|courtesy Russell Carter Mgmt.|
My interview originally appeared at www.ocregister.com/entertainment.
The “Eternal Flame” should burn much brighter soon.
Come fall, the Bangles – best known for that No. 1 hit and other top 10 pop singles during the 1980s such as “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Manic Monday,” “In Your Room” and “Hazy Shade of Winter”– will return in a big way with a new studio album and nationwide tour to help mark its 30th anniversary.
First off, the veteran Los Angeles band is doing a doing a few warm up shows this week (including a stop at the Coach House on Friday). In the recent past, singer/guitarist Susanna Hoffs, lead guitarist/singer Vicki Peterson and her sister, drummer/singer Debbi Peterson have kept a low profile, mainly focusing on family and other endeavors.
“We haven’t been touring in any concerted way, just sporadically where we’ll do a festival here or there,” said Vicki Peterson, in a phone interview from a friend’s house in L.A.
Does she still get the same kick performing live now as in the early days?
“Absolutely. It’s the best cure for what ails ya. Doesn’t matter what’s going on. That time you’re onstage and for hours afterwards, you’re flying.”
Hoffs once described making Bangles music as liberating and nourishing for the soul; Peterson agrees.
“We had a rehearsal today and I thought about how you go back and forth in your brain from being distracted by 14 other things and then you’re just locked in and playing. That’s the transformative moment where you really get taken somewhere else for a brief period. I think music does that best of all the arts. I love that you can just get swept away by it.”
The San Juan Capistrano gig is the Bangles’ first O.C. appearance since playing with Heart at the Pacific Amphitheatre in 2007. Her last time at the Coach House was 1994, when she replaced a pregnant Charlotte Caffey on a Go-Go’s reunion tour. “I’m an equal opportunity girl band [guitarist],” she noted, with a laugh
Sweetheart of the Sun, due out Sept. 13 via SoCal-based Model Music Group, is the ladies’ long-awaited follow up to 2003’s Doll Revolution, the impressive, yet under appreciated reunion CD featuring Dave Grohl, R.E.M. associate Peter Holsapple and an Elvis Costello-penned title track (reclusive bassist Michael Steele exited afterward).
Matthew Sweet helped to record the new 12-song effort over the past two years at his home studio in the Hollywood Hills, with additional work done at Hoffs and Vicki Peterson’s own residential studios.
“It was done piecemeal, but ultimately, doesn’t sound that way. The songs were gathered from various times in our lives.”
No stranger to the Bangles’ inner circle, popular alt-rock artist Sweet collaborated with Hoffs on two well-received duets collections devoted to tunes from the Sixties and Seventies, titled Under the Covers Vol. 1 (2006) and Vol. 2 (2009).
According to Peterson, the unifying lyrical themes of the new songs revolve around “paradise lost in Southern California; the perception juxtaposed with the reality of it.” She said their trademark sonic blueprint remains intact.
“If you know where our heart lies, you won’t be terribly surprised. It’s very influenced by late ‘60s/early ‘70s sounds and Crosby Stills Nash & Young-inspired harmonies. There are 12-string guitars. We’ve got incredible genius [and in-demand session man] Greg Leisz playing every stringed instrument he could get his hands on.
“There’s only a couple of ballads,” Peterson continued. “The relaxed tunes are more like [playfully adopts faux British accent] ‘folk rock.’ There’s also some out and out rockers, which are really fun.”
One is the Bangles’ take on “Open My Eyes,” by Todd Rundgren’s early short-lived combo The Nazz. “We’ve done it live in the past. That’s completely psychedelic rock.”
Another fast number, “Ball & Chain,” was an old Debbi Peterson composition. “We listened to the demo on a cassette tape that I think dates back to ’89. We were laughing and saying, ‘check out those drum sounds – wooo!’”
Initially formed in 1981 amid the burgeoning L.A.-centric Paisley Underground music scene alongside Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade and Green on Red, the Bangles released an EP on Miles Copeland’s Faulty Products label the next year. Full-length debut All Over the Place was issued on Columbia Records in ’82 and was a minor success, spawning the college radio hits “Hero Takes a Fall” and “Going Down to Liverpool.”
Later in the decade, multi-platinum albums Different Light and Everything made the Bangles a household name (local trivia note: La Habra native/Paul McCartney band member Rusty Anderson was a session guitarist on the former). Following the Go-Go’s, they became the second all female American band to write and record their own music and attain a particular level of stardom.
Touring fatigue and the constant spotlight focused on Hoffs led to tensions within the band and eventual break up in 1989. A soundtrack contribution to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me brought the four back together in 1999.
Looking back on the Bangles’ peak period, Peterson, 53, recalled how there were few highly publicized female bands, though they existed everywhere. “People still perceived it as a novelty and asked what it was like to be in an all girl band. I’d say, ‘I don’t know; I’ve never been in an all-boy band.’ They’re out there today too.”
Current outlets for budding music talent to get widespread exposure (social media, the internet) didn’t exist during the Bangles’ heyday, so “in some ways, it’s easier to get noticed than it was 25 years ago…that being said, how come there hasn’t been a big hit [female] band since the Bangles?
“It might just be lightning in a bottle - the right combination of people, time and money in the industry that it takes to get somebody pushed forward.” Peterson feels the Bangles had “something people wanted to hear at that time. We also happened to have a major label behind us to throw a bunch of money around. Luck had a lot to do with it too.”
She is proud of the influence the band has had on countless female musicians.
“I still get surprised and happy when a young woman or even a girl comes up and says, ‘I started playing guitar because of you.’ They don’t look like ‘wow, it’s so weird. You’re a freak, you’re a girl and you’re playing guitar.’ They got excited and realized they could do it too.”
And Peterson is helping others fulfill their music dreams. This past spring, she mentored students at a Cal Poly Pomona master songwriting class and took part in a panel discussion there. “For me it was completely inspirational; they did me a lot of good.”
The guitarist also sponsors a new scholarship in conjunction with Daisy Rock Girl Guitars and the Musicians Institute/College of Contemporary Music for a female who wishes to study guitar at the school this fall.
Deadline for submission is Sept. 12. Go to:
www.mi.edu/admissions/scholarships#Daisy-Rock-Bangles-Vicki-Peterson-Guitar-Scholarship for more details.
“Anytime we can encourage, we do.”
The Bangles perform at 8 p.m. today (July 15), with Sailors of Neptune, Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, $55, (949) 496-8930, www.thecoachhouse.com, www.ticketmaster.com.