Vicki Peterson spent the better part of the 1980s as guitarist and principal songwriter of the hugely successful Bangles. Unfortunately, the Bangles broke up in 1989, and Peterson faced perhaps the most trying period of her life when her fiancé died of leukemia in 1991.
“I learned a lot about life,” reflected Peterson. “It spills into what I do, who we are, where we live. It changed me in many ways …. I’m a richer person.”
These days, Peterson seemingly has a heightened sense of appreciation for the fact that her current band’s self-titled debut CD, “Continental Drifters,” is continuing to gain notice well after its release two years ago. The band also had a busy summer this year as they opened Hootie and the Blowfish’s national tour.
“I absolutely love touring and I love being on the road,” Peterson said over the telephone shortly after a show in Germany. “It feels really good and I enjoy just about every aspect.”
The Continental Drifters are scheduled to perform at Wetlands in New York on Thursday and Maxwell’s in Hoboken on Saturday, Jan 18.
The Continental Drifters are something of an alternative rock super-group. In addition to Peterson, there’s Peter Holsapple, formerly of the dB’s; Mark Walton, for bassist for the Dream Syndicate, and Susan Cowsill, of the first family of pop, the Cowsills, meriting honorable mention.
“We’re all very different people,” Peterson said. “But our common ground is that we still love to play music. It’s a genuine thrill.”
The band first formed at a Hollywood night spot called Raji’s in 1992 when Peterson and Cowsill, who were known as the Psycho Sisters, joined with another group of musicians that included Walton, Cowsill’s husband, Holsapple, eventually joined.
“When I was little I saw Susan Cowsill on the Ed Sullivan show, doing what I wanted to do,” Peterson said. “Now, we’re both in our thirties (Peterson is 36) and we’re both on the same stage. It’s a group of musicians that I’m very honored to play with.”
“Continental Drifters” (Monkey Hill) is an earthy mix of roots, rhythm and blues, rock, country and pop that bears a likeness to the Band. Walton’s “Get Over It” has a layered, driving sound that’s akin to Cowsill singing lead for the Traveling Wilburys; “Highway of the Saints” is an R&B and Gospel-flavored jam and Peterson’s “Mixed Messages” is a pop gem without a sugary pop sheen.
“Knowledge of our backgrounds is not a prerequisite to enjoying the band,” Peterson said. “Our sound is pretty unique and organic. We have fans in high school and over 50.”
Back in the 1980s, both the Bangles and the Go-Gos filled the Southern California / all girl / jangly guitar pop band niche. With Susanna Hoffs garnering most of the attention, the Bangles scored multiple – Top 10 hits with songs such as “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like An Egyptian” and “Hero Take A Fall” before breaking up. Interestingly Peterson played guitar for the Go-Gos during their 1994, ’95 reunion tour.
“We’ve been through a lot,” said Peterson of the members of the Continental Drifters. “We love to play the music and we hope it feels good to other people.”