In pictures: The Cure behind the scenes

Photographer and designer Andy Vella has been working with Robert Smith and his band for over 30 years. His new book, Obscure: Observing The Cure – published by Foruli this week – prints a plethora of his photos for the first time. Here, Andy gives XFM a sneak preview of some of the unseen gems from the book.


Andy Vella first worked with The Cure in 1981, teaming up with the band’s guitarist Porl Thompson to form the design partnership Parched Art and producing the sleeves for classic albums such as Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me and Disintegration. “I’ve been working on the book for quite some time now,” he says. “Robert said to me a couple of years ago, ‘You must have loads of pictures and artwork from over the years, you should do a book, I’ll help you with it.”


Andy says: “I was a student at the RCA at the time and used one of their studios in preparation for the sleeve of the Head On The Door album. But the idea went drastically wrong, so I used the remaining time to shoot some photos of the band. The book is my observation of The Cure in certain situations – as Robert says, through the ‘Vella lens’.”


For the climax of the famous Close To Me video, a wardrobe calls off the cliff at Beachy Head, leaving the band to be submerged in the sea. This shot was taken before the watery chaos began. “There’s a shot in the book of director Tim Pope in Speedos. I would go along to the video shoots to try and get some shots of the group for the single sleeves. I’m glad what comes across in the book is that they aren’t a gloomy band – here they were definitely having a good time.”


The underwater wardrobe scenes for the Close To Me video were shot in a studio in London. Andy says: “It was quite a scary scene, actually, with lights everywhere. As you know, water and electricity don’t mix. Very chaotic – but the chaos came through in the finished video.”


One of the most iconic shots of the Cure singer was shot by Vella during the making of this video, the famous Robert Smith silhouette. “You never know quite what you’re going to get, but luckily I got in there before they started filming. I remember Tim Pope was stood behind me, breathing down my neck. I’ve seen that shot on posters and tattoos all around the world. It’s really quite wonderful to see it appear in different places.”


“I had been on the set standing in for Robert while they did a focus check. As I was doing it I was pretending to be him, saying ‘Oh I’ve got spiders in my hair’ and so on. Unbeknown to me, Robert was standing behind me, which is why everyone is laughing.”


Mad fancy dress fun for the clip for this Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me single. “[Director] Tim Pope would say, ‘You can have the band for five minutes, but if I give you what you want, you have to help me. So on this video for instance, I painted the backdrop for him. It was a whirlwind of getting things done, but I was very lucky to be given the time. Robert kept that furry suit on for most of the shoot. He got VERY hot.”

© Andy Vella &


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