On October 5, the Omaha-based indie rock group Cursive released the eighth studio album in their twenty-plus-year career. For the effort, Cursive reunited with founding drummer Clint Schnase, who last put his stamp on the group’s 2006 release, Happy Hollow. On Vitriola, Schnase drives jagged riffs and brutally honest, introspective lyrics with the same intensity and tone that fueled the group’s late-’90s/early-’00s releases, including their 2003 breakthrough album, The Ugly Organ.
For Schnase, it didn’t take long to get the creative juices flowing again, even though it had been twelve years since he last recorded with Cursive. “At one point or another, each of us commented on how easy it was to get back into the groove of writing together,” says Schnase. “We picked up right where we left off. Matt Maginn [bass, vocals] and I have always written our parts together, and I think it was great for him to have a partner who knew him, his process, and his ideas so well.
“Tim [Kasher, vocals and guitar] lives out of town,” Schnase continues, “so we had to change it up a little bit. Over the course of a year and a half, we got together when we could, for about a week at a time, to practice and write. Tim would send us the structure of songs, with him playing guitar and sometimes singing, so we could get familiar with them. The rest of us would listen, reflect on what those songs might become, and then get together and write. Technology really helped make this record possible. We couldn’t have done this twenty years ago.”
Schnase’s deep groove permeates Vitirola, perhaps most notably on “It’s Gonna Hurt,” where the drummer’s wide 2-and-4 backbeat trudges beneath brooding, distorted bass-driven riffs. While he cites indie-rock drummers such as Mark Price from Archers of Loaf and Jim Eno of Spoon as influences for his bottomless pocket, Schnase draws on other genres for inspiration as well. “My timing really goes back to all the hip-hop I listened to growing up,” he says. “I always liked the lyrics—and memorized them all—but I was really paying attention to the rhythm. Eric B. & Rakim, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, and the Beastie Boys—that’s where it comes from.” To illustrate, Schnase directs us to the groove on “Life Savings,” where he draws from the Beastie Boys’ “Pass the Mic.” “I’ve always loved the beat from that track,” he says. “I was excited that I could work it into the song.”
Schnase, who, in addition to Cursive, has contributed to the work of their Saddle Creek Records label mates Bright Eyes and the Faint, reflects on his local Nebraskan scene today and what it takes for a younger band to achieve success. “I think the major challenge is that because there is a scene, there are so many bands now who are trying to make it,” he says. “When we were coming up, there weren’t as many groups—or as many local venues—and we were just trying to get out of Omaha to let the rest of the country know what we were doing.
“My advice to a band who really wants to make it is that you’ve got to commit,” Schnase continues. “For us, that meant leaving home for weeks or months at a time, with no money, playing in places that weren’t always glamorous. Church basements, fans’ parents’ garages and other house shows, community recreation centers…plenty of places with no air conditioning, no sound system, or no audience. We ate peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches or whatever else we could find that was cheap, and we slept on people’s floors. But those experiences shaped us, and that’s how we got our music out.”
Clint Schnase plays C&C drums and uses Vic Firth sticks.