Tears For Fears will be bringing one heck of a back catalogue to Hong Kong
British duo return to the city to play the annual charity ball for the Foreign Correspondents' Club
"Everybody wants to rule the world," sang Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears in 1985, and for much of that year they must have felt as though they did. They certainly saw much of it.
Songs from the Big Chair, the album which featured Everybody Wants to Rule the World as well as another three hit singles - including Shout - made the No 1 spot on the US Billboard album chart. It went on to sell more than five million copies in the United States alone, and has recently been rereleased in several different special editions to mark its 30th anniversary.
"We were used to success in the UK, so weren't surprised when Shout did so well on its release, but it was the reaction in the US that really caught us by surprise," Orzabal recalls ahead of Tears for Fears' appearance this coming Saturday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club's annual charity ball at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.
"Keeping Michael Jackson and Sting off the No 1 album spot was quite shocking. But the fact is, there were some very strong singles on Big Chair, which are still played to this day, and sound pretty much as good now as they always did."
Both Smith and Orzabal write, but Orzabal has always been the band's primary songwriter. He and Smith met as teenagers in the 1970s, and had been in bands together before forming Tears For Fears, initially with Smith as the lead vocalist.
A couple of singles were released in 1981 and 1982, which sold disappointingly, but the band hit their stride with the 1983 album The Hurting, which produced three hit singles and was a UK No 1, although it only made No 73 on the US Billboard chart. Songs from the Big Chair took them into a different league entirely.
"We spent a year touring the world and it wasn't until it was over that we truly appreciated the upside and downside of our success," says Smith.
The strain of touring and then of following up such a big hit took its toll on the partnership - and the friendship. The Seeds of Love was not released until 1989 and cost more than 10 times as much to produce as its predecessor. It didn't do quite as well, but was still another multi-platinum seller.
However, by 1991 Smith had had enough and quit. Keyboardist Ian Stanley and drummer Manny Elias were already long gone, and although Orzabal continued to release music under the group's name, fans regarded 1993's Elemental and 1995's Raoul and the Kings of Spain as essentially solo projects.
Under his own name, Smith released a 1993 album, Soul On Board, and another in 1997 under the band name Mayfield. Then in 2000 he and Orzabal resumed their partnership.
"I was approached by Roland's manager at the time and to be honest I was doubtful about it," says Smith. "We took baby steps. Dinner in our home town of Bath. A couple of recording sessions. Eventually we both realised that when we work together, there's something different and bigger that we don't have when we work alone."
Since the partnership split, Orzabal had established himself as a record producer for other artists, most notably Oleta Adams, and as well as recordings issued under the Tears For Fears name had released a solo album, Tomcats Screaming Outside, in 2001.
"Following its release, I was looking for the next project and it felt absolutely right to bury the hatchet with Curt and explore making another album together. Then, we literally picked up where we left off, and in some ways Everybody Loves a Happy Ending is the true successor to Seeds of Love," he says.
Smith, Orzabal and their band perform some songs from the albums made without Smith, but the main focus is on the first three albums, and their reunion project, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, which was released in 2004. "I think, because I've always been the main songwriter, there is a strong connection between the Tears For Fears albums with and without Curt. I do feel, however, his voice would have added that extra something to both albums," says Orzabal.
No new original music has been released under the Tears For Fears name since 2004, but in 2013 Smith and Orzabal issued an EP of cover tunes, featuring songs by Arcade Fire, Hot Chip and Animal Collective. New Tears For Fears compositions were recorded at the same sessions.
"We have a lot of songs and definitely feel we have the soul of the new record, it's just a question of whether there are better songs around the corner," says Orzabal.
"It tends to happen that the better songs appear right at the end of the creative process. In terms of sound, we made it a rule on this album not to sound like The Beatles [to whom they have often been compared]. It's a lot darker than Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, and a lot more electronic. Unfortunately, we won't be playing any new songs until the record is released."
Blame YouTube for that. "Due to the internet, we don't perform new songs until a release," says Smith. "Don't get me wrong, I love new technology, but in the case of a new song we would like the original recording and production to be heard first."
One benefit of new technology is that it is now much easier for Orzabal and Smith to perform their old songs with a sound comparable to that of the records.
"We are a lot better now than when we were kids and the technology has advanced so much, it makes playing live very easy. Also we have a lot of songs to choose from and I love the way older songs interface with newer ones," says Orzabal.
The partners maintain solo careers in and outside music. In addition to his production work, last year Orzabal published a novel titled Sex, Drugs & Opera: There's Life After Rock 'n' Roll, and Smith occasionally acts.
However, both are adamant that Tears For Fears is their primary creative focus. "I have lots of ideas for a follow-up to Sex Drugs & Opera, but right now my priority is the new Tears For Fears album," says Orzabal.
"I have no parallel career," adds Smith. "I write music for film because I love it. I act now and again because I enjoy that too. Tears For Fears is my ultimate passion."
Tears For Fears, Oct 10, 6pm, Convention and Exhibition Centre, Expo Drive, Wan Chai, HK$2,888, includes dinner and all drinks. Inquiries: 2521 1511 or e-mail email@example.com