The first time the B-52s performed on stage together after the Covid lockdowns: They played “Love Shack” at Jimmy Kimmel Live! – could have been stressful for any other band. They had to cut a minute from the song to accommodate the tight television slot. They then had to wait in a trailer until they were called onstage: “We didn’t even get to meet him,” the ever-redheaded Kate Pierson says of Kimmel, and then it was just a matter of immediately tapping into her innate party spirit. . The performance was typically spot-on, with Pierson and Cindy Wilson harmonizing perfectly and Fred Schneider yelling a roaring “Love Shack, baby!” while he strikes a cowbell. In true B-52 fashion, it naturally turned into a celebration.
“It wasn’t really stressful,” says Pierson. Rolling Stone over the phone a few weeks later. “We’ve done it before, and it was so much fun playing together again. Everybody was like, ‘Oh my God.’ We had a couple of days of rehearsal just to get back in shape and everyone was thrilled to see each other again and be together. It was incredible.”
Seeing the group’s instant connection on stage, it’s hard to imagine that nearly 50 years after the three singers formed the band in Athens, Georgia (with multi-instrumentalist Keith Strickland and the late Ricky Wilson on guitar), they will embark on a farewell tour. this year. The walk begins in August with a few dates featuring the Tubes, KC and the Sunshine Band, before wrapping up in November at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, about 80 minutes from Athens. “It would be really nice to finish in Athens, so we could add a show,” says Pierson. “It could be a surprise show.”
But even after the group shuts down Love Shack, they have plenty of other good things to occupy them. They have already started combing through his archives for an upcoming documentary, produced by Fred Armisen and directed by Craig Johnson (the skeleton twins, Alex Strange Love), and are even considering recording some new songs. Pierson adds that they May even giving some occasional concerts after saying goodbye. Here he explains why it’s so hard to say goodbye.
Why the farewell tour?
Well, I call it the “Share-well Tour” because I guess I’m in denial. I just can’t believe it’s going to be the last gasp. We still have a lot of energy. Keith Strickland, who is no longer touring with us but still an important member of the band, has been writing a lot of music, so we might write a couple of songs, but not an album. And we just did a song with Miranda Lambert. She asked the B-52s to sing in [“Music City Queen”]. So we can do some stuff like that, but I doubt we’re really going to do a big tour again; we could do private shows and festivals and things like that. So I think we’ll still keep the wheels greased.
But there’s also a time when you look back on your life and think, “How much time did I spend on the road?” And some people love it. I’m one of the band that really loves touring, but I also love being home. I think everyone enjoyed two years without playing. Being home and having time to catch up on things was just a gift and I think everyone appreciated it.
How did you stay in touch during the Covid lockdown?
We have a band thread that includes the whole band, the touring band, our manager and the tour managers as well, and Fred is always sending jokes and we’re always sending stuff back and forth, music clips and stuff. So we are all in contact.
How was the conversation when everyone agreed, “Let’s do this farewell tour, the party is over”?
I think we were just waiting for the end of the pandemic; It’s not over, but it looks like it was time to come out of the cocoons. We have been talking about this for a long time: “How long are we going to go? Can we go forever? There are so many parts to being in a band. There’s the recording, the writing, and the promotion, and then there’s the touring. So I think that chapter may be closing but opening up to other things: maybe some new songs, the documentary, a book, a lot of things that we’ve tried to get off the ground before, but I guess we’ve always been in the way, and it’s hard to do. something else when you’re on the go.
I also have a solo album that I hope will come out in October. i think i’m calling it spokes and rainbows. I didn’t want to release it during the pandemic because there didn’t seem to be a lot of momentum, but we’re kind of forward and up.
Why is now the best time for a farewell tour?
He came together now because our management was really aiming to try to get everything at the same time, the push of the documentary, the tour, and when [Covid] I was safe. We always wanted to play with KC and the Sunshine Band. Fred and I always said, “We have to do a tour with them.” So I think it’s going to be a great party.
Have you decided what should be the last song of the band?
Well, the problem is deciding on a set list because we are going to do several nights in a row in some cities. Changing the set list is like passing a bill in Congress; everyone wants their songs or their favorite songs to be performed. We talked about maybe doing just the first two albums, but then we have to do certain songs. We have to do “Roam”, “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster”. The audience is going to be disappointed if we don’t do that. So the question is, do we make deep cuts? I don’t know.
But I think the last song will have to be “Rock Lobster”. It’s been a tradition and people are going to be very disappointed that we don’t do it. Also, we have a “Lobby, Lobster” with us. Our manager came up with this lobster suit which is very uncomfortable and skinny legs stick out underneath. You have to be really skinny to fit in it, and it’s hot, and you can’t see, but it’s got antennae, and it’s really fun. [when it] goes out dancing It’s a trip to see the audience loosen up and do their crazy dance.
