Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bonus Q&A with Susanna Hoffs and Danny Benair

My conversations with Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles and Danny Benair of the Three O'Clock were so interesting, I had to include the rest of them. Concert info is at the end...

Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet

Q: Was the new album with Matthew Sweet, Under the Covers Vol. 3, as fun to make as it sounds?
Yes...When I would get the tracks from him and visa versa, he would say, ‘hey, lay some harmonies on this track.’ I’d end up surprising him by going crazy and sending him 20 tracks of crazy psychedelic harmonies and I never tipped him off to what I did. I just love working with Matthew Sweet.

Q: I take it nobody's lead vocal is set in stone until you actually record?
On the ‘70s one (Under the Covers Vol. 2), I had no idea I’d end up singing “Maggie May.” Matthew just said, ‘No, you’re going to do that one.’ And I’m like, ‘Alright. Great.’ For me, I love to sing and love having a challenge. It’s also really fun, just diving in and giving a song a new spin because the point of view shifts whenever the gender roles reverse. I really enjoy that.

Q: You tend not to dramatically overhaul the original arrangements on these songs. 
I think we did add a lot of harmonies to things that weren’t initially on those recordings. One thing that Sid ‘n’ Susie records are about is our singing and harmonies...If we second guessed ourselves too much, we’d be too in awe of the originals and never dare even attempt anything. Every song we’ve ever recorded on the three records has been a song we worship. We have so much respect for the artists that wrote these songs and recorded them, that it would be too daunting a task. So we have to go in with the spirit of fun and love.

Q: Have you ever gotten any feedback from the original artists you’ve covered? 
On the Yes song, “I’ve Seen All Good People/Your Move,” we had Steve Howe play guitar
on it. He was really into our track and we were so happy and excited that somebody we looked up to so much had given us the ‘thumbs up.’ We heard that Carly Simon liked our version of “You’re So Vain.” That was a huge thing for me. The Go-Go’s have told me they really like our version of “Our Lips Are Sealed.” They all contacted me, so that meant a lot. Peter Holsapple from the dBs and The Bongos weighed in and they were really thrilled. 

Q: Are you satisfied with how Someday was received? 
I’m so pleased. I actually got an email from a dear friend today that said he was listening in his car and I was so touched. It was such a wonderful get such great feedback from the press and friends, to go out on the road and have such incredible support from the audience, from my larger community of Bangles fans, the people who like the Sid ‘n’ Suzie records. It was just an amazing journey for me and I’m so grateful. 

Q: Is it too early to look ahead at what your plans are for Stagecoach 2014? 
I’m hoping my friend [pedal steel player] Greg Leisz will be available and play with me. I’ve worked with him many times. He’s so revered in the country and Americana communities. I’m excited to have that opportunity and hope more things in that direction come my way.

The Three O'Clock (circa 1980s)

Q: With these Paisley Underground reunion shows in San Francisco and LA, do you hope to show younger music fans why this music was (and is) so special?
You always want new people to be opened up to what you do. It is close to my heart. 

Q: Will the band’s headlining gig in Orange County be the smallest one since you got back together?
Yeah and the only one where we will do a long set. 

Q: When the band played at Coachella #2, it was relatively short. 
The first weekend of Coachella we did one extra song. The second weekend, we looked at the side of the stage and they said, ‘cut it.’ They caught onto us. I think we went three minutes over the first weekend. We were doomed the second one. 

Q: How was the whole experience of doing those two Indio, Calif. festivals?
Us getting back together was not so much reforming as a do-over. So many of the things we did, we never did as a band. We played large gigs, but never festivals. We did TV, but never live TV. A lot of these elements were special because we had never done them before. I had been to Coachella many times and it had always been fun, but it was a completely different spin to be there, to be backstage and doing it as an artist. Mingling with other bands, talking to them and knowing some people in other bands - that whole aspect was a whole different approach. April was a great run. This short run in December, we’re hoping to have as much fun. 

Q: Did it take very long for you to get back into the swing of things, having not played drums for 20 years?
[Laughs] It was excruciatingly hard, but we rehearsed a real long time. About  two + months. It got better after awhile. Eventually the muscle memory kicked in. This is how it made sense to me: it wasn’t so much playing drums, but sitting back and thinking about who I was as a drummer. Kind of reassessing why I did certain drum parts. That was more fascinating to me: relearning who I was as a drummer. It was a blast. It takes me away from my music business life that’s not playing drums. 

Q: Did you see a big increase in followers on social media after the events last April?
There’s more awareness. The thing is: news and media move so fast now, that things go by in a glimpse. Sometimes, three months go by and someone will say, ‘I had no idea you were on Conan. I saw it and you were great.’ Slowly but surely, a lot of the social network aspect has kicked in. I think people have come to realize the band is involved. It’s not somebody hired to work our Twitter page. It’s nice that people who appreciated the music then or kids that are finding out about it now are able to respond top things. That’s great. 

Q: Has any new material cropped up as a result of the live gigs? 
We’ve discussed it. Michael [Quercio] did show me a song. But because we’re so entrenched in doing this, we haven’t done anything. A few people have talked to us about doing a new record and producing us. It’s come up a few times. I just don’t know if anything will come of it. That opens up a window to at least discuss it. One of the things you can do nowadays is a song or two, release it. Put out a digital single. We can put our toe in the water if we feel comfortable and try something. Not necessarily have to commit to making a full record. There’s that possibility as well. 

Q: How has Adam Merrin of LA power pop group The 88 fit in on keyboards during the reunion shows? 
Amazingly. I knew for a long time that Mickey [Mariano, original keyboardist] would never play live. We tried many times to have him be enthusiastic about it. He just doesn’t want to it. I work with Adam a lot. So I knew him well. Adam brought so much to the table, between his playing and singing and finding us a rehearsal room. Having a van and so many aspects where he was able to be there. Such a solid easygoing guy that you want in any band. His demeanor is so great. He’s always steady and there to help. He’s a real great player and enthusiastic. We couldn’t have asked for a better person. He really is the ultimate guy we could’ve gotten in the band. 

Q: The Constellation Room gig in OC should be really intimate.
I know the guys at Burger [Records] really well and am friends with them. We wanted to play somewhere small, just to warm up and do a gig just to get in front of some bodies for a low ticket price. Do our best, but realize it is a warm up. Burger uses that place a lot. They’re co-promoting it. Seemed like the logical place for us.

Return of the Paisley Underground 
Who: The Bangles, the Three O'Clock, the Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade 
Where: The Fonda Theatre, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles 
When: 8 p.m. Friday 
How much: $51.50 
Call: 888-929-7849 
Also: The Three O'Clock plays 8 p.m. Tuesday with Cosmonauts at Santa Ana's Constellation Room, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., $20 
Info: 714-957-0600 or

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