ACL Music Fest Sunday Interviews

Kate Pierson's inner bongo mania

ACL Music Fest Sunday Interviews

The B-52's

2pm, 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!"

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More B-52's
TCB
TCB
SXSW looms on the horizon, and "TCB" is already neck-deep in it.

Christopher Gray, Feb. 7, 2003

Dancing About Architecture
Dancing About Architecture
Last call for SXSW entries.

Ken Lieck, Nov. 17, 2000

More Kate Pierson
After a Fashion
After a Fashion
Hangin' with your Style Avatar, the B-52's, Pam Des Barres, Miss Kitty, and mo' – oh, and some ho's … San Ho's that is …

Stephen MacMillan Moser, March 19, 2004

More by Margaret Moser
Did I Know Bruce Springsteen Was Going to Play 2012?
Did I Know Bruce Springsteen Was Going to Play 2012?

March 3, 2017

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler
Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler
A look back at illustrated album covers old and new

July 29, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

B-52's, Kate Pierson

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle