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Tears for Fears Sow the Seeds of a Reunion

April 07, 2002|STEVE HOCHMAN

As Tears for Fears, childhood friends Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal were one of the biggest acts from England in the '80s, but for most of the '90s they didn't even speak to each other.

Now they're back together for the 2000s, planning a new album and drawing interest from several major record labels, with a deal expected to be signed in the next few weeks. Plans are to record this summer and then do a full tour.

But the two still have differences.

"We hadn't spoken for 10 years," Smith says. "No, it was about nine years," Orzabal counters later, when told what Smith said.

Other than that, they're back in sync. They last worked together on tour following 1989's "Seeds of Love" album, and Orzabal kept the group name for a while, releasing an album in 1995. They started writing together again last year and in February spent three weeks in a Ventura studio recording elaborate demo versions of six new songs.

The new songs recall the lush sounds and introspective themes of such TFF hits as "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "Sowing the Seeds of Love," but without nostalgia and from the perspective of two 40-year-olds rather than twentysomethings.

"The last thing I wanted to do was make an '80s throwback record," says Smith, who has lived in Los Angeles in recent years. "It was bad enough at the time." Orzabal, who lives in England, agrees, but stresses that they still want to sound like TFF.

"We are conscious of the nostalgia," he says. "I've been struggling with my own work to change the sound of what I do. But there are expectations. We have to be careful to make it sound fresh and give people the sense of the brand."

That they're working together at all, let along getting along well, is a big development.

"When you've worked together for 16 years, it's like a marriage," Smith says. "We weren't agreeing anymore, so you get mad and pick on the person closest to you. We ended up fighting for fighting's sake. We didn't like each other anymore."

The reunion was effected not out of musical concern, but due to some issues involving jointly owned business concerns in England. Once the door was open, though, music was a natural topic of discussion. It took a little work for them to come to a place they agreed on that, though.

"Curt was very into songs that would work on an acoustic guitar, very stripped down," Orzabal says. "I'd been getting away from that, getting into electronic structures and away from the song form. There was a little bit of a battle. But I started writing songs. I had had my head in a techno hole, very European, and then all of a sudden I was coming up with catchy melodies which I hadn't done in years. And it was very refreshing."

The demos are being shopped by Bruce Kirkland, a former Capitol Records executive vice president who also manages the Dandy Warhols and the Bangles (who are finishing a new album themselves). Kirkland says interest has been strong because of the duo's history and its possibility as a thoughtful alternative to prepackaged teen pop.

"There's a general perception with some artists that come back that there is a Rip Van Winkle syndrome," Kirkland says. Tears for Fears "is not like that. Record executives we've been talking to are being very serious about their commitment. Based on the nature of the music we put on the table, people understand it could be a significant record."

COLLECT 'EM ALL: It would be pretty much impossible to see all 60-plus acts scheduled to appear at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 27 and 28. But you could get all of their trading cards.

Event promoter Goldenvoice has printed a series of baseball-style cards featuring color photos of the acts, from such headliners as Bjork and Oasis to DJs Baba G and Z-Trip. The cards will be given out starting this weekend for as long as supplies last outside L.A.-area concerts and clubs.

"We tested then outside a small show recently to see if kids would like the idea," says Paul Tollett, Goldenvoice president. "And a lot of them were asking for more than one, so we may blow through them pretty fast."

The cards don't have an equivalent of the statistics found on the backs of sports trading cards. Instead, they bear the Coachella lineup.

"We thought of putting discographies or something on them," Tollett says. "But the main reason we were doing them was to serve as fliers for the shows. We wanted them to be fun, and I like that they're small, easy to pass out and people can put them in their pockets."

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