Forty years in, Echo & the Bunnymen still make us swoon

Lips like sugar

Forty years in, Echo & the Bunnymen still make us swoon
Photo by Alex Hurst
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN with Violent Femmes 7:00 p.m. Friday, July 20 House of Blues, Disney Springs 407-934-2583, , SOLD OUT

British post-punk pioneers Echo & the Bunnymen have been through a lot since forming in 1978. They've topped the charts, lost their drummer in a motorcycle accident, broken up in typical rock acrimony and then reformed. Now down to two founding members – singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant – the Bunnymen have recently been rediscovered by a whole new generation of brooding music obsessives.

This summer the band returns to the U.S. for a second co-headlining tour with Milwaukee alt-rock veterans Violent Femmes.

The jaunt is actually a warm-up for the Bunnymen's big fall season, which includes a major anniversary tour across the U.K. and Europe as well as the release of a new studio album, The Stars, the Oceans & the Moon, comprised of updated versions of Bunnymen classics. Frontman Ian McCulloch spoke to Orlando Weekly from his home in Liverpool as he packed his bags.

"In November, it will be 40 years since we started," says the singer in a broad Scouse accent. "It seems like a good time to look back. And if anyone's going to do a reappraisal, it should be us."

The sentiment is classic Mac. The singer has always been both proud and protective of the band's legacy, often citing Echo & the Bunnymen as the best band in the world. He conceived the new album – and this summer's greatest-hits live set – as a not-so-gentle reminder of the band's accomplishments. After all, their songs continue to be featured in movies and television, and they've been covered by artists from Nouvelle Vague to Coldplay.

"It's a way of reminding people what songs we've written," McCulloch explains. "I mean, sometimes I'll be reading a comment board or something like that and someone will say 'The Killing Moon' was written by the Cure. That pisses me off."

After all these decades, McCulloch still enjoys performing, even if the remaining 22 hours of the tour day are less exciting.

"I love being on stage," says McCulloch, "but being on the road is something else. Still, if we're going to do a four-week tour, me and Will, we prefer to do it in America. It's so varied, and it's fantastic to look at. Every city has its own feel. It's a pleasure to play there. Everything works. Nothing goes wrong. The audience is the important thing for me, though. They're real Bunnymen people in America."

Despite a handful of Florida appearances over the years, including a performance at the House of Blues in 2006, McCulloch laments that he hasn't seen much of the Sunshine State.

"Florida was always the hardest place to tour," he says. "It always seemed to be off the route. More often than not it's a financial thing, I suppose."

He recounts a family vacation to Disney World that left him unimpressed – "I'm more of a Daffy Duck man, to be honest" – but says he's keen to see Miami one fine day. When I mention that Iggy Pop has relocated there, McCulloch comes alive with backstage tales from the 1980s.

There was that one time Iggy crashed the Bunnymen's dressing room wearing blue suede shoes. Finding himself face to face with one of his all-time heroes, McCulloch asked, "Iggy? What are you doing here?" To which the Godfather of Punk replied, "I always come to your gigs!"

"If you're reading this, Iggy," McCulloch deadpans, "come to this one too."

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