Roland and Curt say they are different people since falling out in the 1990s
Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith are the council estate boys who grew up together in Bath, shared a love of psychology and all things cerebral and wrote some of the biggest and most intelligent hits of the 1980s including Mad World, Shout and the timeless Everybody Wants To Rule The World. Yet they never got on
“I think we would pretty much fall out every tour because we were in each other’s faces,” says Roland. “I think we were different personalities then and we had different roles, because from the moment we went on Top Of The Pops in 1982 Curt became a pop star and I didn’t really get my head around it. It took me three or four more years, maybe even longer, to embrace that side and become one of the main singers, then the main singer.”
Curt adds: “We were kind of similar when we were young. We’re both middle sons of three boys, brought up pretty much by our mothers. We had shared ambitions, goals, all the rest of it.
But after some of those goals were achieved the way they affected us was completely different. We are completely different characters. I think you can tell that just by talking to us, albeit separately.”
Ah yes, giving interviews to promote their new single, I Love You But I’m Lost (now there’s an interesting title), and a superb new greatest hits album, the pair have insisted on being interviewed one at a time. In different rooms. Separated, at the Soho Hotel in London, by a suite in between.
“It’s because we end up talking over each other and you’re not going to get the best of us,” Curt explains, unconvincingly.
For the moment though, they do seem to have made a truce. After their first split in the early 1990s following Sowing The Seeds Of Love, the long-delayed follow-up to their hugely successful Songs From The Big HEYDAY: Chair album, they got back together on the cusp of the Noughties. Roland, still living in the countryside north of Bath, had been making Tears For Fears albums on his own. Curt, disillusioned with music, had moved to New York and was only gradually lured back into playing with a band of NY musicians “for fun” in his new neighbourhood.
“We literally hadn’t spoken for nine years,” says Curt, “we didn’t talk to each other at all.”
Then, with some old business to attend to, they had a telephone conversation.
“We were on the phone – house phone, not mobile back then – and I was kind of shocked by the way Curt spoke,” laughs Roland, “because we grew up together, we’re both council house kids, and then all of a sudden there’s this mid-Atlantic accent on the other end of the phone talking about (he puts on an American TV accent), motivation, direction and inspiration, and I was like what the hell? “So it was not so much that we suddenly hit it off again as we realised that we’d both changed, both grown up, and that neither of us was the person we so despised back in 1990.”
Curt and Roland in Brussels, in 1985
The pair got together in Los Angeles. Roland moved his wife and children out there for what would be a two-and-a-half year stint and bought a house, as he puts it, “0.7 miles from Curt”. “I’d see him every morning, out jogging in his shorts.”
Together they made a new album, Everyone Loves A Happy Ending, alongside some of the musicians Curt had met in New York including ace guitarist Charlton Pettus, who is now at the core of their touring and recording band.
1985 It was released in 2004 and, in line with its title, is a beautiful and very happy record.
“It was brilliant in LA,” says Roland. “The kids were young enough for it not to disturb their education and it was an incredibly healthy lifestyle. The weather’s so good that you’re up every morning, walking in the canyons, playing tennis three times a week.”
The pair grew up together in Bath, Somerset
The memory must have a terrible poignancy for Roland because the wife he shared that experience with, Caroline, whom he had married in 1982, died this summer from natural causes. He is, understandably, still deep in grief and requested that we didn’t discuss it but it’s clear that the passion he has brought to singing and playing his songs on the current UK tour is part of his attempt to come to terms with it. “I love playing live now,” he says quietly. “When you write really good lyrics – and sometimes I did! – they are just a joy to sing.”
Much of the band’s early work emerged from their shared interest in psychology and Roland’s experience of primal therapy, a result of trying to cope with his parents’ separation and a childhood spent with a housebound and difficult father.
“I always thought I had a difficult childhood ’til I saw the film Angela’s Ashes,” he laughs. “I thought: ‘Oh, what the hell am I complaining about?'” R
Oland no longer has therapy sessions “for the moment”, he laughs, and the duo have completed 26 songs for a putative new album: “Normally the amount of music we have is what you hear on the album and that’s it,” says Curt. “This time we have far too much material, which never happens!” Perhaps this stage of the Tears For Fears story may have a happy ending after all.
Tears For Fears’ greatest hits Rule The World is released on Friday. For details of the 2018 UK tour visit tearsforfears.com