Psychedelic Furs Bassist Tim Butler Explains Why Group Took Nearly 30 Years To Release New Album

Post-punk band performs with X on July 22 at MGM Northfield Park — Center Stage

click to enlarge Psychedelic Furs. - Matthew Reeves
Matthew Reeves
Psychedelic Furs.
Psychedelic Furs bassist Tim Butler admits that when his band hit the road with punk rockers X back in 2019, he initially wasn’t sure the pairing would work.

“We pretty much just did the West Coast, and it was cool,” he says via phone from Richmond, VA, where the Psychedelic Furs were rehearsing for the tour that brings it to MGM Northfield Park — Center Stage on Friday, July 22. “They’re a great bunch of guys — and a girl. It worked really well even though it’s a different type of music. It was mutually advantageous. They probably introduced some of their audience to our audience, and we probably introduced some of our audience to theirs.”

Like X, the Furs have a relatively new album to support. In 2020, the band put out Made of Rain, it’s first new album in nearly 30 years. The band famously broke up in 1992 but reunited in 2000.

Butler says a hectic schedule contributed to the breakup.

“We took the break because we were tired of being the Furs, and [we were tired of] the tour, record, rehearse, record conveyor belt that record companies put you through,” he says. “When we got back together in 2000, we thought about doing another album, but we were afraid to see if we could do an album that could hold up shoulder-to-shoulder to our previous work. That’s why it took so long. There was still that fear of being panned by the press and hated by the hardcore fans.”

When the group had finally assembled a good batch of songs, it went into a St. Louis studio to cut the record. The band worked quickly in a couple of two-week sessions. Songs were recorded in two or three takes.

“We would do two or three takes, and we found that the energy is still there for us and so is the excitement of playing the songs,” says Butler. “We didn’t slave in the studio for days and days. Richard [Butler] knew of this studio. He had worked there before. It was nice and quiet. It was a laid-back atmosphere. It wasn’t a huge mega-bucks studio. It worked out really well. It’s not like one of those places where you can’t take a day off because you’re playing thousands of dollars in rental fees.”

The new release doesn't disappoint. Album opener “The Boy That Invented Rock & Roll,” a track with reverberating guitars, woozy horns and distorted vocals, alludes to Elvis Presley, even though Butler sings the track in first person. A viola distinguishes “You’ll Be Mine,” giving it an Irish folk sound, and harpsichord runs throughout “Tiny Hands.”

“There are psychedelic elements throughout the album, especially on ‘Tiny Hands,’” says Butler. “It has shades of the Their Satanic Majesties Request album by the Rolling Stones. And there’s a straight keyboard. The solo in there is harpsichord. It’s about Donald Trump.”

The shimmering “Stars” brings the album to a somber close.

“I particularly like the guitar sound and the solo on the song,” says Butler when asked about "Stars." “I forget which effects [Rich Good] used. It’s a really rare guitar effect that he guards with his life.”

Butler says five or six songs from the new album will make their way into the live set.

“The new songs sound like Psychedelic Furs, but it’s sort of up-to-date. You can’t not be the Furs with Richard’s vocals. Musically, it fits alongside with [1982's] Forever Now. Made of Rain and Forever Now are my favorite albums we recorded.”

All these years since the band's formation in the late '70s, Butler says he still looks back fondly on the British punk scene that helped spawn the band.

“We liked the energy and aggression of punk music, but we were listening more to the Velvet Underground and early David Bowie. [Richard and I] went to see the Sex Pistols on Oxford Street. We were blown away by the energy and the aggression and the whole image. We took that and mixed it with the songwriting of Velvet Underground and Roxy Music and that molded us into the Psychedelic Furs sound.”

Produced by Steve Lillywhite (U2, Siouxsie and the Banshees), the band’s self-titled debut, became a hit in the UK, and its second album, 1981's Talk Talk Talk, would take off in the States.

“When you form a band, you never think you’ll get signed or become really successful,” says Butler. “It starts out as fun. You play a show and have a few beers and meet a few girls. Then, it starts to snowball and things get serious. After ‘Love My Way’ got into rotation in the States, we were playing to packed houses in places we had never heard the name of. There’s nothing better than going out and seeing an audience singing along with songs you wrote whether it’s four or 40 years ago.”
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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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