“You can be out of fashion and suddenly people are sampling you and covering you and you’re hip again…”: Tears For Fears’ Curt Smith on how a new generation discovered the band

 Tears For Fears in 1985.
Tears For Fears in 1985.
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Tears For Fears became huge in the 80s with their sumptuous, shadowy new wave anthems but, like many 80s stars, their popularity dried up somewhat as that decade morphed into the next. But if you can stick at it long enough then the limelight tends to comes back round, and that’s exactly what happened to the Bath-formed duo in the 21st century, as co-vocalist and bassist Curt Smith told The New Cue in 2022.

“It’s fascinating,” Smith marvelled. “These things happen that you can be out of fashion and suddenly people are sampling you and covering you and then you’re kind of hip again. But this is what happens if you stay alive and stay around long enough, you will come back into fashion at some point! And clearly we might be on that sort of wave now, hopefully it continues for a little bit.”

A key element in igniting the pair’s renaissance was the cover of their song Mad World in the 2002 film Donnie Darko, with Kanye, Drake and The Weeknd sampling their music in the subsequent years, acts such as Lorde and Foals covering them and artists like The 1975, The Killers, Sam Fender and Glass Animals using their bombastic, Big Music sound as an obvious touchstone. Smith said the first time he realised the band’s music had been passed on to a new generation was looking out from the stage at a festival in the US.

“We played this festival called Bonnaroo in America, which is primarily for younger people,” he explained. “We were sort of on the stage where maybe more, as they say, ‘legacy’ or ‘heritage’ acts would play and normally that would involve a few thousand people coming and listening to you. But the place was packed and they had to open up the back and it was about 10,000 people. What was interesting was the whole front of the audience were all younger, they were all 18 to 30 I would say, they were much younger and they were all singing every lyric to the songs from The Hurting, which was never big in America... It was fascinating to watch. Then I realised 1/ it’s other bands’ influence because they’ve told this audience about us or talked to this audience about us and 2/ of course, it makes sense - we were that age when we wrote that record so they identify with the lyrical content, they identify with what we were talking about. Now what’s really gratifying is now our audience is far more mixed.”

The wave of new interest in the band prompted a creative reawakening for Smith and bandmate Roland Orzabal, who released The Tipping Point, their first new album in 18 years, in 2022.