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7:30 p.m. Aug. 20
DTE Energy Music Theatre
7774 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston
All that sexual energy – and corny one-liners – that fueled the B-52s ’80s new-wave work hasn’t dissipated even after 17 years, the last time they released an LP before 2008’s “Funplex.” It’s only grown, so to speak. There are prostitutes, pumping and a trip to the G-spot. They need it; they want it – ooh yeah. “I’m not even sure if there’s one song without some sort of strong sexual content,” Strickland tells Between The Lines of their latest album. Before the band’s Aug. 20 gig at DTE Energy Music Theatre, Strickland spoke to us about the making of the B-52s’ comeback LP, playing their music on Rock Band and why he hasn’t aged in the last two decades.
You’re on the road now, right?
Yeah, we’re on the road. I’m actually in Altoona, P.A.
Oh, nice – I guess? (Laughs)
(Laughs) Yeah, there’s a Cracker Barrel just across the street. But, actually, a very beautiful countryside not unlike where I used to live in Woodstock, New York.
So, I feel like the last 17 years never actually even happened. The new album sounds as every bit ’80s kitsch as earlier albums, and you don’t look a day older than 38.
(Laughs) Oh, the magic of Photoshop.
What’s it like touring now versus in the ’80s, when you were 25 years younger? Is it harder?
It’s different. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily harder. We’ve actually been playing continuously pretty much since around ’97, when Cindy (Wilson) returned to the band. We did several extensive tours during that time, and since the album’s come out we’ve been pretty busy, so touring has just become – it’s what we do. So I’m just very much used to it, but I don’t know if it’s really all that different. I certainly pace myself differently these days. I don’t party down like I used to – not that I was ever out of control or anything, but I’m just at the age now where I don’t like to wake up with a hangover (laughs).
So you do a show, go back to the hotel and head to bed?
Pretty much, yeah. Not everyone does. And some nights I go out and have fun. If we have a day off the next day and we’re staying in the same town, I may go out, particularly if I have friends in that town.
According to a statement you made on your Web site, you weren’t prepared for the level of sexiness on this album.
It kind of surprised me. I write the music, and I was writing all the music at home in Key West, and I do think about what they’re going to do when I’m writing the music. I think, “They’ll like this or that or whatever,” and I would travel to Atlanta and we would all meet in the studio in Atlanta, and they would improvise to write their vocal melodies and lyrics. At that stage of writing, I’m there to change the music around to fit what they’re coming up with. They’ll improvise and jam and we’ll begin to see some sort of direction forming. But, anyway, after each song I would go, “There’s another song about sex – what’s going on here?”
At least all of you seem to have a high sex drive.
One of the dirtier songs I’ve been quoting for the last year is “Ultraviolet,” where Fred Schneider (the band’s frontman) takes us to the G-spot.
Do people even know what a G-spot is these days (laughs)? It’s such a ’70s term. I remember when it was a big thing.
It doesn’t feel like as many people talk about it these days, but I know what it is. I’ve never been there, though (laughs).
Oh, you haven’t? (Laughs)
No, have you?
Uh, no, I haven’t actually. Do women only have G-spots?
Gosh, I couldn’t tell you. So, would you say you’re the least dirty minded of the four?
We’re pretty equal. And it’s interesting, when we’re on the road for a long time, it comes out more and more. It’s easy for us to get really trashy. It’s funny how you think as you get older you probably get a little less trashy, but I find most of my friends are as trashy as ever. Or can be. All in jest, of course.
I saw you last year, when you were here during the True Colors Tour. What was it like performing as part of that?
Festivals are always fun in the sense that you get to hang around with other people. There were different artists at different times coming. We did one show with the Indigo Girls in New York, and they’re friends of ours, so it was great to see them again and hang out with them. Rosie (O’Donnell) was a blast. Everybody was great. It was like a summer camp.
Most people could care less about this, but because I’m an editor, I’m going to ask: Why did you drop the apostrophe after 52 in the band’s name for the newest album?
Oh, right. The mysterious dropping. It always bugged me because it’s like B-52’s is what? The B-52’s … yeah. We just thought we’d drop it. But no particular reason other than it’s not quite grammatically correct. Not that we really care that much.
Do you ever get sick of performing “Love Shack”?
No, no. The audience just loves it – that’s a thrill in itself. I never really feel that way. The only time I feel that way about a song is if it’s not working, and if we’re trying really hard to make it work, and it’s just not working. Some songs are that way – no matter how hard you try, you can’t pull it off live. We’ve had a few of those that we’ve tried and tried, and I’m just like, “Ah, let’s not do this again.”
Are these songs from “Funplex”?
No, all the songs that we’re doing off the new album are working, and that was part of the design really, because we have been playing so much prior to recording this album. Part of the inspiration for writing a new album was really just to have new songs to perform live, because we thought if we’re going to keep doing this, we better write some new songs. So we did. (I wanted to) keep the music very lean and easy to perform live – and with a bit of electronica and rock and roll and our own sound mixed all together – and that was the jumping off point for me. When I had that idea in mind, I knew this was something I could devote the next couple of years to. That was it for me, I felt like, “OK, I can go in this direction and just see where it goes.” I had no idea where it would end up. Actually, more songs ended up being more straight-forward rock and roll than I thought. Even though there’s a lot of electronic textures, it’s much more rock.
Speaking of rock, what do you think of your music being used on Rock Band?
I’ve never seen our songs on Rock Band. My partner’s nephews play it and say, “Uncle Keith, here, play it.” They think I’m going to be great at it because I play guitar – and this has nothing to do with playing the guitar (laughs). I didn’t even bother trying to explain, but they thought it was hilarious that I was terrible and they were better than me (laughs).