No matter how many decades have passed, The B-52s will never lose the weird and quirky shades that define their music.
The Athens-birthed band is still spritzing their live shows with color and dancing with abandon as they pump out late-‘70s cult hits “Rock Lobster” and “Planet Claire” and ‘80s radio regulars “Love Shack” and “Roam.”
Guitarist Keith Strickland retired from the road in 2012, but the frontline trio of Kate Pierson (who lives in upstate New York), Fred Schneider (a Long Islander) and Cindy Wilson (back in Athens) remain ready to party.
Backing the band when they take the stage Sunday at State Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park with Culture Club and Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins, will be longtimers Tracy Wormworth on bass and Sterling Campbell on drums, as well as Greg Suran on guitar and Ken Maiuri on keyboards.
Schneider, 67, chatted earlier this week from a tour stop in North Carolina about anniversaries and looming retirements.
Q: Last year you did the Atlanta Symphony show for your 40th anniversary, but this is also being billed as a 40th-anniversary tour. So what is the anniversary?
A: Our first show was 1977, Valentine’s Day, so that was last year’s (tour). We’re on our 40th anniversary for our first single this year, and the question came up, do we want to tour with Culture Club and Thompson Twins? It seemed like a good idea, and the shows are doing really, really well. It’s gonna be good. (Next year) we’ll go out for (the anniversary of the) first album. We’ll be releasing all kinds of special editions of things.
Q: What’s been the most rewarding thing for you, Cindy and Kate to still be touring 40 years on?
A: We started out the five of us (guitarist—and Cindy’s brother—Ricky Wilson died in 1985) sharing everything equally, and by doing that, there’s no one person taking all the credit or getting the credit. And we all wrote together and did the small club tour before we signed together. A lot of times I would drive the van! I might retire after next year’s tour, but as long as the offers are there… I like the multitiered approach (to tours) with several bands on the bill. I think it makes for a fun evening. Our fans get to see Culture Club, and theirs see us and Tom Bailey; it’s a very well-planned combo trio.
Q: It’s been about eight years since you played Chastain, which we all know is a special place to play depending on your perspective. What do you think about it?
A: It is the cheese and wine crowd up close. It works out. We just look above (the people eating) to the people getting into it.
Q: Most of your crowds are probably pretty energetic.
A: Oh, yes! Even venues where they don’t want you to dance, people say the hell with it. We started out as a dance-party band. We still want people to shake off their dreary work day.
Q: Any thoughts about new music, or has that time passed?
A: Keith was the genius writing the music. I think to do an album, we’d all have to go someplace and be together, and it costs a fortune. With “Funplex,” we had to fly to Atlanta, rent cars, stay in hotels, rent the studio and record at another studio. It’s a real proposition. I think we’re winding down in some ways. We might do our own versions of cover tunes, but we haven’t taken any steps toward it.
Q: What music are you listening to these days?
A: I have so many records, I’ll die before I hear them all. I play all kinds of stuff.
Q: But nothing on current radio?
A: I haven’t listened to the radio since the ‘60s. If they don’t play us, I don’t care. (Radio) didn’t want to touch “Love Shack” until it went to number one at college and indie radio and then Top 40 radio jumped on it. They put us between Paula Abdul and Milli Vanilli—and we’re more memorable than them.
Boy George and Culture Club
With The B-52s and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey. 7 p.m. Sunday. $45-$82.75. State Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park, 4469 Stella Drive NW, Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.