Although The Bangles started out as an indie pop band associated with Los Angeles' Paisley Underground scene in the early 1980's, it didn't take the band long to make major commercial inroads.
By the mid 80's, the band had released two huge singles, Prince's "Manic Monday" and the almost novelty hit "Walk Like an Egyptian." However, the resulting success brought on internal tensions within the band and by the end of the decade, The Bangles had called it quits.
Fast forward a decade and former bandmates Susanna Hoffs and Vicky Peterson start talking about the good old days. Next thing you know, The Bangles are back in the game. Speaking from her home in Los Angeles and in anticipation of Saturday night's performance at the State Fair of Texas, Vicki Peterson talked to DC9 at Night about The Bangles' interesting history and the band's fine new album, Sweetheart of the Sun.
The Bangles began in 1981 but stopped in 1989. What brought about the initial parting of ways?
It was probably things that happened between 1987 and 89 that made us realize that we needed a break. It was full time exposure and exhaustion. I'll stick to my story that I never wanted a break, but it was a lot of things, a lot of different elements that were kind of working together to make it impossible to be happy at that moment.
Ten years later and the band got back together. Did things change?
Yes, things did change. Lives were lived, children were born. I was in New Orleans making music with a whole new group of people. I was having sporadic phone conversations with Susanna [Hoffs] and we talked about how we were going to get back together. Initially, I wasn't interested in playing in The Bangles, but I was thinking about how much fun it was to write songs with the girls and how well our voices blended, how unique it was. I knew it was worth investigating again. I said I would do it if we could keep making new music.
The new album, Sweetheart of the Sun, has gotten some great reviews. Why did you decide to have Matthew Sweet produce it?
Actually, we started out working with Matthew, but the record was really produced by The Bangles and I have to be clear about that. We started recording with Matthew at his studio. He is a great guy and he makes everything sound like it has a magic sparkle to it. We share a lot of sensibilities with Matthew and we love a lot of the same music. He was so positive and he made it a great way to kick off the whole process and then we ended up moving things to Susanna's and my home studios. We finished up the record there.
Do you have a sibling rivalry with Debbie Peterson, your bandmate and sister?
No, but we have a different relationship inside the band than our sibling relationship. I am more than ever impressed with her. She's just now finding her power as a musician. She's always had that, but in the past, maybe I have written her off as just my little sister.
"Walk Like an Egyptian" is the song that really put the band over the top commercially, but tensions in the band rose in the wake of this success. Is it possible that hit songs produce negative consequences?
I don't think you can ever say it's negative. It can change things, definitely. In this day and age, we don't worry about it. If people know us just for "Walk Like an Egyptian" or "The Eternal Flame," that's fine just as long as it gets them to a live show. Then people are surprised that we are a rock band. They will realize that these pop songs we did in the '80s are only a fraction of what we do.
Prince wrote the song "Manic Monday" specifically for The Bangles. How does that work? Did he just show up with tape in hand?
It was almost that crazy. We were in a studio and he called and ask us to come pick up a cassette. There were two songs on the tape. One of those was "Manic Monday." We knew that Prince had taken a liking to the band. We knew that he wanted to write a song for us. He came to see us play live and he actually got on stage with us. That was a musical highlight for the band.
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Do you think your version of Jules Shear's "If She Knew What She Wants" helped expose his music to a lot of people?
I sure hope so. I will usually announce it from the stage that he wrote the song. He was already a legendary songwriter in Los Angeles before we recorded that song. He is incredible.
Did the producers of the film Less Than Zero come to you with the song "Hazy Shade of Winter" and ask you to record it for the soundtrack?
We were offered to put a song on the soundtrack, but we had already been playing that song. It was not the ideal situation either. They called and basically gave us a day to get the song recorded. In the earliest of days, back in '81, we played that song. So we thought, why don't we just do that? It seemed like it fit, but we hadn't seen the movie. The song seemed that it would fit thematically. We pulled that out of our ancient set list.
It's always been rumored that in the studio, Susanna Hoffs sang "Eternal Flame" in the nude. If that's true, there must be a video of that somewhere.
Well, that's the story. And back then, people didn't document every minute of our lives. I don't think there is any secret video.
The Bangles perform Saturday, October 22, at the State Fair of Texas.