The Cure‘s Robert Smith has discussed how their classic track ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ continues to challenge gender norms – as well as speaking out to distance the band’s association with the label of “goth”.
The art-rock veteran has opened up about the “contemporary resonance” of the iconic 1979 single, after being struck by the make-up of the audience at their acclaimed Glastonbury 2019 headline set back in June.
“I was singing [‘Boys Don’t Cry’] at Glastonbury and I realised that it has a very contemporary resonance with all the rainbow stripes and stuff flying in the crowd,” Smith told Rolling Stone. “When I was growing up, there was peer pressure on you to conform to be a certain way.
“And as an English boy at the time, you’re encouraged not to show your emotion to any degree. And I couldn’t help but show my emotions when I was younger. I never found it awkward showing my emotions. I couldn’t really continue without showing my emotions; you’d have to be a pretty boring singer to do that.
- Read more: “There are so many misconceptions about The Cure” – part two of our exclusive interview with Robert Smith
He continued: “So I kind of made a big thing about it. I thought, ‘Well, it’s part of my nature to rail against being told not to do something’.”
The interview also saw Smith further distance the band from the “goth” movement, a label which he was always thought never sat well with the band’s more pop and experimental sensibilities.
“I don’t think of the Cure as a goth band,” said Smith. “I never have. I grew up in a world where goth hadn’t quite been invented in the way that we know and love it. And I was part of this subculture in as much as I went to the Batcave with [Steve] Severin. The Banshees were pretty much a goth band for a while. But even they really weren’t. But real goth bands were around — the ones that were part of that initial movement. They were goth bands, and I wasn’t.
“I was doing ‘Let’s Go to Bed’ when goth started. So we’d done ‘Pornography’ and ‘Hanging Garden’, and there’s a look and a kind of a vibe and an atmosphere, yeah. But was I responsible for goth? No. And if I was, I’d be very happy. But I wasn’t.”
Smith went on to admit that the band were certain “part of the history of goth, but like a footnote”.
“The Cure just aren’t a goth band,” he went on. “When people say it to me, you’re goth, I say you either have never heard us play or you have no idea what goth is. One of those two has to be true because we’re not a goth band. I remember just for a while, goths were outraged that people would think we’re a goth band. They hated us because we’d kind of jumped ship, they thought. Because we sounded like we do on ‘Pornography’ and the next thing we do is ‘Let’s Go to Bed’ and ‘Love Cats’ and ‘The Walk’ and all these sort of stupid pop singles. So they’re missing the point that before we’d done ‘Pornography’, we’d also done ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ and ‘Seventeen Seconds’.
“We weren’t anything to do with goth. It’s like we passed through that phase and I did a few things that sounded like we were a part of it, and then we moved on to something else.”
He did however, confess to “loving the subculture of goth”, and the sense of tribalism and belonging that it created for many. “I’d rather goths than skinheads,” he concluded. “I also like the fact that it represented kind of ‘other’. It’s a dangerous thing to look like a goth. In certain parts of England, you run the risk of a beating if you look like a goth, which I think is fucking outrageous. So in that sense, I feel a community of spirit with goths and other subcultures who choose to live an alternative lifestyle. But I wouldn’t consider myself to be a part of it.”
“They’re misconceptions from my point of view, and I suppose that’s what I’m getting at,” said Smith. “When we [tell the full history of the band], it will be The Cure from my perspective. It will be what I think the band has been, what we’ve done, what my role has been in it, how I’ve done it and why I’ve done it.”
He added: “Obviously to me, there’s only one true story and that’s mine but I’m taking it that it will be a perspective. But, I don’t want to look back on something until I’ve finished doing it and I don’t quite feel ready to do that yet.”
Earlier this summer, Smith exclusively told NME that they were looking to finish their “merciless” new material in 2019 – 11 years after predecessor ‘4:13 Dream’. He revealed that the new songs had been shaped by his “experience of life’s darker side”, and will take the form of three new albums.
“I think I’m generally more of a balanced individual than I was 10 years ago,” Smith told NME. “I’ve experienced more of life’s darker side, for real.
“Before I used to write about stuff that I thought I understood. Now I know I understand it. The lyrics I’ve been writing for this album, for me personally, are more true. They’re more honest. That’s probably why the album itself is a little bit more doom and gloom. I feel I want to do something that expresses the darker side of what I’ve experienced over the last few years – but in a way that will engage people.”
This week, the band released the new live box set, ‘THE CURE 40 LIVE – CURÆTION-25 + ANNIVERSARY’.