Everybody who listened to alternative rock stations in the late ’80s and early ’90s has probably heard the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” more times than they’d like to. Yes, it’s a classic, a pop jewel from the normally black-clad and Gothic group. But hearing singer/songwriter Charlotte Summer cover the track was a breathtaking change of pace. Having never encountered a female singing “Just Like Heaven” before was quite delightful. I recently interviewed Summer about the track and her affection for ’80s New Wave in general.
What made you decide to cover the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”?
We were sitting around one day trying to decide what cover version to put on the album. We started going through songs of our favorite bands and narrowed it down to three songs. It was between “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode, “Lips Like Sugar” by Echo & the Bunnymen, or “Just Like Heaven” by the Cure. Simply, “Just Like Heaven” was in my vocal range without having to dramatically change the key, so it was decided. We didn’t want to change the other songs and the key they were in, and I loved this song. I also wanted to put a song on the album that let people know what kind of music influenced me. I know that when people see a solo female artist, they don’t usually think of New Wave bands.
Did you feel any pressure on doing a contemporary take on a timeless classic?
At the time I recorded it, I loved it and didn’t think twice about what people would think. Mostly because I knew who I was and what kind of music I liked. I didn’t feel it was ruining their song. Once the album was released, I was really worried that I would get a lot of bad reviews of the song. Especially doing it with female vocals. I thought that people might say, “who is this girl doing a Cure song?” However, I have received nothing but great reviews and comments about my version, especially from Cure fan groups. I get emails from all over the globe from Cure fan groups that point to my website now and give me props for my version. So, now I can take a deep breath of relief.
Which of the ’80s New Wave artists had the most impact in influencing you?
Wow, a lot of them. However, if I have to narrow it down to the top few, it would be: Depeche Mode, The Smiths, New Order, The Cure, Bauhaus, Echo and the Bunnymen, Howard Jones, Thompson Twins, Eurythmics, A-Ha, NIN, Vicious Pink. Of course, many of these bands turned into other bands or created solo artists, like Peter Murphy, that also influenced me a great deal.
You’re married to the lead singer of Moonlife — can we expect collaboration in the near future?
Probably. We have already been collaborating on a few other projects and are helping each other with current pieces of work. Claudio has talked about doing an album like Yazoo with female vocals backed by synthpop. It will be interesting to see what we come up with, seeing as how we are both very opinionated [laughs].
Why did you name your album after a New Order tune?
That’s a long story. Originally, I started my band and we named ourselves Bizarre Love Triangle. We picked that name because we all loved New Order and wanted to have a hit as big as “BLT.” Then, some trouble started between the guys in the band (a bizarre love triangle involving another girl). After a lot of drama and trying to figure out where to take the band next, it was decided to release the album under my solo name. I had written all the songs, and the main band member that is still working with me did not want to be in the spotlight. So we released the CD under Charlotte Summer and used Bizarre Love Triangle as the album name. Ironically, it’s how all the trouble started in the first place.
Of all the characters in John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, which one were you?
Oh boy, I hate to say it but I think I was closest to Claire, Molly Ringwald’s character in the movie. I always had cool, trendy clothes growing up and I can see how people would perceive me to be that way. However, you have to throw in a little of Mr. Bender’s character as well. I also had a goth/alternative edge in high school and that threw people off a little.
Are your songs based on experiences in your life or that of others?
My entire album is a biography. Every song has a personal story behind it. Some of my friends knew exactly what some of the songs were about when they heard them. That is the only way I know how to write. I sing my life, as Morrissey would put it. For part of the album, I was going through a divorce and some major changes in my life so there are a lot of stories there. Other songs were written about where I grew up and my attitudes towards life. My mom thinks my music can be a little too doom and gloom sometimes but I can’t help what I write. That’s one of the things I loved about ’80s music, especially New Wave, is that the songs could be so perky yet the subjects were so dark. I think Joy Division/New Order perfected that perfect bittersweet balance.
Charlotte Summer: www.charlottesummer.net