Sweet, Hoffs Team Up For '60s Covers Fest

Veteran power-pop singer/songwriter Matthew Sweet and Bangles crooner Susanna Hoffs may not seem to the casual fan like the perfect pairing for a duets album.

Veteran power-pop singer/songwriter Matthew Sweet and Bangles crooner Susanna Hoffs may not seem to the casual fan like the perfect pairing for a duets album, but when it comes to paying tribute to the golden-era rock/pop music of the 1960s, they couldn't be more in tune with one another.

The two have known each other for many years, and were already members of Ming Tea, the freakout-interlude band from the "Austin Powers" comedies. But when they got together to create "Under the Covers Vol. 1," a 15-track set of '60s remakes out April 18 on Shout! Factory, they found just how much their tastes ran together.

"The really bizarre thing," Hoffs tells Billboard.com, "was that the first time we came together [for the project] we both had lists of songs we wanted to do, and the Left Banke's 'She May Call You Up Tonight' was the first choice on both of our lists."

Adds Sweet, "And that's a very obscure song of theirs that nobody knows; not one of their hits or anything."

Not that there's anything wrong with hit-makers; "Under the Covers, Vol. 1" has tracks by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Who, Neil Young, Love, the Velvet Underground, the Bee Gees and the Mamas and the Papas. But the reverence with which Sweet and Hoffs approach their songs makes the record seem more like a pop fan's mix-tape rather than a "Chart-Topping Smashes" compilation.

"We went through some of our favorite songs and thought, 'Is there stuff for both of us to do on a particular song, harmonies and such?' And if there wasn't, we'd work it out later in the recording process," Sweet explains.

Said process took place at Sweet's home studio in Los Angeles, accompanied by his longtime collaborators Ric Menck, Richard Lloyd, Ivan Julian and Greg Leisz. Van Dyke Parks even dropped by to lend keyboards to versions of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and the Stone Poneys' "Different Drum," and to pen a spirited opening to the liner notes.

Hoffs and Sweet aren't just dwelling in the past. Both have plenty of other projects on their plate, from Hoffs' rejuvenated Bangles commitments (touring, early plans for a new studio record) to a new Matthew Sweet album he's also recording at home and hoping to get finished this year. And they're also planning on writing songs together for a new Hoffs solo album. But should fans infer anything from the "Vol. 1" tag on "Under the Covers?"

"We want to make a 'Volume Two,' but we'll see how it pans out," says Sweet. "We have a lot of other songs that if we had the time we could go in and finish." Adds Hoffs, "When there's music, we're happy."