The Bangles, ’80s hitmakers, still making sweet harmony

The Bangles just started on a new CD and have stayed active by touring.
While shoulder pads and big hair are no longer part of the Bangles’ repertoire, those glorious harmonies remain.

The ’80s band (whose members aren’t entirely sold on that description) recently powered through a set at Sirus XM Radio’s New York headquarters as part of the company’s “Artist Confidential” series. An audience of happy fans watched from outside a studio as Susanna Hoffs and sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson attempted to rattle the glass walls with the melodious “Manic Monday” and an electric “Hazy Shade of Winter.” The Bangles broke up at the end of the decade, after also having hits with “Eternal Flame” and “Walk Like an Egyptian,” but re-formed in 2000. In 2003, they released the album “Doll Revolution.” They’ve just started on a new CD. These days, there are only three members; bassist Michael Steele left the group in 2005. Watch the group draw the line at walking like an Egyptian » Hoffs, now 50 but looking nowhere near it, celebrates the release of a side project next month: a collection of ’70s covers with musician Matthew Sweet called “Under The Covers Vol. 2.” The Bangles talked to CNN about fine wine, being horrified by the decade that made them and stumbling across embarrassing photos on the Web. CNN: What’s it like performing together now Is it easier or more enjoyable than it was in the ’80s Susanna Hoffs: For me, it is. One nice thing about getting older is that we’re better musicians, and we play better. Vicki Peterson: And slightly more relaxed as humans. And maybe we have a little more perspective.

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Hoffs: That fine wine mellowing. (It) has happened to us as well. Vicki Peterson: Yes, the drinking of the fine wine, not the being of the fine wine. Debbi Peterson: We’ve mellowed out, man. CNN: Well, that’s kind of boring, isn’t it Hoffs: Don’t worry. We still have our edgy moments. CNN: Now that you all have families, how do you juggle recording an album and going on the road Hoffs: There’s a lot of text messaging. It’s mostly scheduling. It’s crazy how busy we are. But it’s OK. It’s just juggling. It’s like any working mother. CNN: How’s the new album coming along Vicki Peterson: We just sort of started it, scratched the surface. … We’ve been having a good time, and we’re experimenting with technology. Both Susanna and I have studios in our home, so that’s going to open up our scheduling a little bit. We’re also recording as we write, which we’ve never done before. So it’s an interesting process. CNN: Do you have a deadline Hoffs: No. No record label, no deadline. And that’s kind of what’s fun about it. Vicki Peterson: No one breathing down our necks. Hopefully we get it done. Because normally we need deadlines or we don’t do anything. CNN: Why do you think people are still so fascinated with the ’80s Hoffs: I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Because during the ’80s, we were sort of horrified by the ’80s! No, not horrified … but we were shocked by how silly a lot of it was. And kitsch. Debbi Peterson: And big hair. Vicki Peterson: And not in synch with our own time. Hoffs: We were little girls who grew up being obsessed with all things ’60s, because to us, the ’60s was like the Renaissance. It was like the golden age of culture, art and music, films and fashion. I think there’s an aspect to the ’80s that no matter what you think about it, it was just silly and fun and lighthearted. There wasn’t a lot of protest music going on. There wasn’t a lot of super-meaningful stuff, except there was great indie rock that came out of the ’80s. It was just fun. CNN: But ultimately, you don’t identify yourselves as an ’80s band, do you Vicki Peterson: No, we don’t. Even in the ’80s, we felt a little out of our element. Hoffs: And yet I wore the terrible shoulder pads. Debbi Peterson: We’re all guilty of that one. Hoffs: Why did I do that CNN: Do you often look back at old photos Hoffs: The problem is the Internet. Everything’s on there now. It’s inescapable. Vicki Peterson: Everything lives forever. CNN: Do you self-Google just to torture yourselves Debbi Peterson: Never. Vicki Peterson: (jokingly) That’s a rather personal question, isn’t it Hoffs: I’ve been known to do it, just to kind of see what’s out there, and it’s a very dangerous, slippery slope. One should not do it too often. Vicki Peterson: I wouldn’t recommend it. CNN: What do you think about social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and MySpace Hoffs: I think if it’s not twitter-lating, then one must not spend too much time doing it. Twittering. I can’t go down that path yet. … Vicki Peterson: Tweeting actually is the verb. One tweets. Hoffs: I know, but I’ve created the new “twitter-lating.” It’s my own personal statement on it. It’s just too many things to keep track of. And it’s too many things that are about the moment. Vicki Peterson: There’s a complete lack of the inner critic, a complete lack of editing. Everything is out there all the time. There’s no mystery. I don’t think I want the world to know my innermost thoughts. CNN: Are there any girl bands out there that impress you Vicki Peterson: It’s a rare breed still for whatever reason. Antigone Rising opened for us here in New York. They were wonderful. Debbi Peterson: The Donnas. Hoffs: People don’t realize how awesome it is and how fun it is, having the camaraderie with other women. Women get together and do other things. Why not play music together There’s a certain something about it that’s very compelling. CNN: Take me back to the moment when you decided to reunite. Vicki Peterson: It was a long, drawn-out moment. It lasted about three years. Hoffs: I was the instigator. You guys would admit that, too. Vicki Peterson: Absolutely. At ever-increasingly close intervals, she would call. Eventually, we did all get on the phone together and decide that the idea was a good one. We were all making music with other people, and there is a certain magic to the Bangles when we sing together.

Debbi Peterson: The voices. Vicki Peterson: And the writing. I missed the writing partnership.