By Chris M. Junior
The view of Austin, Texas, isn’t bad from the 28th floor of the Four Seasons Residences.
About two miles north is Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of the Texas Longhorns football team. Directly below is the foot and auto traffic surrounding the Austin Convention Center, where on this Thursday in mid-March, the annual South by Southwest music conference/festival is in full swing.
From the west a spectacular sunset cuts its way through the swanky suite where The Bangles, who are in town specifically for SXSW, sit side by side on a black leather couch. And as they enjoy the scenery and their surroundings, Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson and Debbi Peterson are also taking advantage of a little downtime between high-profile performances.
First up was a late-afternoon show at the Speakeasy with Audri & Aaron, the winners of the Small Town Sound competition (a joint effort by maurices, PlayNetwork and Sonicbids). The Bangles served as panelists in this nationwide talent search for up-and-coming female-fronted acts, and Hoffs says she’s enjoyed the sense of community that the entire campaign has provided.
“It feels like a giant compliment and a giant sense of being appreciated and brought into a whole new demographic,” singer/guitarist Hoffs says. “And also to be recognized as forerunners in the female musician category — that’s a pretty nice honor for us.”
With just a few hours to go before their official SXSW showcase at Cedar Street Courtyard, Hoffs and the Peterson sisters don’t mind using some of their spare time to talk about their latest release and another that’s on the horizon.
“Sweetheart of the Sun,” the band’s new three-song EP, is being distributed by PlayNetwork and sold exclusively in select maurices specialty retail stores. Drummer Debbi Peterson smiles when she says the vinyl release, which also comes with digital download information, represents “the old and the new.” She’s referring to the EP’s available formats, but her words also apply to its contents: In addition to acoustic versions of such older Bangles material as “Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Let It Go,” the EP also contains a new song called “Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun).”
“There are certain aspects to [‘Anna Lee’] that reflect back to the early ’70s and the music that inspired us, so it was important to put it on vinyl and keep it true to the spirit of the song,” guitarist Vicki Peterson explains.
A final mix of “Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun)” is slated to appear on the nearly finished new Bangles album, which the band expects to release later this year on a label to be determined. The still-untitled album — the band’s first new full-length effort since “Doll Revolution” in 2003 — finds The Bangles very much embracing their ’60s and ’70s roots and inspirations.
“We were very shameless about our love of that era,” Hoffs says. “We had a lot of fun with that. Weirdly, it came about naturally. Early on in the process, we talked about making a record that we would like to play live. We’re on the road so much; that’s why we don’t record as much as we like.
“But when we would hang out in the studio, we’d all envision the exact keyboard part or bagpipes or flutes or harmonies. We were thinking so similarly, the three of us — it was bizarre. We would look at each other and say, ‘Yeah, I’m hearing that, too.’ It was interesting that way.”