The Cure returns after a five-year hiatus to headline this year’s BottleRock Napa festival alongside Outkast and Eric Church. The British band has been making up for the lost time with its recent marathon sets, which cover everything from the hits (“Just Like Heaven,” “Pictures of You,” and so on) to deep, deep cuts. Robert Smith, the group’s 55-year-old front man, known for smeared lipstick and gravity-defying locks, tells us why every set still matters.
Q: You have been playing four-hour shows. Where do you get the energy?
A: Well, I’m not known for my onstage gymnastics.
Q: I know, but you’ve written so many songs. How do you remember them all?
A: A lot of the songs are just embedded in me. If I get the first line to any Cure song, I can just sing the rest. But I do believe you should be feeling the words you’re singing.
Q: Is it difficult to get in the headspace of your 19-year-old self?
A: I remember who I was when I wrote (the songs), which is good enough. Sometimes at the end of a song it’s like coming out of a weird trance. I go right back in time to when we first started performing and the joy and excitement we had when the lights went down.
Q: How has being in the Cure for so long affected your personal life?
A: Well, I suppose when we started to get really well known, in the mid-’80s, that was a strange period for me. But I wouldn’t swap the experience. I did think that when I was 55 I wouldn’t have to deal with people camping in my drive, but that isn’t the case.
Q: Did you read the Morrissey autobiography?
A: Strangely enough, no. I haven’t got to that one yet. There are about 101,000 other books I would like to read first.
Q: I figured there might be some shared experience there.
A: I doubt we have a shared experience. I’m not interested in reigniting a feud, but I don’t think our approach to life has been similar in any way. I don’t read biographies. I’m more interested in fiction.
Q: Will you ever write one?
A: No, I will never, ever write a book. I struggle enough with writing lyrics – that’s the outer edges of my ego. But a 16-page comic might do the trick.
Aidin Vaziri is The San Francisco Chronicle’s pop music critic.