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The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs talks past, present and future

The Bangles are back! Susanna Hoffs, along with sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson, are reinvading the music industry with their first studio album in eight years, Sweetheart of the Sun. We’re so excited — and we’re about to Walk Like an Egyptian to celebrate!

Los Angeles-natives Susanna Hoffs and sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson formed The Bangles in 1980, eventually landing at Columbia Records. The trio later became one of the most recognizable — and successful — bands of the decade with hits like Manic Monday, Hazy Shade of Winter, Eternal Flame and Walk Like An Egyptian.

The Bangles

The Bangles broke up for several years before reconnecting in 1998 to record Get the Girl for the soundtrack to Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Since then, the band has crisscrossed the globe with old and new music. Their latest album — Sweetheart of the Sun — hit stores on Sept. 27, 2011 and brings fans back to the classic Bangles sound they know and love.

SheKnows recently chatted with Hoffs about everything from the inspiration to the album to what she thinks of shows like American Idol. Find out why she’s happy the band isn’t starting a music career now.

SheKnows: A lot of the songs on Sweetheart of the Sun were written several years ago. Why did you wait so long to release them on an album?

Susanna Hoffs: Well, Under a Cloud and I’ll Never Be Through With You were written in the 90’s when The Bangles weren’t even actively together as a band. I was writing with a lot of different people with the idea to put them on a solo record, but then things happened and brought The Bangles back together. We got back together to record a song for the Austin Powers movies because my husband [Jay Roach] directed all of the films.

One thing led to another and even though The Bangles reunited in the late ’90s, we didn’t really get going until 2000. We all started going through our cassettes and were looking at tunes we had written. We started putting songs together for what ended up being [their 2003 album] Doll Revolution, but we had so much that several of the songs didn’t end up happening at the time. Then we toured and kept up with our families — we’re all working moms — and life kind of intervened. Finally, we said we really had to get back into the studio and we went back into our little drawers and pulled out the songs and said “What about these?” Some songs dated back years, but Annalee we wrote right there in the studio.

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SK: Sweetheart of the Sun seems to have an overarching theme throughout the album. Was that planned?

Hoffs: Yeah, we went into the album thinking we wanted an album to pay tribute to Los Angeles and the California music that we grew up with during the 1960s. The outside appearance of L.A. is that it’s a bright, happy, perfect paradise but underneath it there’s an unescapable alienation and darkness that people carry with them here. It appears one way, but it’s actually darker and I think that comes out in the songs.

We were also inspired by a few books, including Girls Like Us about Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon. These iconic women changed the music industry from a male-driven boys club to something really remarkable. They inspired us in many ways as kids and paved the way for us, even when we started back in the ’80s.

The Bangles Sweetheart of the Sun

SK: A lot of things have changed in the music industry have evolved The Bangles started. How do you look at young performers today? Do you think they have it easier?

Hoffs: It’s definitely different than the heyday of the all-powerful record companies. The record companies [back then] had some sort of mythical power, until the Internet basically toppled what the record companies were about. The economics of it changed too; whether we liked it or not, music became free and easy to get. Nowadays it’s very difficult for bands to make money.

We really started out as an indie band, very simple grassroots. We didn’t have any money or publicity behind us — we were truly a garage band. I’m really kind of grateful that it wasn’t some talent scout and we were catapulted to stardom. We didn’t start that way… at all. We paid our dues and went on tour in a van and ended up building.

To be honest, I don’t really watch American Idol or all of those shows. I find out about music now is from my kids. They’ll play something in the car on the way to school. My son and all his friends are obsessed with music, just like I was growing up. They get so excited about it — and that’s what’s good. People will always come together through music.

The Bangles’ Sweetheart of the Sun is available now from Universal Music Group.

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