Roland Orzabal feels like getting confessional.
Photo credit: Still image from live performance video

Tears for Fears: KCRW Live from The Village Studios

Welcome, officially, to spooky season. We can assure you that what you’re about to see, read, and hear is in no way a trick. In fact, we’re giving you the ultimate treat in the form of a live session direct from The Village Studios with legendary new wave act Tears for Fears.

You know Tears for Fears. Whether they’ve been ruling your world since they dominated MTV in 1985 with their smash hit single “Shout” or you're more of the Donnie Darko type, chances are you’ve experienced a major life event made more profound by a soundtrack from Tears for Fears.

Thanks to our friends at Concord, we have a killer video of our recent session in which you’ll hear standout cuts from new record “The Tipping Point,” alongside classics like “Mad World,” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The band’s founding members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith also sat down with KCRW’s Raul Campos for a poignant, revealing, and joyful chat that touches on subjects ranging from the pain of watching a loved one struggle, to the thrill of taking live audiences on a roller coaster ride through their material. 

Read on for the full scoop and put eyes and ears on all of it immediately.

Curt Smith gets wistful at The Village Studios. Photo credit: Still image from live performance video

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity

KCRW: We're such fans of “The Tipping Point.” Can you tell us a bit about what this new record means to you?

Roland Orzabal: I could explain it like this: When we made our first record [1983’s] “The Hurting,” it was very much focused on the experiences of adolescence — the pressures, the sense of isolation of leaving your parents behind, and going out into the big bad world. “The Hurting” is a very personal record. It's quite an emotional record – a lot of baring of one's soul. 

I think you can trace our career up until [1989’s] “The Seeds of Love” where youcould see us now as strong adults, with opinions on the world and the egos intact. Life, of course, is full of ups and downs. At some point, you find yourself in a difficult place. And that's what happened. It certainly happened  to me over the last 7 to 10 years. We find ourselves going full circle. 

“The Tipping Point” has a lot of links with our first album, “The Hurting.” But it's not to do with the traumas of childhood, more to do with the traumas of life.You can't escape them. Well, some people do. Some people skate on the surface, and leave this planet at the age of 27.

Talk to us a little bit about the evolution of the sound of Tears for Fears.

Curt Smith: For this record, it's hard to really pinpoint the sound of Tears for Fears. I've only ever been able to describe it as the stuff that we can agree on. As far as the evolution goes, I think it took us a while to get to a point where we felt we had material of depth.

We spent years at the behest of record companies and management, working with younger songwriters, and producers as their sort of attempt to drag us into the 21st century. And it really wasn't for us. We left with this collection of songs that were an attempt at one thing, a modern-sounding hit single. I'm not even sure if I know what modern-sounding is supposed to be, it changes every few months anyway. In that sense, it’s a pointless pursuit, but it took us a while to get to a place where the two of us were able to sit down [and work the way we wanted to]. We lost our management, bought the music back off the record company, and forged a path forward on our own. That's where the essence of this album came from. We finished the album ourselves, we mixed it and we sequenced it. It was only then that we went to look for partners. That was the most important part – finding a management company that said, “I love it exactly the way it is. Thank you very much.” And we found a record company that did the same. But we had to get to a place where we thought it was really good to start.

Roland, you were going through some really heavy stuff when you started writing the lyrics for a lot of the songs that found their way to “The Tipping Point.” You detail your experience of helping a loved one who is suffering, how did that ultimately inform the album?

Roland Orzabal: As Curt said, we were stuck on this treadmill of trying to find this bright, catchy, and modern-sounding single as if that's all that mattered. While that was going on, my domestic situation was pretty awful. My wife, now my late wife, was struggling with alcoholism and mental illness. Whether the mental illness came from the alcoholism, we will never know. She was a beautiful, charismatic, sexy woman who very rapidly went downhill. I wrote a couple of songs which are sort of heartbreaking. Songs like “Please Be Happy,” address watching someone go through terrible terminal depression. The tipping point itself when you're looking at someone who is very close to death – they're not happy subjects. But that's life.

We have these songs which are very heartfelt. We have songs of redemption. This is what we've been doing when we play live, we take the audience on a roller coaster. We make them feel these periods of mania live, and my demons on the record. And then there's the reward, the release of a beautiful, catchy pop song.

How have you two kept the balance over the years?

Curt Smith: Tentatively [laughs]. No, really it’s like any relationship – it has its ups and downs, which is always going to happen. But I think with this record, I would say we're closer to each other personally and musically than we have been in a long time. That feeling of finishing an album, sequencing it, and then both of us thinking it's a great piece of work – being united in that sense was a fantastic feeling.

Roland Orzabal: I personally think it's our role. And it's vital, just for society, and for people growing up, to show your vulnerability to not be just to be manly about everything, but to say, “Well, you know, we have feelings, and this is how we express them.” That’s another reason why music is so important because I think feelings are very difficult to describe with words. And especially if you're communicating them to someone you don't know, maybe to your loved one you can, but for someone you don't know. And I think this is where music is really handy. There's a huge sense of connectivity that occurs especially with input shows, like the forum where everyone is literally bonding emotionally.  It’s moving, and I think it's good  for our souls, and it's good for our mental health.

You’ve produced several zeitgeist-defining hits like “Shout,” “Mad World,” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” among many others. What new significance have those songs revealed lately?

Roland Orzabal: It's as Curt said the other day: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was written during the Cold War, back in the ‘80s, when we were concerned about a nuclear attack and mutually assured destruction. Turn on the news today, and you're hearing similar things from current leaders. It's sad, and I'm hoping to God that we can move on from this kind of stupidity.

More: Andrew Bird: Live from The Village Studios

More: Cuco’s ‘Fantasy Gateway’: Live from KCRW HQ


Program Director of Music: Anne Litt
Producer: Ariana Morgenstern
Video Producer: Dilly Gent, Son&Heir
Video Director/Editor: Vern Moen
Director of Photography: Trevor Wineman
Assistant Producer: Anna Chang
Audio Editor: Nick Lampone
Copy Editor: Crissy Van Meter 
Digital Producer: Andrea Domanick

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