Why the Psychedelic Furs decided the time was right for making new music

By Dave Gil de Rubio

Last year’s “Made of Rain” was officially 29 years in the making as the follow-up to the Psychedelic Furs’ seventh studio album, 1991’s “World Outside.” During that time, grunge, rap-rock and a number of other music scenes arose and petered out, five American presidents served and the internet turned the music industry – and the world – inside out.

And while Furs founding members/siblings singer Richard and bassist Tim Butler spent most of the ‘90s on hiatus making music as Love Spit Love, they resurrected their original group in 2001. When asked why it took so long for the band to record its eighth studio effort, younger sibling Tim offered a rather straightforward answer.

“When we got back together, we were talking about doing a new album, but we were a bit gun shy about coming up with an album that could stand up alongside ‘Forever Now’ or ‘Talk Talk Talk’,” Butler said, referencing the group’s 1982 and 1981 albums respectively. The band is also part of the Cruel World festival alongside Morrissey, Bauhaus, Blondie, Devo, Echo & The Bunnymen and many more at Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena May 14-15.

“We had what we considered good songs and had a band that was really playing well together,” he continued. “We figured the time was right — and it was.”

The Psychedelic Furs will perform as part of the Cruel World festival alongside Morrissey, Bauhaus, Blondie, Devo, Echo & The Bunnymen and many more at Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena May 14-15. (File photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The Psychedelic Furs will perform as part of the Cruel World festival alongside Morrissey, Bauhaus, Blondie, Devo, Echo & The Bunnymen and many more at Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena May 14-15. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

The Psychedelic Furs will perform as part of the Cruel World festival alongside Morrissey, Bauhaus, Blondie, Devo, Echo & The Bunnymen and many more at Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena May 14-15. (File photo by Bill Alkofer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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The two-week recording session ran from after Christmas 2019 into January-February 2020. And then the pandemic hit, forcing the Furs to shut down like the rest of the world. For the bass-playing British ex-pat, it meant heading home to his family in Kentucky, despite plans for hitting the road for an extended jaunt.

“When the new album came out, we’d planned to do a big tour with new material and everyone was gearing up for that,” Butler said. “And then the whole world shut down and it was a big disappointment. [The album] was supposed to be released early last year because we thought COVID-19 was going to be under control, which of course it wasn’t. It was a day-to-day sort of thing. You weren’t sure what was going to be shut down next. It was pretty nerve-wracking to watch the news and see how many people got [COVID-19] that day. It was probably a bad thing to watch the news every day glued to the governor’s four o’clock news conference. So the tour came down to [being staged] in 2022, having not played for around two years. We’re really excited to go out and play the new album.”

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The waiting paid off. Produced by Richard Fortus, formerly of Love Spit Love and currently part of Guns N’ Roses, “Made of Rain” seamlessly slides in alongside the likes of “Forever Now” (1982) and “Mirror Moves” (1984). Richard Butler’s measured baritone sets the tone in nuggets ranging from the irresistible baroque new wave ear worm “Hide the Medicine” and melancholy swooning of “Stars” to hypnotically surreal opener “The Boy That Invented Rock & Roll” and the sinewy “Come All Ye Faithful,” both paced by longtime saxophonist Mars Williams.

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It’s a long way from when the Butler brothers formed a band after seeing the Sex Pistols play London’s famed 100 Club on Oxford Street.

“We were so blown away by that Sex Pistols show that Richard and I were talking one night about if we had a band, what it would be like,” Butler recalled. “So then he said we should form a band and I told him I couldn’t play anything. He asked what I wanted to play and since I had recently been blown away seeing John Burnel play with The Stranglers, I said bass. So he said I should save up for a bass and we would form a band. And the psychedelic part of it was because at that time, there were bands with names like the Sex Pistols, Venus and the Razor Blades and The Clash. They were all putting down the psychedelic bands and we wanted a name that showed more of our influences. Also, people would see our name on a marquee and wonder what the hell a psychedelic fur was and would want to check it out.”

After the Psychedelic Furs released their self-titled debut in 1980, it wouldn’t be long before their art rock sensibilities found them at the forefront of the emerging new wave movement alongside peers like Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure and Siouxsie and The Banshees. A healthy presence on MTV and filmmaker John Hughes’ decision to use the band’s 1981 UK hit “Pretty In Pink” for his 1986 film of the same name helped bolster the band’s popularity as they continued achieving mainstream success in their British homeland with hits like “The Ghost In You,” “Heaven” and “Love My Way.”

Fast forward to the present, and with former David Bowie/Bruce Springsteen drummer Zach Alford on board to keep time for the Furs, Butler the bassist is eager to bring his band’s recent material to the masses.

“We’re all very excited to play for people, so expect a very excited band,” he said with a laugh. “With the final release of an album that sounds current, despite not having done a record since 1991’s ‘World Outside,’ shows we still have something to say musically. It’s really exciting to finally be getting out there playing new songs—not just for us, but for the audience, who have loyally been coming out to see us since we got back together. Now we’ve got a new album to play for them.”

Cruel World

With: Morrissey, Bauhaus, Blondie, Devo, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, Violent Femmes, English Beat, The Damned, Blaqk Audio and more

When: Noon-11 p.m. May 14 and Noon-10:45 p.m. May15

Where: Brookside at the Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena

Tickets: $159-$179 general admission; $349 VIP;  $549-$799 Clubhouse; $25-$75 parking. All passes are available at cruelworldfest.com