The Bangles Talk ‘Sweetheart of the Sun,’ Prince and ‘Walk Like an Egyptian.’ - Interview

The Bangles’ new album, “Sweetheart of the Sun,” will be released September 27th. It’s the band’s first studio album in eight years and even though the group hasn’t had a new album in nearly a decade, their music will have a familiar sound to fans. That’s because, some of the new album will feature songs written as early as the 1990s. I recently caught up with drummer Debbi Peterson about the band’s growth, her favorite Bangles tune and the pressure of releasing a new album after eight years.

Q – The Bangles have been around for 30 years.

A – (Laughs) Can you believe it?

Q – I can’t, because I’m 36 and in my distant memory I can’t remember not having The Bangles in my life. So, this is going to be a tough question but what is the secret to longevity in a business that constantly changes?

A – Good question, geez, I don’t know but speaking for myself, and I guess for the band, we just keep going, keep writing, keep the music thing going. We still go on tour, we still play the old stuff and now the new stuff, and we’re still writing. We just keep going.

Q – How have The Bangles evolved from when the band first came onto the scene?

A – The Bangles will always just sound like The Bangles because that’s who we are. It has evolved because we’ve grown up, we’ve matured, we’ve got different perspectives because we’ve all had children, and believe me, that’s a major factor right there. We get along better, we communicate better than when we were younger. When you’re younger, you’re more feisty; everyone is trying to get themselves hurt. You realize that those things aren’t that important anymore, that this is more important. It does kind of change the framework.

Q – The new album is called, “Sweetheart of the Sun.” Having been successful in the past, is there any pressure for this album to be as good as previous ones?

A – If there is pressure we’re not really thinking about it. We did this record really for ourselves so if people like it that’s fantastic; if not we know it’s a different musical world out there than it used to be. We don’t have any preconceived notion that it will go number one. We’ve been there, done that. We want to be relaxed about it. But it’s always nerve wracking when you want people to hear and like your music.

Q – How was the writing and recording process different on this album than on past ones?

A – Funny is this record is definitely a melting pot of old and new songs. Some of the songs were written in the early ‘90s, some of them in 2000. “Anna Lee” and “What a Life” are the most recent ones. And a couple of songs are old covers. One of the songs, “Sweet and Tender Romance” is a song that no one really knows, and we bring it back to life.

This album we only recorded drums and guitars, almost like a White Stripes type record. It took a while to get together because of our busy lives; us being parents, mothers and that takes a lot of your time. Overall though, the way the album came together encompasses the three of us growing up in sunny California and listening to the radio to ‘60s and ‘70s music.

Q – Does your family come on tour with you guys?

A – No they don’t, they have to go to school.

Q – Will there be a tour with the new album?

A – Yes, in October we’re going to start in the East coast, then do a couple shows in the Midwest and then in November do some shows on the West coast. And hopefully there will be more after that.

Q – How much of the new album makes the tour versus playing the hits?

A – We’ve always had the hits, and the more popular older stuff, but we’ll probably throw in like five songs from the new record. That’s what promoting is, doing the new songs. But we never disappoint.


Q – This is very important. Which Bangles song is your favorite and why?

A – Oh god (laughs), I have a hard time with that question. Are you including the new stuff?

Q – Yea, you as a drummer, or you as someone who has been included in all these songs.

A – I have to pick one? (Laughs.)

Q – If it’s possible. That’s why it’s so important.

A – I love “Anna Lee” from “Sweetheart of the Sun” because it was written in the studio which was great because we were all there with guitars, singing, throwing stuff out. And we all wrote the lyrics at Susanna’s (Hoffs) house; it was very much a Bangle effort. I like the way that one came together. I love “Let it Go” from the ‘80s because that was four of us writing together and that one was the one and only time that all four of us did. So that was a special song. I like, oh god, let’s just go with those two (laughs).

Q – When you hear a Bangles song on the radio, do you listen to it? Is it pompous to listen to yourself? Do you change it or air drum to it?

A – It depends on my mood. If “Walk Like an Egyptian” comes on and I’m not in the mood I’ll change it. My kids will be in the back saying, “Mom, why are you doing that? That’s your song (laughs).” It depends on their sake. Sometimes I have a hard time listening to that one.

Q – Do you ever hear a Bangles song and your kids don’t even know it’s you?

A – Nope, there was one time, I remember, we were in downtown Disney and we were walking around and I was like, “I recognize this song, I know this song, and my son goes, ‘Mom, that’s you.’” It was “Manic Monday.” Yeah, that’s part of me; that’s my band. (Laughs) It was very cute. He was all excited, jumping up and down and stuff.

Q – You just mentioned “Manic Monday” and I’m sure you’ve told this story before but I heard that Prince saw you guys on a plane and that’s how “Manic Monday” happened. Is that how things happened?

A – He was but I don’t think it came from that. I can’t even remember but it might have been on the plane, but he was definitely on the flight. I can’t remember if he gave it to us on the plane or we talked about it and he sent us a cassette.

Q – The story I heard was Susanna gave him a demo –

A – No, no, no, we already had the song. I don’t remember where it came from but Prince wanted to add his own backing track and we wanted to do our own… and he said he was fine with that.

Q – When people meet you, do they always want you to “walk like an Egyptian?”

A – They always do this little dance. It’s kind of our own fault because when we recorded the song and then the video there had to be a dance that went with that song. Whether it was the Watusi, the twist, whatever, there had to be a dance. So we just kind of asked for it. I guess it’s our own fault that people do the moves.

Q – Before I let you go, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from the music business?

A – Believe in yourself, stick to your ideas. There were many times outside sources were trying to force us to go in different directions and we felt like we had to over compromise too many times. My lesson would be to believe in yourself and your ideas.


BYLINE:

Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at jason@zoiksonline.com.
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