The Psychedelic Furs were big stars in the 1980s, and remain a popular live act.
But they have been resurgent in recent years as younger acts name-check them as an influence and and appearance on the soundtrack of Netflicks’ hit Stranger Things among other films and shows has opened them up to a whole new audience.
Led by the Butler brothers – singer Richard and bassist Tim, the band which formed in the post-punk era in London, had long since decamped to the US.
They took most of the 1990s off to pursue other projects, most notably Love Spit Love in which the brothers continued to work together, but reformed the Furs in 2000.
They’ve continued to tour since, but now the band are teasing their first new material since 1991’s World Outside album.
Recently back from a 24-date US tour with fellow Brits, James, Tim spoke with The Guide from his home in Kentucky.
‘Rich and I originally moved over here because we started to do a lot better over here than we were in England.
‘In England we always faced a lot of bad press – specially around the time of (second album) Talk, Talk, Talk. We were starting to take off over here, so we decided to go where there was the bigger market.
‘And I think there’s more longevity over here – once you get an audience over here, they tend to stick with you, whereas in England they can be… a little more fickle!
‘One week in the press they love you, next you’re old hat and it’s: “We don’t want to see you, can you go away and die!”’
But during that initial run the band scored hits on both sides of the Atlantic with the likes of Heaven, Heartbreak Beat, and the song which inspired the 1986 John Hughes film of the same name, Pretty in Pink.
However, Tim explains: ‘We had grown tired after 10 years of being Psychedelic Furs and playing those songs. We wanted to try different things, we never thought it would be such a long hiatus, but it turned into being seven years.
‘Now we do everything on our terms, we don’t have pressure from record companies, or that whole machine. Now it’s fun to go out and play those songs and be the Furs again, and realise the influence we’ve had on other bands and the memories we helped create for our audience over those years.’
Richard has been particularly scathing in the past about their 1987 album Midnight to Midnight, feeling that they were rushed into recording a follow-up to Mirror Moves, their biggest hit to date.
While the band will forever be associated to most with Pretty in Pink, Midnight actually contains their biggest American hit – Heartbreak Beat.
In retrospect Tim thinks there were more crimes against fashion than music in that period.
‘Richard feels that we’d lost our direction. We almost broke up after that album. In my opinion, the songs may be a bit overproduced, but the thing that was worse about it was that we followed things fashion-wise – we went the way that was big in the mid-’80s, with the long coats, the mullet hair – spiky on top and long down the back, everybody back then had it. And we sort of went in with that!
‘Musically though, I think the songs on there are still good, so I feel a bit better about it.’
‘But the production on that album can be dated very much to the ’80s, whereas on our other albums, the production can still stand up there with other alternative bands nowadays.’
With the rise of ‘80s nostalgia, and the internet opening up musical history to everyone, the band started to notice contemporary acts mentioning them.
‘The first time I realised how much of an influence we had been was when we were asked to do (Spanish festival) Benicassim with The Killers, and then they invited us to play the Hollywood Bowl with them.’
At the LA show, Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers suggested that the Furs join them onstage during their headline set.
‘So that night they started a song and Jimmy Kimmel came out – he’s a talkshow host over here – and stopped them, and said: “Yeah, that’s a great song, but the Psychedelic Furs wrote one of the greatest songs of the ’80s”, then we came out and they launched into Pretty in Pink. That was really cool.
‘After that I sort of thought: “Wow, they’re one of the biggest bands of the moment, and if they’re admitting to be influenced by us...” We did something that maybe influenced these guys to get together and play.
‘Those sorts of things make your whole career worthwhile,’
‘When you hear Love My Way in (acclaimed 2017 film) Call Me By Your Name, or The Ghost in You in the background of Stranger Things, you think: “Wow, these songs still mean something, they still stand up”.’
With the banding riding high, they have big news for their fans.
‘Whenever we tour nowadays, the audience tends to be everyone from 16-year-olds to people in their 60s. We’re picking up a new audience. It’s great, particularly as we’re going to be releasing a new album next year.
‘It’s all recorded and it’s being mixed in the moment, hopefully it will be out in the spring of next year. It’s taken a while!’ he laughs.
‘We’ve done it slowly because that whole pressure is what made us take that hiatus in the ’90s, and we didn’t want to get back into that. We’ve taken our time and we want it to be good enough to stand up against our back catalogue, which I think it does.’
And will fans get to hear any of the new songs on this tour?
‘Yes, there will be a couple, which we’re excited about – it’s been a while since we’ve had new songs to play! We just can’t wait, and for the album to come out so we can play more of them.’
The Psychedelic Furs, supported by The Wendy James Band play at The Pyramids Centre, Southsea, on Thursday, October 3, doors 7pm. Tickets £31.25. Go to pyramids-live.co.uk.