Vicki Peterson, Bill Mumy & John Cowsill: New Band

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Angels Hear is the name of the debut album from the new group Action Skulls—Vicki Peterson of The Bangles, her husband John Cowsill from The Cowsills and currently part of the Beach Boys touring band, and Bill Mumy, the musician/actor/producer who co-founded the cult duo Barnes & Barnes (of “Fish Heads” fame), is a veteran of the band America and is an Emmy-nominated composer (as well as an actor in Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone and other classic TV shows).

The album will be released on Sept. 29. Pre-order is available here.

According to a press release, “You may hear elements of their past work on Angels Hear, but what the three have conjured up as Action Skulls is a slightly darker version of the sunny Southern California sound. It is music that Vicki describes as “Canyon Rock”—partially because they all live in the canyons of Los Angeles but also because the songs reflect influences of the classic ’70s Laurel Canyon scene.”

It was “a bit of serendipitous singing that brought Action Skulls together,” says the release. The three found themselves at a Christmas party in 2013 hosted by Bill’s Lost in Space ‘sister,’ Angela Cartwright. They wound up around a piano having a wonderful time singing Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys and other classics into the early morning—and a spark was lit. ‘It was clear to me from the first night,” Vicki recalls, “that we had an interesting blend of three very different-sounding voices.’ They quickly agreed to see what would happen if they worked together with original material.”

Action Skulls (l. to r.): Vicki Peterson, John Cowsill, Bill Mumy

A few days later, Mumy happened to have a gig with Rick Rosas, the in-demand sideman who had worked with Neil Young, Joe Walsh, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ron Wood and the latter-day incarnations of Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y. Rosas, who’d also played with John before, got excited hearing about this new project and wanted in.

In January 2014, they booked time at ReadyMix Music, the Southern California studio where Jackson Browne and Little Feat had worked. “The vintage ’70s vibe there appealed to them. They recorded old-school—no vocals at first, just the four playing together live in the same room,” says the press release This session quickly yielded three tracks: “Standing on a Mountain,” “The Beast and the Best” and “Feed My Hungry Heart.”

The vocals, along with some additional instrumental tracks, were added later at Mumy’s home studio, Lumania. In 2014, Cowsill was on the road with the Beach Boys. Mumy worked on producing projects and making a film. Peterson had a Bangles tour, while Rosas went to Europe with Neil Young and Crazy Horse as well as acting in the Meryl Streep film Ricki and the Flash (he played the bassist in her band). “Still, the four remained committed to Action Skulls. They carved out the time to do three more sessions that year. Bill notes that even when they weren’t in the same city, or state, or even country, they continued to work on the album via text and email conversations.”

Listen to “In the Future,” which premiered Aug. 21 on The Big Takeover

Related: An appreciation of the Bangles

Bill Mumy and friend in Lost in Space

Everything changed, however, when Rosas passed away suddenly on November 6, 2014. The death understandably hit the rest of the band hard. “It stunned us into being frozen for a while,” Mumy admits. “It took quite a while to get back on the horse.” Although Rosas was the last to join Action Skulls, he had immediately locked in playing with the other three. Even as they moved on to their individual commitments, “the eight Action Skulls songs haunted them. Creating that music had been such a great time that they wanted to share the songs with the world, and honor Rick’s work on them too,” the release continues.

The trio got together and recorded three more songs—“Faith Waltz,” “Belle of the Ball” and Vicki’s “Map of the World” John’s son Will Cowsill and Bill filled in on bass duties. With 11 tracks finished and their album finally done, they added one more fitting touch, having Angela Cartwright design the cover art.

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Listen to “Mainstream” from Angels Hear

Watch Vicki Peterson, John Cowsill and Bill Mumy perform the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”

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