B-52s' Kate Pierson: Excitement of the crowd 'keeps us going'

By Ben Hooper
Kate Pierson (R), pictured with B-52s band mates Cindy Wilson and Fred Schneider, said the band has managed to stay together through 40 years by remaining close friends. Photo courtesy of Pieter M. Van Hattem
1 of 3 | Kate Pierson (R), pictured with B-52s band mates Cindy Wilson and Fred Schneider, said the band has managed to stay together through 40 years by remaining close friends. Photo courtesy of Pieter M. Van Hattem

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Kate Pierson of the B-52s is touring with the band for its 40th anniversary -- and working on new music from the band and as a solo artist.

Pierson, 71, is on the road with fellow founding B-52s Fred Schneider and Cindy Wilson, as well as more recent additions Ken Maiuri, Tracy Wormworth, Sterling Campbell and Greg Suran, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their self-titled debut album.


The singer told UPI in a recent interview that the band finds ways to keep its performances feeling fresh after four decades of touring.

"We've mixed it up," she said. "Sterling, our drummer, has added a little thing in the middle of 'Love Shack' where we kind of go into 'Low Rider.'"

She said the band "will try to change the set list, bring up some things that we haven't been playing for a long time."


"I know our manager definitely wants us to play 'Devil in My Car' -- it's his favorite song, so maybe we'll throw that one in there."

Pierson said the biggest factor in keeping the band engaged is the audience.

"We just did a European tour and it's just so exciting," she said. "It's all ages and people just loving it. It's as much excitement as when we first came out -- of course, the crowds are bigger, but as much excitement as we got during Cosmic Thing, people just having a really great time. So it's good to see that, and it energizes us. It keeps us going."

New music

Pierson said fans who have been waiting for new music since 2008's Funplex might not have to wait much longer.

"We're planning to write a couple of new songs for a box set that Rhino's gonna be putting out, and we're also gonna hopefully include some underground material from the vault ... maybe some alternative tracks, too. There was another version of 'Love Shack,' so that might be fun to dig up and put on there," she said.

The singer said she is also hard at work on her second solo studio album, a follow-up to 2015's Guitars and Microphones.


"I have all the songs done, I'm just waiting until after the tour to really launch it," she said. "And I'm planning on releasing a song called 'The Great Invisible Wall' with Aleks Syntek, a Mexican artist, and it's about the wall -- but a figurative wall."

Pierson and the B-52s have made political advocacy a large part of their career, doing work to promote LGBTQ rights as well as to benefit organizations including Planned Parenthood and PETA, although its music is only occasionally political.

"We never set out to hit people over the head with songs that were too political, although we do have some overtly political songs, like 'Channel Z,' which we've been doing recently," she said. "But I think it's important if you feel it, you know, I think it's important for bands that we have a voice, we might as well use it. I just feel like the way things are going in this country, we'd better shout it loud and proud."

Keeping it together

Pierson said the secret to the B-52s longevity as a band is the strong bonds of friendship formed over the years.

"We still hang out together sometimes," she said. "We used to live in a house together, at first, which is not a good idea, but we're really good friends, still."


"We text each other, and talk on the phone sometimes. And I talk to Keith Strickland quite a lot," Pierson said, referring to the B-52s former guitarist who remains an official member of the group but no longer tours.

Pierson said the band's favorite songs to play are always changing.

"We're gonna add 'Juliet of the Spirits' to our set list," she said. "It's always good to add something we haven't done in a long time. But I still think that it's fun to do 'Rock Lobster,' because there's something about that guitar riff ... that just makes you wanna dance. ... That and 'Love Shack' just really get the dance moves going."

Pierson said her own musical tastes are "eclectic," but she doesn't much care for modern pop songs.

"Sometimes I listen to Top 10s. That usually drives me nuts, but I like to keep up with what's happening," she said. "The one hit song that I really like is 'Old Town Road.' There's been very few No. 1 songs that I really like, that are pop hits, but I actually love that song."

In addition to the Lil Nas X song, Pierson also enjoys a wide variety of world music and independent artists, which she said often come to her attention through an unusual means.


"It seems like there's a lot of really interesting music being played on TV shows. And I've Shazamed a bunch of things," she said, citing BBC America's Killing Eve as a show with a particularly interesting mix of music.

"Another person I listen to a lot lately is Brandi Carlile," she said. "And I listen to political stuff. I like to listen to like Rachel Maddow."

The B-52s' North American tour runs through March 8.

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