It happens to many bands — a clash of egos that results in a breakup. That famously happened to Tears for Fears, the pop rock band composed of Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal that formed in Bath, England, in 1981.
But they reunited more than 20 years ago, and now the duo have a new album titled “The Tipping Point” and are back on a world tour, making a stop at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on June 10.
“The Tipping Point” is the band’s first album of original music in 17 years. ”Everybody Loves a Happy Ending” from 2004 was a celebration of Smith and Orzabal getting back together after being apart for nine years. They spent much of their time touring and raising children, but they wanted to freshen up the live show with new music.
We recently caught up with Smith, who called from his home in Los Angeles ahead of the tour.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This is the first album of original music in 17 years, but you started working on it about six or seven years ago. Can you talk about the long time between albums?
The reason it took so long to actually make the album I think was because the initial germ of the idea was really around live playing, we wanted new material. But then, we were also signed to a record company and had a management company at the time and their idea of us making a record was really us going in writing with some hit songwriters and producers. ... We ended up with about 20 tracks, a complete album, and we sat down and listened to it at the end and really didn’t like it. We didn’t feel it was really representative of us. It didn’t have the depth of the story, the journey that we require from albums. So we ended up buying that album from the record company, leaving our management company and basically regrouping, just the two of us without any outside influence. … So we went back through the material, decided we liked five of the songs ... we felt fit in with the narrative. And then we thought about writing the rest of the album. We didn’t go into the studio to finish recording until September of 2020. And we were done by Christmas 2020. ... Amazing when you know what you’re doing how quickly you can do it.
What did making the album during the pandemic look like?
Just before the first lockdown was when we sat down together with acoustic guitars in my house in L.A. and decided to write, just the two of us. “No Small Thing” was the song that came from that session. Then Roland went back to England, and then lockdown happened so he was stuck in England and I was here. But you know, the joy of modern technologies, we were sending files back and forwards and updating tracks and recording individual parts. So when Roland finally got back to L.A. at the end of August ... we knew what we were doing ... and we then spent four months in the studio finishing it. I think that time of us doing things separately really saved us a lot of time when we finally got in the studio.
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What was on your minds when you were writing the album?
Well, there was a lot of content. I mean, there’s quite a few songs on the album that really talk about Roland’s wife passing away, which was a big traumatic event for Roland and to a certain degree for me because Caroline had been a friend of mine since we were 13 also. But that the pandemic had just started but we’d also been through this sort of weird dichotomy that we were feeling once we listened to the finished album. We’ve been through so much with Caroline passing away, with the political upheaval in America ... which included an attempt to overthrow the government ... we’ve been through the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, the climate crisis, and the pandemic had just started. And we sat down together and said, “If we don’t have something to write about in the middle of all this, we really have no business being songwriters.” So we went ahead addressing all those issues, including them in the album. ... Once we got to that point, as I said, the process wasn’t that difficult. We actually find it easier writing songs that have some depth and meaning to us.
There’s a song called “The Tipping Point” on the album, but the song’s meaning and the album’s meaning differ. Does the album name “The Tipping Point” describe the point we’re at now in the world?
To us it did. I mean, “The Tipping Point” the song is very much about Caroline passing away. You know, when is that tipping point? When did they go from life to death and do they ever in your mind? But the album title “The Tipping Point” was definitely a feeling that, after all the things I mentioned that were going on at the time, we certainly reached a tipping point. Whether, you know, America decides on a sort of dictatorship or men ruling everything is the way forward or do we, you know, go the other way and try and make a more equitable society in America politically.
The album has received acclaim, with some saying it’s one of your strongest albums. Do you agree?
I do. Yeah, I think more importantly, I think it’s the most “us” album because there’s a delicate balance between the two of us. You know, you have two songwriters, you have two frontmen, you have two singers. That’s a very difficult balance to keep and I think this is the most balanced album we’ve done since “The Hurting.” And, you know, normally when we finish albums, I don’t listen to them straight-up that much because I spent so much time putting them together. But this one I’ve listened to a lot. I’m actually very proud of this one. I think we’ve done a really good job of making an album that really does have a journey, that really does have depth and emotion in it and talks about a lot of very important issues.
How long has it been since you last toured? Are you excited to go back on tour?
Yeah, well, this will be very exciting because we get to play new material. Our last tour was 2019.
I imagine fans will want to hear some of the favorites, too. How do you balance it?
You don’t want anyone to be disappointed when they come to a live show. So, you know, there are certain songs that we can’t take out of a set because anyone that comes to see us play expects us to play them. So it’s just a question of, you know, that balance, and what tends to happen is you tend to leave out more songs that were album songs, not singles particularly. My guess is that we may only drop one or two songs and just make the set a bit longer. But we do want to include at least four or five of the new tracks.
If you go
Tears for Fears. 7:30 p.m. June 10. $29.50 and up. MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. livenation.com.