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Staple '80s band Tears For Fears is back on the scene after 17 years

(SOUNDBITE OF TEARS FOR FEARS SONG, "NO SMALL THING")

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Tears for Fears still has a lot more to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO SMALL THING")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) 'Cause you know that I love you, girl. You're my way out of hell. But I've just one more song to sing, one more story to tell.

SIMON: The band, known for '80s hit songs that include "The Hurting" and "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," has their first album in 17 years out now, "The Tipping Point." And Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith join us now. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

CURT SMITH: You're very welcome.

ROLAND ORZABAL: Thank you.

SIMON: What's it feel like to come back? We just heard the lyric one more song to sing, one more story to tell. Mr. Orzabal?

ORZABAL: I think we both will agree it feels absolutely perfect.

SIMON: Oh.

ORZABAL: Of all the records we've done in the length of our career, something about this record right now feels vital. At the ripe, old age of 60 years old, this is what our lives have been boiling up to.

SIMON: Why does it feel so good for these times, Mr. Smith?

SMITH: I mean, all you can do as an artist is to make an album that really means something to you and voices your opinions, and it seems that it's appropriate for the age. And when I say the age, about current affairs - we're kind of linked into what's going on in the world right now, and, you know, we feel in tune.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEARS FOR FEARS SONG, "BREAK THE MAN")

SIMON: Could we hear from another song, "Break The Man"?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK THE MAN")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) She's the fire and the fallout. She reminds you of the things we never talk about. She's the lover with the best-laid plan to break the man. She's a...

SIMON: Curt Smith, where does that song come from?

SMITH: Well, I mean, it's a song in its sort of rawest form - talks about a very strong woman, obviously. I come from a family of three very strong women, my wife and both my daughters. I have two girls. And, you know, looking at my girls - I guess after going through four years of Donald Trump being in power in America and that, to me, hideous, toxic masculinity that that involved meant that I was very concerned about my daughter's future.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEARS FOR FEARS SONG, "THE TIPPING POINT")

SIMON: The title song.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEARS FOR FEARS SONG, "THE TIPPING POINT")

SIMON: Mr. Orzabal, I gather this song came out of a very difficult time in your personal life.

ORZABAL: It did, yes. Well, I'd been married 36 years. My wife, from about 2007, she went from being a very feisty, sexy, extrovert woman who was a gourmet cook to someone who became frightened of food, depressive, anxious. And that was really the beginning, around 2007, of a long descent into - through mental illness and through alcoholism and eventually to death.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE TIPPING POINT")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) Winter done, they'll soon be gone from this unforgiving place.

ORZABAL: And it was really the - awful, you know, watching this incredible woman become a ghost of her former self.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE TIPPING POINT")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) Life is cruel. Life is tough. Life is crazy, then it all turns to dust. We let them out. We let them in. We'll let them know when it's the tipping point, the tipping point, the tipping point, the tipping point, the tipping point.

ORZABAL: So "The Tipping Point," the actual title track is - on a personal level, it really is a love song for the dying.

SIMON: Well, I'm so sorry for you, for your wife, for what your family went through. Now, do I get this right, Curt Smith, you were thinking of leaving the band?

SMITH: Yeah. I mean, I don't like to look at it as leaving a band because I never really consider it leaving. It's whether our paths are converging or not. And at that point in time, I didn't feel they were. I felt Roland wanted to do...

SIMON: Yeah.

SMITH: ...One thing, and I wanted to do something else. And so it's that difficult decision - when we would stay together, you know, I didn't think it would do either of us any good. And so it's that difficult decision of, you know, you're leaving a part of your life behind, but you know it's the only healthy decision to make. You know, luckily, I never had to make that decision, and everything worked out.

SIMON: And let me ask you both about the song "My Demons."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY DEMONS")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) I am the demolition man. I am the smoking gun. Why is my name in lights when my name spelled wrong?

SIMON: So I was particularly struck by the line my demons (laughter) don't get out that much.

ORZABAL: No, well, they don't because the - my demons, like the rest of civilization, have been in lockdown.

SIMON: (Laughter).

ORZABAL: Yeah. So...

SIMON: I thought every - you know, I thought everybody but the demons were locked down. But go ahead.

ORZABAL: No. I mean, even the demons have been having a terrible time and not being able to find toilet roll in the local supermarket.

SIMON: (Laughter).

ORZABAL: Yeah, I mean, the song is about surveillance. It's a very aggressive piece of music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY DEMONS")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) 'Cause my demons don't get out that much. 'Cause my demons don't get out that much.

SIMON: I'm going to chance one question about an old song that's really a classic, and that's "Everybody Wants To Rule The World."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) Welcome to your life. There's no turning back.

SIMON: Let me ask you both, do you find it newly resonant today?

SMITH: That song, the lyric came about - you know, we are talking about mid-'80s. We're talking about Cold War situations. So that was what was going on. The original title was "Everybody Wants To Go To War."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) So glad we've almost made it. So sad they had to fade it. Everybody wants to rule the world.

SMITH: You know, unfortunately, we still find ourselves in the same position and - if not a more precarious position now. You have, without question, people who have dictatorial tendencies. And so, you know, it's a - it's actually a bigger concern now. So, you know, not only is it unfortunate that that song still resonates but, if anything, resonates more now.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEARS FOR FEARS SONG, "END OF NIGHT")

SIMON: Are you pleased if somebody says they like this album just 'cause they like the music? Or do you want them to take from this music some of what we've been talking about?

SMITH: I actually don't think it matters (laughter). The most gratifying thing is when you've finished an album, you've sequenced an album, and you listen to it back and you go, wow, that's good, you know? And - but good to us, you know, means something to us. How other people take it really is out of our control. So if there is one thing that age gives you or makes you slightly wiser is all of that is beyond your control. How people perceive it and receive it is really up to them. There are no rules when it comes to that. If people get the lyrics, if they understand them, if they relate to them, wonderful. If they don't and just think it's a catchy song, then great.

ORZABAL: That's all it is, is music. But I would say this, that music and mathematics are the languages of heaven.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "END OF NIGHT")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) No need to worry about the world, about the world.

SIMON: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, of course, from the band Tears for Fears - their new album "The Tipping Point" out now - thank you both very much for being with us.

SMITH: You're very welcome.

ORZABAL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "END OF NIGHT")

TEARS FOR FEARS: (Singing) Oh, oh, oh, oh. Blind them with your sound. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.