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Psychedelic Furs talk new album, Rock Hall snub and ‘mixed blessing’ of ‘Pretty in Pink’

  • July 28, 2020

On Friday, The Psychedelic Furs return with “Made of Rain,” their first new album since 1991’s “World Outside.”

The British new wave/post-punk band was co-founded by singer Richard Butler and his younger brother, bassist Tim Butler. Together, they scored early ’80s hits including “Love My Way,” “Heaven” and “Pretty in Pink.” The group took a hiatus in the ’90s to pursue other projects, but reunited with an altered lineup in 2000.

Richard, 64, and Tim, 61, talk to USA TODAY about taking nearly 30 years between albums, and how they feel about appearing on the “Stranger Things” and “Call Me By Your Name” soundtracks. 

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Richard Butler, center, and the current lineup of The Psychedelic Furs. The band's long-awaited eighth album, Made of Rain, is out Friday.

Question: The Furs have toured off and on together since 2000. How long has this new album been in the works? 

Tim Butler: After we got back together in 2000, we were always planning on doing an album. But we were very nervous of it not being on par with our past work. So we’d write songs, send them to each other, and be like, “That’s OK,” and then push back the idea of going into a studio. But then in the six months leading up to when we recorded “Made of Rain,” we felt we finally had enough great songs to go on an album. It was like, “It’s now or never,” and we recorded it really quickly. Now the plan is to do another album, but a lot quicker than 30 years.

Q: What’s the first song you remember writing for the album? 

Richard Butler: It might’ve been “The Boy That Invented Rock Roll.” I generally get inspired by the feel of the music and just start writing. I wrote down these words, “A flight of crows my insect heart,” and thought, “That could be a place where rock ‘n’ roll comes from.” 

Q: Why the title “Made of Rain?” 

Richard: I was struck by the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly, who wrote a poem called “The Man Made of Rain.” It was about this figure that appeared to him while he was undergoing quadruple bypass (surgery) and slipping between life and death. He had this somewhat epic vision where this man made of rain would come and visit him. I thought that was a great title, but I didn’t want to totally rip it off. But I thought “Made of Rain” fitted with the mood of the songs. It’s a fairly melancholic record.

Q: The Furs have had a recent pop culture resurgence: “The Ghost in You” was used in Season 2 of “Stranger Things,” and “Love My Way” features prominently in 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name.” Have you seen either? 

Tim: Oh, yeah, I watched all the episodes of “Stranger Things,” and once I heard “Call Me By Your Name” had “Love My Way” in it, I went to go see it. I was surprised the amount of times you hear the song in (the film), and there’s that one scene where they’re talking about the band and someone says, “Yeah, we went to England to see them last year. Richard Butler’s great.”

It makes you feel really proud, to be sitting in a cinema audience and hear the name of your band. When you start a band, you don’t know where it’s going to go or how long it’s going to last. You just get it together to play music with your friends and have a few beers at the local club. You never think, “40 years later, I’m going to be sitting in a cinema listening to a song that I helped write.” It’s still exciting. 

Q: Did “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino reach out to you directly? 

Richard: No, but I’m really pleased with the way the song was used. John Hughes, God bless him, he got the message completely wrong – or maybe misinformed people about the message of “Pretty in Pink,” and made it seem somewhat triter than the actual song was. Whereas “Call Me By Your Name,” it was the perfect use for that song.

Q: What don’t you like about the way “Pretty in Pink” was used? (The 1986 movie was named for the song, which was first released in 1981. The band recorded a new version for the film.) 

Richard: It was very literal. It wasn’t about wearing a pink dress – I mean, pink was my metaphor for somebody naked. The message was very different. The message (of the song) was from a very sad girl in a very sad situation.

Q: Do you regret being part of the movie? 

Richard: No, not at all. It was a mixed blessing, really. It broadened our fan base, I suppose, but a lot of people were put off by that whole Brat Pack vibe and thought it was a sellout somehow on our part. They maybe think we had more to do with it than we did.

Q: Online, many Furs fans have made a case for why you should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (The band has been eligible since 2004.) Do you still hope that will happen? 

Tim: I’m not holding my breath. It would be nice, but I think it’s just a name. I can remember John Lydon (of the Sex Pistols) refusing to show up, just because it’s so anti what punk was about. It’s a really corporate sort of thing. As long as you play live, go out and see your fans singing along to the songs, you know what you’ve given to music and those people. You made them happy. That’s the big payoff after 40 years – that’s all the accolades you need to have. 

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