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Cindy Wilson - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 26 / 3 / 2018

Cindy Wilson - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to B-52s vocalist Cindy Wilson about her debut solo album 'Change' and forthcoming UK tour.

Cindy Wilson is one of the vocalists in the B-52s. With their bomb-like hair, songs about beach parties and intergalactic space adventures, and music which combines elements of 50s rock and roll, 60s girl groups and 70s new wave, the B-52s have stood out for over forty years. The B-52s first formed in Athens, Georgia in 1976, and with its original line-up of Cindy Wilson (vocals), her older brother Ricky (guitar), Fred Schneider (vocals, keyboards), Kate Pierson (vocals, keyboards) and Keith Strickland (drums) recorded three initial studio albums, ‘The B-52s’ (1979), ‘Wild Planet’ (1980) and ‘Whammy’ (1983), and the David Byrne-produced EP, ‘Mesopotamia’ (1982). ‘Bouncing Off the Satellites’ (1986), their fourth album, was released posthumously after the death of Ricky Wilson from AIDS in 1985. After this, Keith Strickland switched to guitar and the group went on to record another three albums, ‘Cosmic Thing’ (1989), ‘Good Stuff’ (1992, the only B-52s album not to feature Wilson, who took a six year sabbatical from the band between 1990-1996 to bring up her two children), and ‘Funplex’ (2008). While continuing to play live shows with the B-52s, Cindy Wilson also released her debut solo CD at the end of last year. As its title suggests, ‘Change’, which follows on from two EPs, ‘Sunrise’ (2016) and ‘Supernatural’ (2017), takes her in a new direction. Mellow in sound in comparison to the exuberant B-52s, it combines elements of dream pop, electronica, disco and soft psychedelia. The ten songs on it feature eight Wilson originals, which she co-wrote with her new band of Athens musicians, multi-instrumentalists Ryan Monahan and Suny Lyons (who also produced ‘Change’) and drummer Lemuel Hayes. There are also two covers, New Colony Six’s rock classic ‘Things I’d Like to Say’ and ‘Brother’, which was written and originally performed by local Athens band Oh-OK. Cindy Wilson will be playing four UK shows in late February with her band. Pennyblackmusic spoke to her by phone in Vancouver before a solo show. PB: Most of your music with the B-52s involves a lot of call-and-response vocals with Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson. You have sung solo though on B-52s songs such as ‘Loveland’ and ‘Nip It in the Bud’. How big a step was it to you becoming a solo artist? CW: It is a different thing for me and a step out, but at the same time, as you say, I did step out from time to time in the B-52s as well. ‘Give Me Back My Man’ was another song in which I had the lead. So, at one level it is not that big a change, but at another level it definitely is in that it involves a whole new group of people and paints and brushes. It is beautiful to me how ‘Change’ has turned out. We started writing material together about three-and-a-half years ago and we had a really easy-going relationship in the studio, so that by the time it came to do our first shows together to promote it. I felt very confident and they went very smoothly. PB: ‘Change’ is far removed from what we have come to expect of you with the B-52s. Did you set out with the intention of doing something different from the start? CW: Yeah, I wanted to get away from the B-52s' style as much as possible and be more playful. There is a nostalgic element on the album, but it is also a very modern album with lots of electronica. PB: Ryan Monahan and Lemuel Hayes were in a Beatles cover band, and you first met them when played your son’s birthday party. How did you go from that to forming this new group with them? CW: I first met Ryan and Lemuel when my husband and I hired them for my son’s tenth birthday party. It had a Beatles theme, and it was the most fun, the best party ever. I was so impressed by their musicianship and their attention to detail that we kept hiring them for parties, and so I did this for about nine years. A few years ago a friend asked me to do a gig in a local bar in Athens, and I asked Ryan and Lemuel if they would help me out. So, we established a working relationship, and decided to take some ideas to kick them around in the studio and see what happened, which was just magic. I really enjoyed it. PB: The third member of the band is Suny Lyons, who was the album’s producer. You have worked with producers such as Nile Rodgers and David Byrne in the past. What do you think he brought to the album specifically? CW: He is a technical genius and he works the board like Billy the Kid. He is really fast. He took all our ideas and really helped to develop them. PB: ‘Change’ includes two covers, ‘Things I Like to Say’ and ‘Brother’. Why did you decide to cover those two songs? CW: ‘Brother’ was written and recorded by a local band in Athens, Georgia in the late 70s/early 80s called Oh-OK. It is a tribute to them. We did a show in Athens where we did that song, and we loved playing it so much that we decided to put it on the album. ‘Things We Like to Say’ is by New Colony Six and when I first heard it more recently I just became so involved in the simplicity of it and its tinsel-like sound that I wanted to cover it. It is gorgeous. I love it. PB: You are playing small venues to promote this album. Does it feel like you are going back to your roots and starting over again in some ways? CW: It does. It feels like the beginning with the B-52s, how we used to go out and drive around in a van and do shows. It is a real gift to be able to start over again and to earn an audience. We have got so much good feedback. It is kind of thrilling really. PB: You have also been doing fortieth anniversary shows with the B-52s in recent months. You must be feeling tired. CW: (Laughs) I do have my moments, but it is invigorating and I am kind of living on the whole adrenalin of it all. When I do eventually get home I will probably crash hard (Laughs) and sleep for days, but right now it is great. PB: You’re coming over to the UK in February. What can we expect from those shows? CW: We are thinking of doing ‘Give Me Back My Man’ as a B-52s tribute, but we are still talking about that. We will be playing most of the songs from ‘Change’, and also the two EPS, ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Supernatural’. PB: John Lennon apparently said shortly before he died that the B-52s were his favourite group and that ‘Rock Lobster’ in particular inspired ‘Double Fantasy’. Is that true? CW: I don’t think that we were his favourite band, but I know that he said that that we were an inspiration to him. I am just guessing, of course, but we were having fun with music and I think that it appealed to him. It is definitely true that he was inspired by us and our vocals, and I like to believe that what he was able to take away from it was just being able to have fun with music again. PB: It has been ten years since ‘Funplex’ and there was another gap of sixteen years with ‘Good Stuff’ before that, which was the B-52s album on which you did not feature. Do you think that the B-52s have one more record in them? CW: I doubt it. Keith Strickland has left. He is not touring anymore. Fred, Kate and I were thinking of doing one song, just to put it out for fun, but the next year is going to be a very busy year for the B-52s with regard to touring. I don’t know if it will happen. PB: Final question. You are now working on a second solo album. When do you hope that one will come out? CW: I don’t know. We are in the midst of touring with this and seeing how popular it is. I guess that will dictate a timeline and everything else that will follow. PB: Thank you. Cindy Wilson will be playing Under the Bridge in London on February 23rd, The Liquid Room in Edinburgh on February 24th, The Ruby Lounge in Manchester on February 25th and the Fleece in Bristol on February 26th.

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Cindy Wilson - Interview

Cindy Wilson - Interview

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