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Incredible Indie Influence: Tim Kasher

Essay by review  •  December 19, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  1,712 Words (7 Pages)  •  868 Views

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What comes to mind when you think of Omaha, Nebraska? More than likely the image of a small, cattle town comes into your head; a place with little to offer in the area of musical development. And if you would have said this about 15 years ago, you would have been right, essentially. However, these days if you ask someone familiar with the indie rock scene you would get a completely different answer. You would be informed of Saddle Creek Records, one of the most influential independent records labels in the country. You would also undoubtedly hear about two individuals who were extremely significant within this label and forming a thriving music scene in Omaha, Conor Oberst and Tim Kasher. Although Oberst and his brother were the original founders of Saddle Creek, Kasher's influence concerning Saddle Creek, the Omaha music scene, and music everywhere is undeniable.

Saddle Creek Records was established in 1993 and currently boasts bands Azure Ray, Beep Beep, Bright Eyes, Broken Spindles, Criteria, Cursive, The Faint, Son, Ambulance, Desaparecidos, Orenda Fink, Now It's Overhead, Commander Venus, The Good Life, Maria Taylor, Two Gallants, Mayday, Sorry About Dresden and Son, ambulance. The label is named after Saddle Creek Road, a street that cuts through the east side of midtown Omaha. Saddle Creek's first release came in 1993 by Conor Oberst under the name Lumberjack Records. Since then Saddle Creek has released numerous albums and had been continuously adding new talent to the bill (Saddle Creek Records).The impact of this label is undeniable as it placed an essentially unknown area on the map as far as the independent music scene is concerned. Saddle Creek is unique as far as records labels go given they do not have an active A & R (artists and repertory) department. That is, they do not actively seek new talent to add to the label (McMahan). They also do not vigorously promote their albums the way other labels do. They leave much of the promotional aspect up to touring and word of mouth. Jason Kulbel, manager of Saddle Creek Records, stated "Our bands have to tour. If you're in any band and not touring and not selling T-shirts, then there's no way. Don't even try, 'cause bands that don't tour don't sell records." (inFlux). However, despite their relaxed position on promotion Bright Eyes' latest dual disk release sold over 100,000 copies with a couple singles that made it to the top on the charts. An article from Pitchforkmedia states, "More impressive still is that Bright Eyes has made Billboard history with this showing: It marks the first time that one artist dominates both the #1 and #2 positions on the chart since Puff Daddy reigned supreme in August 1997 with "I'll Be Missing You" and "Mo Money Mo Problems"-- and even that was questionable, as the latter cut was really a Notorious B.I.G. cut that simply featured Puffy" (Schreiber). This is extremely impressive for an independent label; especially one that is so passive regarding its bands' promotion.

It is also apparent that the online music sharing, which is so hated by the major labels and big conglomerates, has helped independent labels such as Saddle Creek. In an article by BBC News Saddle Creek's Matt McGinn said, "I think all of our bands have seen growth due to people being able to share bands that they find and love with other people, who are then turned on to the music too," (BBC). This view is rather concurrent with the Saddle Creek philosophy of word of mouth promotion. So with Saddle Creek being an unmistakable giant within the indie music scene and Tim Kasher being a major part of this revolutionary label, Kasher's influence on the scene is inevitable.

Kasher was very influential to the start of Saddle Creek Records. An article on austinchronicles.com credits Kasher saying, "Founded by the Obersts (Bright Eyes), Tim Kasher (Cursive), Todd Baechle (the Faint), and Robb Nansel, Saddle Creek was formed after their teenage band, Commander Venus, was ditched by Grass Records honcho Alan Melzter, who wanted the next act he signed to be famous at any cost" (Haupt). Kasher was also in the band Slowdown Virginia, one of the bands that was crucial to the start of Saddle Creek (then known as Lumberjack Records). They were one of the first to release a CD with Saddle Creek. In 1995 Slowdown disbanded and along with former members of another band called Smashmouth, Cursive was formed. It began as a group of friends playing music together and turned into the cornerstone of Saddle Creek Records. Cursive was a very innovative group thanks to the creative genius of Kasher and the relatively unprecedented addition of the cello to the band in 2001. The band almost ceased to be after band members Stephen Pedersen and Kasher both moved to opposite sides of the country. However, Kasher brought Cursive back to life when he returned to Omaha in 2000. Kasher's bands have always been innovative and original, they reach beyond the typical song and lyrical content inspiring new ways of thinking in the listener. In reference to Cursive's unique style, an article on sfweekly.com says, "It's exactly this flexibility -- the willingness to throw out traditional pop structure in favor of placing two distinct antagonistic emotions in one song -- that allows Cursive to stand out from its contemporaries." (Clouseau). Kasher has created inspiration for countless musicians over the years.

Slowdown alone was a very significant group that inspired various other artists to begin their own careers. The Faint, another Saddle Creek band, credits their beginning to Slowdown Virginia. It says in the biography section of their website, "sitting around on the cement outside of a slowdown Virginia show. Still glowing from the experience, we decided to start our own group" (The Faint). They were highly influenced by many of the Omaha area bands, which were given a way to grow thanks to Saddle Creek Records.

Many others list Slowdown, and specifically Kasher, as the main influence in their decision to start a musical career. Stephen Pedersen, previous member of Slowdown and Cursive and currently a member of Saddle Creek band Criteria, credits Kasher as being his main mentor in the musical realm. Many people can see the blatant influence of Kasher's band Cursive (which Pedersen is a former member of as well) on Criteria. Pedersen does not deny this saying, "I learned to write from Tim Kasher. He's my model for song writing -- he's amazing" (McMahan).

Kasher's influence within the indie scene is obvious and very commendable. This in itself is quite an accomplishment; however, Kasher has expanded his impression beyond one genre and into various other realms. As mentioned earlier, The Faint was greatly

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