Smile Politely

A chit and chat with Cursive’s Ted Stevens

Sure to grasp the hearts of fans new and old, Cursive, the band behind 2003’s The Ugly Organ — an album Alternative Press gave a perfect scoring, and has remained a staple of the band’s catalog over the years — will be stopping by Chapaign to entice indie rock lovers and more. Before the big show, I spoke with Ted Stevens, the guitarist of the group, to discuss the upcoming tour, stress and just being in a pretty cool band.

SP: How would you describe your experience as a band member in Cursive?

Ted Stevens: It’s kind of like family. It’s kind of like everyone moves away and does their own thing, but you still keep in touch on a daily basis and holidays. It’s really comfortable to go out and play music together. So, it’s pretty easy.

SP: When making each of your albums beginning in the early 2000s and so on, how much work was put into making sure each album sounded different from the last?

Stevens: We make a conscious effort to change it up between records. Sometimes it just starts like kind of a loose story line and then a discussion of what instrument best suits that story line. Sometimes the music just comes first and the idea that this instrument played well this way, so let’s get writing and start working on it.

SP: It’s been almost a year since its re-release, but can you talk about the thought process behind remastering and re-releasing The Ugly Organ after its original creation twelve years ago?

Stevens: It was a project that our label wanted to do that they’d done before with like an anniversary release. The thought process for us was just trying to stick to a deadline which we absolutely could not make. So, we ended up doing the anniversary tour after like, twelve years. So, the thought process was pretty much procrastination.

The album’s original artwork at the top, and the reissue’s album art, directly above.

SP: With the success of The Ugly Organ in 2003, was there a lot of pressure when making new music, and do you still feel that pressure now?

Stevens: There was pressure. We kind of responded to the pressure by trying to write bigger and spend more time in the studio and have a bigger production team and bigger band to follow it up with a bang. But over the years we’ve kind of come to realize what feels right and not try to overdo anything and just let things fall back into place. You never want to think as an artist that you just zeroed out and there will be smaller crowds and fewer sales from then on, but The Ugly Organ seems to be a fan favorite. I wouldn’t take that away from anyone. It seems like a fun record.

SP: Out of all of your albums released, is there one you feel you connect with the most?

Stevens: I’m trying to go back and listen to the older music before we tour and kind of reconnect with the recordings a little bit. So, right now I’m kind of feeling the Mama, I’m Swollen record. It feels pretty good to listen to at the moment. Not for any particular reasons. It’s just general — I like it.

SP: What are you most looking forward to about this tour?

Stevens: Getting to meet some new friends and some new people. For us, it’s an area in the country we feel connected with because it’s just the Midwest, but it’s not cities we go to usually. I’m thinking about Champaign and how I wish I was there to watch the game, but I think I’ll be excited for each and every show.

SP: Is there a certain song you specifically feel you and the audience connect with when played?

Stevens: It’s always a surprise when it happens. “The Recluse” is always a fan favorite. As for the few records after that, they all get a decent reaction — the ones we’re playing at least. We’re just kind of playing stuff from all over the catalogue.

SP: Do you have any last words for fans or interested viewers before the show?

Stevens: We’re entertainers and we hope to put a smile on everyone’s face by the end of the night. Come check us out and we’ll have a decent night together. 

Check out Cursive at The Highdive this Saturday with Withershins and Looming, and fall in love with a new band all over again. 

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