Robert Smith on the ‘incredible’ response to ‘The Cure’

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Robert Smith, the 45-year old singer for influential rock group The Cure, likes to wear makeup and isn’t afraid to admit it.

“I wore makeup when I was at school and I wore makeup when glam started. I started wearing it again when punk started. I’ve always been drawn to wearing it,” Smith said during a phone interview from Chicago. “It’s partly ritualistic, partly theatrical and partly just because I think I look better with it on.”

Along with his trademark jet black hair, usually teased to high heaven, Smith’s morbidly dark eye shadow, ruby red lipstick and painted fingernails have come to define his, as well as The Cure’s, image during the 25 years the group has been making music.

However, it has not been all smooth sailing for Smith. He has announced the end of The Cure on several occasions and has taken a few hiatuses during his quarter-century career. But The Cure has never completely fallen out of the musical landscape.

Originally known as Easy Cure, the group was founded by Smith and a few of his schoolmates in southern England in 1979. Its sound has embodied styles ranging from punk to pop, and the band has gone through multiple lineup changes, with Smith and his often gloomy lyrics being the one constant.

To date, The Cure has sold more than 27 million albums worldwide and its latest album, “The Cure,” its 13th studio record, sold more than 90,000 copies in its first week and debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard charts.

In the current musical climate, The Cure is credited with being an inspiring force behind emo artists who wear their emotions on their sleeves. The newfound respect from younger artists, coupled with the recent release of a new Cure album, primed the band for a comeback. The Cure was scheduled to headline the Curiosa Festival at the Gorge Aug. 21 but the event was canceled because Smith had to return to his home in London due to undisclosed personal reasons.

Despite the cancellation, fans still will get an opportunity to see The Cure. The band has scheduled a concert without opening acts dubbed “An Evening With The Cure” for Tuesday at the Everett Events Center. Tickets from the canceled Curiosa date will be honored and The Cure is expected to perform a three-hour set.

Smith said passionate sets by all of the Curiosa performers, along with the positive atmosphere generated by the camaraderie between bands, had an impact on The Cure’s approach to taking the stage.

“We have to be so good when we go onstage to justify being at the top of the bill,” Smith said. “It’s actually made us a hundred percent better than we would ever be.”

But the Curiosa Festival and The Cure’s return to prominence almost never happened. Although Smith has called it quits before only to come back to The Cure, he was ready to move on and begin a solo career after the group performed its albums “Disintegration,” “Pornography” and “Bloodflowers” in their entireties in Berlin in late 2002. The performance was recorded and released on DVD.

“I thought that was it,” said Smith. “We had played our three favorite albums and thought if anyone ever looks back, this is what we would be remembered for.”

The Cure’s current album marks the first time the group has worked with a producer, and the producer Smith chose was an unlikely one — Ross Robinson, whose résumé includes aggressive metal artists such as Limp Bizkit, Korn and Seattle-screamers The Blood Brothers. The results were not the hard and heavy record Smith wanted to record. Instead, the album is a retrospective disc filled with new songs that resemble older Cure material.

Parallels can be drawn between the album’s lead single “The End of the World” and 1979’s “Boys Don’t Cry” and the similarities between the song “Alt.end” and just about anything from the band’s 1982 album “Pornography” can easily be heard. Almost every track on the band’s latest album sounds similar to something from its back catalog.

Smith credits Robinson for molding the album into a record that mirrors past Cure albums. “He wanted me to treat it as if we spent 25 years getting to this point rather than we got here and now we stopped,” Smith said. “The whole time he was referencing old Cure material as a Cure fan and it encouraged me to feel liberated by the past instead of reject it.”

Since he has hinted at quitting the Cure once before, will this be the last time fans get to hear Smith’s signature howl live? Or will the positive response from the band’s latest record convince Smith to continue The Cure?

“I have no idea, no idea at all. The reaction to this point has been incredible and at this moment I would love to make another Cure album, but I am not going to plan it.”


Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.