band that's not Bright Eyes" (Maroon, 5/7/04). For additional information on the Plea for Peace Tour, check out www.pleaforpeace.com.

Chicago Maroon: It's been a while, but I suppose that Gretta [Cohn, cellist] is still a fairly new addition to the band. How has she changed the songwriting process for you guys?

Matt: It's pretty much the same, the process itself. She's worked rather well at integrating herself into how we do it. She does what the rest of us have done, which is to build around the structures that Tim and Ted [the head songwriters] bring in. We definitely play off of each other musically.

CM: Was it challenging for her to go back and add cello parts to the older songs that you play live? They seem to fit really well.

M: It came really naturally—it just fit in. She's very good at finding melody. And I think that those songs sort of call for some more composition on top of them.

CM: Do you guys have any plans for recording anything new or is that still kind of far off?

M: We are writing. We're playing at least two new songs a night. We're working on writing the next record, it's just a matter of finding the time. Recording will probably be in about a year; we'll hopefully release it a year from this fall.

CM: Do you guys have anything lined up for after the tour, or will you finally have some downtime?

M: No, our plan is probably to take a year off from touring. Really, we wouldn't be on the road if it wasn't for Plea For Peace; it was kind of a special circumstance. It's just natural for us to go home for a long time, I think. I won't say we won't be out, but we won't be out headlining. If something fun comes up that we can support, we'll do it.

CM: I don't know how relevant you feel this is, but within the last two years or so, the label [Saddle Creek] and the Omaha music scene have clearly been getting a lot of media attention. Is this a positive thing? Or is there something at stake?

M: Well, we appreciate it and it's been very helpful as far as creating awareness for all the bands. But we're all a little cynical, you know. As of yet, no one takes it very seriously, we're not banking on media attention. If anything, it drives you in the other direction. You want to make your music more challenging, to bring it back to the tour again. There's something attractive about adversity, and a balance between the two is really what keeps you motivated, as far as music and art go.

CM: I've always been somewhat amazed at the feeling of community that's maintained in the Omaha music scene; at shows in Omaha, all the bands come out to support their friends and to hang out with the kids. Are you always going to be able to maintain that high degree of intimacy as the bands become more visible?

M: Yeah, in Omaha, everything is just as comfortable and as fun as it's always been. At least, as far as we're concerned, we're fairly common, normal-looking people [laughs]. I feel like we pretty much operate the way we always have, whether we're playing in somebody's basement or here. However, I would say that you have no option but to lose some of the intimacy. When you play house shows, you play the show and then, since you're staying there, you hang out with whoever is at the party until four in the morning and you get to meet a lot of people and make new friends. And that's not really an option anymore. We dream about pulling something like that off now, but with the travel schedule, you have to try and get a little sleep because you're traveling the next day.

CM: Does it seem like a worthwhile compromise to you, if it allows a lot more people to hear your music?

M: It's inescapable, so I don't really know. I think we do try and hang out and meet people and have fun; we try to keep that going. At the same time, it's nice to play somewhere with a good sound system that accurately represents your music. And obviously, having more ears open to your music is a good thing too. It's kind of a tradeoff, I guess.