Tears For Fears Are Back, and Closer Than Ever


At their peak, Tears For Fears made some of the most iconic songs of the 1980s, including “Shout” and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” Talking to the duo on Zoom, they look much as they did on MTV back then, just aged a few decades. Singer-bassist Curt Smith is loquacious yet soft-spoken, and wears his hair shorter; singer-guitarist Roland Orzabal, with his long flowing hair and white beard, tends to pause before answering questions with both thoughtful sincerity and dry wit. “I do get asked for my autograph a lot nowadays,” he volunteers at one point. “Because they all think I’m in Lord of the Rings. They’re so disappointed when I tell them I’m Edgar Winter.”

The band’s new album The Tipping Point, which is out on Concord Records on February 25th, has been in the works for about seven years. The British duo’s albums have almost always come out of such long, complicated gestation periods. “We seem to be haunted with painful processes, long winded recordings, politics of the record company,” Orzabal says with a slight grin. These pains date back to even the band’s underdog 1983 debut: “We spent 8 months on The Hurting, which was absolutely ridiculous when bands our age or even older were wrapping an album in a month. We seem to attract pedantic people. Pedantic people plus Tears For Fears equals pain.”

Early sessions for The Tipping Point were plagued by a quest for relevance. “It started off with an attempt by management to bring Tears For Fears kicking and screaming into the modern world. So we found ourselves, like a lot of bands, going into this ‘speed dating’ writing situation,” Orzabal says, recalling how the duo’s previous manager linked them up with a series of younger artists. “What they’re saying is ‘We don’t really trust you guys, you’ve made some good records, but c’mon, you’re not very contemporary. So we’re gonna put you with people who know how to make a modern hit.’ So we did that, and it was interesting, but it’s not how we work at our peak.”

One of the band’s “speed dating” collaborations, “I Love You but I’m Lost,” co-written with Dan Smith of Bastille, was released as the new single on the 2017 compilation Rule the World: The Greatest Hits. When initial plans to release the album they’d completed fell through, Tears For Fears took a step back and decided to start over. “Curt and I grew to not like it, or certainly felt it had a bad smell to it, all those attempts at hit singles,” Orzabal says. So they rebooted the process, changing labels and management. In 2020 they began writing new songs without the same commercial aspirations in mind, and reworking five songs they liked from the unreleased project.

The thunderous “My Demons,” which they made with veteran songwriters Sacha Skarbek (Miley Cyrus, Adele) and Florian Reutter (Christina Aguilera, Icona Pop), was the one collaboration that survived from the “speed dating” experiment. The bigger creative epiphany came when Orzabal and Smith sat down together with two acoustic guitars and came up with “No Small Thing,” which opens the album. “It was just me and Curt, just like the old days, when we were kids,” Orzabal says. The album version retains that acoustic sound, before building to some of the electronic bombast Tears For Fears made its name on. “We were missing the heart and soul of the album, and we needed to complete the narrative.”


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