Psychedelic Furs: ‘We’re re-energised and reinvigorated’

Psychedelic Furs guitarist Tim Butler talks to DUNCAN SEAMAN about the band’s return.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 1:00 am
Updated Friday, 4th October 2019, 2:43 am
Psychedelic Furs. Picture: Maggie Butler
Psychedelic Furs. Picture: Maggie Butler

Psychedelic Furs have been busy since they last visited Leeds in 2017. The post-punk band led by brothers Richard and Tim Butler have been working on a batch of songs for their first album in almost 30 years; they have also signed a record deal with indie label Cooking Vinyl.

Tim reveals the record is “being mixed as we speak so hopefully it should be out to the fans early next year”.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the songs were written in, I’d say, the last year and a half,” he continues. “We’ve been writing songs since we got back together [in 2001] but the more recent ones were the ones we’ve been immediately happy with.

Psychedelic Furs. Picture: Maggie Butler

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    “We still have other ones that we could work on another time. These ones just came together with the band quickest.”

    The new songs seem more of a team effort than in the past, when Tim and Richard and former guitarist John Ashton were more of the band’s songwriting core. “I’d send Richard an idea or John would send him an idea and we’d work on them. But this time there was four people – three of them players – contributing to it, which was a lot of help.

    “There was more style input from either Richard and I or John and Richard. We’re very happy with the outcome.”

    Cooking Vinyl MD Rob Collins described signing Psychedelic Furs, famed for such 80s hits as Pretty In Pink and Love My Way, as a “personal project”.

    Tim says: “He was after us for a while, but we didn’t know he was that big a fan; I just found out when I read the press release they put out.

    “But it’s a good thing to have someone who runs a record company as somebody who’s a fan, not just thinking, ‘oh, there’s some quick money to be made here’. It means they will, I guess, work harder on it.”

    Sound-wise, Tim believes the new album is closest in spirit to a couple of their early 80s classics.

    “My favourite album has always been Forever Now,” he says. “I’d put this somewhere between Forever Now and [its 1981 predecessor] Talk Talk Talk.

    “It’s more, I’d say, rock ’n’ roll than we’d become with World Outside [from 1991] or Book of Days [from 1989].”

    The older songs are certainly familiar to the band, having relearned them for recent tours. “The thing about writing is you constantly hear where the music is going, you hear it in soundtracks and movies and on TV, so you’re constantly influenced. It’s going to be a cross between Forever Now and Talk Talk Talk. Obviously it’s updated, it’s not going to be the Furs back in the early 80s.”

    The band intend to debut some of the new songs live on what will be their third UK tour in successive years. “We recently did a 24-date tour with James [in the US, where both Tim and Richard have been based since the late 80s] and we were playing new songs,” Tim says.

    The fans’ responded “pretty well”, he adds. “It’s strange, because if it is a new song that you’ve never heard before you’re going to be laid back about your response. I think sometimes people give it a great reception because there hasn’t been anything new for so long, but they’ve been getting good reaction.”

    The band’s special guest on this tour is Wendy James, former singer with Transvision Vamp. “I think Richard became friends with her on Facebook quite recently,” Tim says. “Before that I was never really that up on Transvision Vamp or her other stuff. It will be a surprise. Hopefully a good one.”

    Looking back over Psychedelic Furs’ 40-plus years, Tim can see their story in chapters, from punk roots through post-punk and new wave to the alternative college rock scene of which they became a major part thanks to John Hughes’ use of their song Pretty In Pink in a Hollywood film of the same name starring Molly Ringwald.

    “I think as the albums went along we changed from being a sort of aggressive new wave band, not really knowing our instruments and how to write songs properly, but we got away with it with the first album, but the progression to the songs on Mirror Moves being well-written pop songs. I guess we went slightly off track with Midnight To Midnight, it was a bit over-produced, a bit 80s. I think that’s the only album we did that can be allocated a time that you can tell when it was recorded.

    “This chapter we’re reinvigorated to be the Furs again. When we got back together we enjoyed who we were and our legacy. Now we have the best band we’ve ever had and we’re feeling, as I said, re-energised and reinvigorated playing those old songs.

    “At the end of the 80s and in the early 90s we were sort of getting very tired of the whole Psychedelic Furs thing, which is why we hit the brake which was longer than we thought, but coming back together it’s exciting to go out and play now. Before we’d been a bit jaded.”

    Psychedelic Furs play at Leeds University Union on October 7.