Are there deep cuts you’re dying to touch?
Oh, I’d like to do “Cake”, “Devil in My Car”, “Big Bird”, “Junebug”, “Dry County”, “53 Miles West of Venus”. It would be fun for the fans if we did some songs that we never did because a lot of fans will come to two shows. So we have to change it.
I’m glad you mentioned “Devil in My Car”. The recording of that on your 1979 live album is a lot of fun with Fred yelling, “Heeelp!”
That’s one of the first songs. I think we did it in our first performance. When we wrote that song, we were all in a car, in Athens, and this preacher came on the radio and said, “There’s a devil in my car, the devil is everywhere, he’s in my carburetor.” So we just scream and think, “Well, we have to do that.” We usually didn’t say, “Well, this is a song we have to do.”
We have a lot of disaster songs that I still feel like when Cindy and I are singing and Fred is singing and we’re doing “Lava” or “Devil in My Car,” and we really get into it, we’re really, like, scared, yelling these things like, “Wow! overflow! Hell burning!” — I feel like we’re still really into it and I believe it.
People ask, “Do you get tired of that?” But the beat drives you, like “Rock Lobster”, you just can’t stop dancing, even if you’ve heard it a million times. That makes it never boring. Any of the songs, “Love Shack,” all of our songs are pretty fast and furious, but you just have to recreate them every time. And with “Rock Lobster,” we can do different riffs on top of the fish sounds, so we’re always making different sounds.
It seems that all of you are still close friends even after all these years.
That is the miracle. It’s very much a family dynamic. We still make each other laugh, and that’s the key to how we stay together.
You mentioned that Keith is retired from touring, but would he consider joining you for any of the shows?
I’ve talked to him about it and he’s thinking about it, but I don’t know. Wouldn’t it be great if he joined at the end of “Rock Lobster” or something? If he went on stage, people would go crazy.
As well as preparing for this tour, you have also been working on a documentary about the band. How does that come together?
We had archivists come to my studio and we dug up all these Super 8 images that I had in a bin from 1978 or something. They had footage of us performing, oh my gosh, it was so much fun seeing all the crazy dances we did. We were super energetic. And we even found in Fred’s cache of cassette tapes, the first song, the first jam, that we did together. It was like spontaneous combustion, the band exploded into what it is, because we started jamming at a friend’s house and wrote the song. It was actually a partial song called “Killer Bees”, and there was only one tape. I can’t even believe we recorded it. It is really a journey to listen to it.
So you haven’t heard this tape in over 40 years? What caught your attention about it?
I kind of remembered it, but what struck me was the spontaneity and fun we had doing it. It was just this surprise jam after we had a “flaming volcano” drink at the Hunan Chinese restaurant. We didn’t have money for food so we got a flaming volcano drink and it had six straws. There were six of us there, the sixth person was Owen Scott, whose house we went to afterwards. And he went upstairs to write an article and we started improvising in his music room. We wrote through this kind of process of collective interference… it was like automatic writing. I think a lot of musicians will say, “I don’t know where that song came from.” But I know that Fred had the idea for “Killer Bees” because we are always reading scientific data and we love scientific data. So he read that the killer bees were coming. That was kind of the basis for that jam.
Was there anything else you found in the files that blew your mind?
The archivists were really excited about the Super 8 images because they are mostly taken from the side of the stage, sometimes from the front. But being able to see the audience and the energy we had, and the dances are hilarious. We were nervous at first, so we were very expressionless. And Fred had some of the key lines from him like, “Are there any questions?” Or, if Ricky broke a guitar string, we’d do this kind of call and response: “Is that you, Modine?” But at first we were terrified when we went up on stage and had our backs to the audience. Cause we were so scared, the first time we went on saturday night live, we seemed very robotic and a bit punk and scary, but it was really because we were scared ourselves. But I found it amazing to discover all the Super 8 stuff and incredible photography as well.
And we found some of the things that we used to do when we lived in the same house in New York, and we used to play games and make fun little movies, like fake TV shows and Ricky Wilson was the host and his name was The Hell Tyler Show. We did it Hell Tyler on the Moon, and we were all doing some kind of lip syncing and doing crazy things. So we have some of that. So maybe that will be in the documentary too.
So you haven’t started interviewing for the doctor yet?
No. We’re just virgins.
I was going to ask, “What does the B-52 retirement plan look like?” but it seems there isn’t.
Yeah, we’re not going to do another major tour, but we’ve got a lot going on. You haven’t heard the last of the B-52s.