ACL Music Fest Sunday Interviews
Kate Pierson's inner bongo mania
The B-52's2pm, AMD stage
By most standards, the B-52's should have never survived the 1980s. Like Devo, they traded on a quirky, distinctive DIY sound that got lumped into punk and New Wave without being either.
Instead, Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson, Keith Strickland, Kate Pierson, and Ricky Wilson – the original lineup – inhabited their own Athens, Ga.-based planet (let's call it Claire), where kitsch met thrift-store style and fun met musical substance. Their universe consisted of dances about underwater creatures, poodles dyed green, rural juke joints, and all manner of vibrant costumery and memorable vocals.
"In a band with humor, it's easy to be a caricature, especially when you've been around as long as we have," admits Pierson. "But we sing those songs as genuine as we can, always from the heart. When we do the fish sounds in 'Rock Lobster,' Cindy and I are pouring our hearts out. When Fred sings, 'Here comes a narwhal,' he means it!"
2008's Funplex brought the remaining four members back together (Ricky Wilson died of complications due to AIDS in 1985), a delightful reminder that what was once good about the band is still thoroughly enjoyable.
"We have quite a few political songs: 'Channel Z,' let's 'Keep This Party Going' on. Our lyrics aren't too hit-you-over-the-head, but they have political undertones. We're active politically. We do benefits for various groups. But the main reason to be B-52's is to have fun and party and go nuts.
"At some private events, we'll see the CEO of the company get up and do his 'Rock Lobster' dance. The band used to grumble that, 'All they talk about is hair and don't take us seriously,' but I've realized that what this band does the best is let loose and let people's freak flag fly. Let that inner bongo mania out!"