June 20, 2013

Making Noise: Regrouped, rested and still good, Psychedelic Furs coming to Maine

The band will perform at the Asylum in Portland on Saturday.

By Aimsel Ponti aponti@pressherald.com
News Assistant

I've come full circle: I recently got to interview the bass player from a band I've loved since it released its fourth album, "Mirror Moves," in 1984. I soon discovered that the three that came before it were even better, and that I was in it for the long haul as a fan of The Psychedelic Furs.

click image to enlarge

The Psychedelic Furs, including bassist Tim Butler, left, and his vocalist brother Richard Butler, are touring again and also working on a new album.

Courtesy photo by Maggie Butler

THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS

WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Asylum, 121 Center St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $27; 18-plus

INFO: portlandasylum.com

(If the band name isn't ringing a bell, think "Love My Way," "The Ghost in You" and "Pretty in Pink.")

The Furs formed after bassist Tim Butler and his brother, singer Richard Butler, were inspired after seeing a 1977 Sex Pistols show in London. The band's lineup solidified in 1979, and its self-titled debut album produced by Steve Lillywhite (Peter Gabriel, U2, Dave Matthews Band) was released in 1980.

The following year brought with it "Talk Talk Talk," home to the original version of "Pretty in Pink," which would later be re-recorded when the John Hughes film of the same name was released in 1986.

I saw The Furs a bunch of times in the 1980s, and then a few things happened: I didn't love the next couple of records, and the band went on hiatus in 1991. Life marched on; the band Live Spit Love was formed by some Furs alums, and that was that. I would always love their first four albums, and nothing would ever change that. Good enough, right?

But then in 2000, The Psychedelic Furs reformed. And truth be told, they've been touring off and on since then. However, they haven't come to Maine, and I've been too lazy to see them at other New England venues.

That all changes Saturday night, when The Psychedelic Furs play at Asylum in Portland. I can hardly stand it. Tim Butler is now 54, his brother Richard is 56, and you know something? They still sound fantastic. I've watched a number of YouTube clips from recent performances, and the band sounds stellar.

Tim Butler and I chatted via telephone from his home in, of all places, Kentucky. He said the rest of the band is scattered around New York, Washington state, Chicago, England and San Francisco.

I allowed myself a measured dose of gushing fan-girl, and then dove right in with my questions.

Butler's favorite Furs record? "Forever Now" (1982). "It's the perfect recording as to what the Furs sound is," he said.

His favorite track from said album: "Only You and I." "Talk Talk Talk" comes in second place on the albums list.

I wondered aloud about the importance of the audience in making or breaking a show. Butler said fans can tell if a band is just going through the motions.

"The crowd is the reason we're there," he said. "If they're not entertained, we've failed. We feed off the reaction of the crowd, and that starts off with the band's performance."

As for the nine-year Furs hiatus, the band had its reasons, Butler said.

"We took a long break because we were burned out on recording, touring and rehearsing," he said. "When we came back together in 2000, we enjoyed playing, and there is no record company pressure to beat Justin Bieber to the No. 1 spot. We've made our imprint, and we have nothing to prove."

As a longtime fan, I had to ask if there was any backlash with the much more polished version of "Pretty in Pink" and the huge exposure that came with it. I know I had my doubts about it back then, and Butler admitted that it drove away the band's older, hardcore audience, as did the subsequent "Midnight to Midnight" album in 1987.

"We went in the wrong direction, and it was over-produced for us," he said. "It was away from what we were at heart, and we got swept up in it."

Some major soul-searching took place after that album's tour, and eventually the band stopped booking dates and giving interviews. Essentially, the group had to regroup.

The good news today is that The Psychedelic Furs are working on a new record, slowly but surely.

"We're enjoying it, and there's no pressure to have a single or album by a date," Butler said.

Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

aponti@pressherald.com

 

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