Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet Go '80s on Third 'Covers' Album: Exclusive Song

Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet
Drew Reynolds

"Under the Covers, Vol. 3," out Nov. 12, focuses on the '80s. Listen to their version of Go-Go's classic, "Our Lips Our Sealed"

After taking on the '60s and '70s with the first two volumes of "Under the Covers" series, Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet -- aka Sid & Susie -- hit the 80s with "Under the Covers, Vol. 3," which comes out Nov. 12 on Shout! Factory. 

"We were surprised when they put a 'Vol. 1' on the 60s album, so we just keep going with it," Hoffs tells Billboard. "Every time we enter a new decade we're always sort of excited and surprised to discover how much fun it is to revisit the music and the decade and the context of it all."

Unlike the first two "Under the Covers," however, "Vol. 3" represents a decade Hoffs and Sweet have a more direct connection with -- Hoffs via the Bangles, which formed during 1981, and Sweet as a high school music aficionado during the first half of the decade before moving to Athens, Ga., and releasing his first album, "Inside," in 1986. "It was a little different for both of us," Sweet explains, "but there was a lot of important stuff going on. There was American stuff that was vibrant and new and about to move from college radio and create a whole new format called Alternative Rock. And there was an incredible continuing influence of just amazingly creative English groups coming in, like XTC and Echo & the Bunnymen. A lot of those groups actually started recording in the 70s and we thought about them for ('Vol. 2'), but we couldn't fit them on there."

"Under the Covers, Vol. 3" cuts a wide swath through all that music, from Britain (Roxy Music, Dave Edmunds, the Smiths, the English Beat) to California (Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'," Lindsey Buckingham's "Trouble") and even tapping underground favorites such as The Bongos ("The Bulrushes") and the dB's ("Big Brown Eyes"). The duo did, however, make what Sweet calls "a conscious decision" not to put a Bangles song on the collection. 

"We talked about it a long time," Sweet says, though Hoffs notes that "when we were out on our tour for ('Vol. 2') we were already starting to bounce around ideas for the 80s, and I said that if we did a Bangles song, (Sweet) would have to sing it." "I would've loved to have sung something by the Bangles, but I just didn't want to ruin it," Sweet adds with a laugh. "We just figured it was best if we didn't try it."

They do, however, cover the Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed," which Hoffs says was appropriate for her particular 80s experience. "I was surprised and kind of worried," Hoffs says. "It's a classic record, always daunting when you attempt it. And there was this invented Bangles/Go-Go's rivalry that people always talked about that just wasn't true. The truth is I was a major Go-Go's fan. I don't think I would've done the Bangles if it wasn't for the Go-Go's and seeing them in the early days. That made me feel like I could pursue this, I could stop fantasizing about being in a band and just do it."

Sweet and Hoffs are currently working out what kind of touring they'll do to support "Vol. 3." Hoffs agrees that "the logical next step would be the 90s" for a fourth "Under the Covers" volume, but there are also some tracks around that weren't used on the first two volumes as well -- particularly "Vol. 2," which was conceived as a double album. Each also has their own projects in the works: Sweet is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his next album; and Hoffs is writing songs with Andrew Brassell, the chief collaborator on her 2012 solo album "Someday."

The full track list for "Under the Covers, Vol. 3" includes:
1.      Sitting Still (R.E.M.)
2.      Girls Talk (Dave Edmunds)
3.      Big Brown Eyes (The dB's)
4.      Kid (Pretenders)
5.      Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)
6.      Save It For Later (The English Beat)
7.      They Don’t Know (Kirsty MacColl)
8.      The Bulrushes (The Bongos)
9.      Our Lips Are Sealed (The Go-Go’s)
10.   How Soon Is Now (The Smiths)
11.   More Than This (Roxy Music)
12.   Towers of London (XTC)
13.   Killing Moon (Echo and the Bunnymen)
14.   Trouble (Lindsey Buckingham)

Bonus Tracks on iTunes Deluxe Version:
* Train in Vain (the Clash)
* You’re My Favorite Waste of Time (Marshall Crenshaw)
* I Would Die 4 U (Prince)