The Cure’s Reeves Gabrels Talks New Tour, Ticketing and More
This segment of the trek, which runs until July 1, doesn't arrive without some controversy. When the Cure first announced dates, they promised there would be "no 'platinum' or 'dynamically priced' tickets on this tour," in the hopes of getting affordable tickets to fans. But it was soon discovered that even though the band used Ticketmaster's Verified Fan program, the company was charging higher than usual additional fees. Frontman Robert Smith later confirmed that after discussions with Ticketmaster, a small refund would be returned to verified fan accounts that had purchased tickets.
The Cure isn't the first band to deal with the issue of fair ticketing, but they're one of the most recent examples of a high-profile artist challenging ticketing corporations to improve fans' purchasing experiences.
The band's guitarist, Reeves Gabrels, who's played with them since 2012, talks to UCR on the morning of the tour opener about ticketing, new songs and what's next for the Cure.
The Cure is going all over North America this summer — the first time the band's played the U.S. since 2019. But you toured Europe last year, so I would imagine you're a well-oiled machine by now.
It was not necessarily the easiest tour we had done, but looking back from here it was a really good thing to do. Plus, we had just come out of COVID, we're all wearing masks backstage. ... And so now, we had a week of rehearsal in England just to dust it off and add some songs, and then whenever you change continents, you usually need to do production rehearsals because ... between changes in voltage and the cost of shipping, it makes more sense to use production from North America when we're in North America and Europe when we're in Europe.
The band debuted some new songs during that tour. Were those written during the pandemic?
Starting in 2019. We were actually at [Rockfield Studios], which was where "Bohemian Rhapsody" was [rehearsed.] ... So we were there for a couple of months [and] the intention was to record 12 songs, and I think we probably tripled that. And then you're in a position of having to take them to the file stage so that you can decide which goes with which. ... There were things that Robert wrote over the pandemic that got added to that.
I've seen some videos and it seems like the fans have been really receptive to them.
Oh, yeah. The audience and people in general, after COVID, are hungry for things to start again and for new stuff. And then the Cure audience always wants more Cure music, which is a wonderful thing.
How does the Cure typically decide on the set list?
That happens largely between Robert and [bassist] Simon [Gallup]. I think Robert does the broader — he basically writes the set with options. And there's an aspect to it that I do not understand, and I don't want [to]. I kind of like the mystery of it. If song A is included in the set, then song B has to be included in the set. ... I think it has to do with the history that I wasn't part of, like what it was like to be in the studio at that time recording "Boys Don't Cry" or whatever. I kind of have an idea of what the set is going to be from night to night in broad strokes, but there's always a curveball in there, which, I mean, if you look back over my time playing guitar in public, I obviously enjoy a curveball. [Laughs]
When the Cure announced this tour, the band made it clear that it wouldn't be using "dynamic pricing." The goal seemed to be to keep tickets as affordable and accessible as possible. What conversations led to that decision?
It is something that I stepped back from — and this is not me being evasive, this is just me telling you what I do because I'm the new guy. [Laughs] We discuss it, and we are essentially self-managed. I mean, we do it all ourselves, which means that Robert [is] The Guy. Everything goes through him. And then it's informed by 'Well, what do you guys think?' So for as long as I have been in the band, it has been an issue about how tickets were handled in terms of just scalping and what people were willing to pay to see us ... and we've been fighting for years to make the ticket prices as low as possible. ... But ever since I joined — and this doesn't have to do with me joining, but it's when I became aware of [it] — since 2012, the band has always tried to have tickets that were under $50. ... So we've been taking that approach for a long time, and we've kind of stuck to our guns. And if there's one thing about Robert that I have found to be consistently true, [it's] his "stick to it"-ness. ... What he's comfortable with, he will definitely fight for. And what's nice about that is it's all about the fans. There's no bigger Cure fan in the world other than Robert. He thinks about it like a fan.
He's also emphasized that any major artist can take these steps and that artists have at least some control over how ticketing for their tour works.
He's about the big picture and the details with everything. And I feel a little weird talking about him, like, in the third person, but that's a true thing. He won't let go when he knows he's right. Or when he believes he's right. You better have a good argument. ... It's not a cranky thing. It's, "Not like that, like this. See?" I mean, my impression [is] that the people [at Live Nation] he was dealing with on the tickets actually respected that. And the thing is, he's a principled man, and they don't change, which I guess is the definition of being principled.
Going back to new music: What's the status of that being released? Can Cure fans expect a new album soon?
I would say it's imminent. [Laughs] Now whatever one considers imminent — even the band isn't sure because I think things evolve. Because we, in a way, committed what became a cardinal sin in the post-digital recording world, and even in the analog days, which was to play new songs live, where they could possibly be recorded or filmed. I mean, you can see five new songs on YouTube of varying quality. ... The live performance is affecting the mixes of the songs, because we tend to record every show, [and] if we want, we can actually use, like, one of Robert's guitar solos that he thinks is better than the guitar solo he did in the studio. ... I mean, I'm not sure if we're doing that yet, but we're aware that that possibility is there and that's kind of a new wrinkle to the art form. That's the upside of being able to have a traveling recording studio in a briefcase.