By Allison Babka
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In June, power-pop darlings Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs released the second volume in their covers series. Under the Covers, Vol. 2 focuses on the '70s — which means the album spans prog (Yes' "I've Seen All Good People"), sappy folk (Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"), power-pop (the Raspberries "Go All the Way") and rock royalty (Tom Petty's "Here Comes My Girl"). B-Sides snagged some phone time with the dynamic duo. For the complete interview, head to blogs.riverfronttimes.com/atoz.
B-Sides: How on Earth do you whittle down what songs you want to cover for these?
Susanna Hoffs: It's difficult, because after making the Under the Covers, Volume One, which was all '60s, we thought, "If we ever do a volume two, we'll just keep doing the '60s," because we sort of identified the '60s as the most influential music for us. And that's something Matthew and I shared. But then when it came time to do Volume Two, we started exploring the '70s and we realized there is this insane amount of amazing songs that actually were sort of life-changing songs for both of us. So it was like, as Matthew says, [a] haphazard process of randomly coming up with different songs as they crossed through our minds.
What was the most surprising song that arose in that fashion?
SH: I would say the Yes song.
Matthew Sweet: Yeah, the Yes song. When we discovered we both loved Yes so much, that was really exciting. And then to get Steve Howe from Yes to play lead guitar on it, was, like — we went insane.
Is that intimidating, having him play on his own song as you're covering it?
MS: A little bit. We wanted to make sure what we sent him to play on was good. [Laughs] We tried really hard to get it right. It was done through the Internet, sorta. We sent emails back and forth a lot, and when he had a little bit of studio time extra, he got in one night and did his parts. And then they came back over. We've never actually met in person, but we feel like we know him.
What's the most fun song you guys put together to play?
SH: They're all fun in different ways. We just did this acoustic show at the Grammy Museum, there's a new, very nice, state-of-the-art venue [there]. We played everything with just acoustic guitars. It was a whole different experience. For me, a lot of it is just the thrill of getting to sing these songs. A fantasy, 'cause when you're a kid you're singing along in your room, or your mom's driving you, and you're listening to the radio and singing along in the car. For us to be able to take these songs on and do them -— it's fun.
MS: It's really just a fun excursion for both of us. Very not high-pressure.
Matthew, I like when you were singing on the Tom Petty cover. I could just tell from your voice that you were having so much fun singing that song.
MS: [Laughs] we could have done so many different ones. There's so much more...we did record almost 40 songs. We could have kept going. There's just a lot of different movements of music happening in the '70s that make it really diverse.