When he answers the phone on a Tuesday morning, Psychedelic Furs co-founder Tim Butler says he is busy doing an activity that befits a rock great.
"I'm just kicking back, doing some gardening in the lovely state of Kentucky. Really rock 'n' roll, right?" the bassist says with a laugh. "I've had some really hardcore weeds to pull out. You can't even believe it."
Oh. Kentucky? The co-writer of punk anthems such as "Flowers" and "Imitation of Christ" has settled down in the Bluegrass State?
" 'Oh. Kentucky'? You say that like it's a bad thing," says the seven-year resident of Liberty, Ky., who will perform with the Furs Saturday at the Culture Room. "But I get it a lot, because people always say, 'Well, what are you doing down in Kentucky?' and I say, 'What's wrong with that? I happen to be here with my Kentucky lady.' "
Living in Kentucky has given Butler time to contemplate the 35-year-old band's legacy, he says. Shortly before a 2011 tour to mark the 30th anniversary of the Furs' second album, 1981's "Talk Talk Talk," Butler, while discussing the band with brother and vocalist Richard, realized the band suffered from what he describes as an "identity crisis."
"We were just doing the greatest hits, and we'd get great reactions, but we'd always get too self-conscious about our earlier, deeper catalog," recalls Butler, whose current Furs lineup consists of Richard, guitarist Rich Good, saxophonist Mars Williams, keyboardist Amanda Kramer and drummer Paul Garisto. "We had a fear of isolating less-hardcore fans."
Butler points to a distinctive moment during the mid-1980s, when the Butler boys replaced the suave, growling guitar solos of "Dumb Waiters" (off "Talk Talk Talk") with a radio-friendly, synthy veneer, best captured in singles such as "Love My Way." But it was their 1986 version of "Pretty in Pink," re-recorded for the same-titled John Hughes classic, that delivered the Furs to the glossy world of '80s flashback playlists.
"That pretty much put the nail in our coffin of punk-rock aggression, no, when the hardcore punk crowd left, and in flooded the girls with pink T-shirts?" Butler says with a laugh. “When we started up when there were all these great names in punk — Venus and the Razorblades, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, and they were slagging off the ‘60s and all those bands. But we liked the ‘60s psychedelia, right? It just seemed to stick in the craw of the punk generation. One drunken night at the pub, we were just throwing around words to go with ‘psychedelic,’ and someone came up with ‘furs.’ Who came up with it is lost in the midst of time and alcohol.”
But recent strong responses on tour to older material ("Wedding Song," "Soap Commercial," and others) convinced Tim and Richard to plunge deeper into the band's early punk output. Saturday's show will offer several new tracks, part of the Furs' lingering ambition to record a new album, which would be their first original release since 1991.
"The new album is slowly trickling out, but we're in no hurry, because that was part of the reason we got burnt out with the Furs in the early '90s," Butler says."I'd like to think we've already proved all that we've wanted to prove, that we made an impression on the history of alternative music."
The Psychedelic Furs
When: 8 p.m. Saturday (with opener Spacehog)
Where: Culture Room, 3040 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale
Contact: 954-564-1074 or CultureRoom.net