Fred Schneider, the often whimsical and multi-chromatic singer, songwriter, musician, founding member and front man for the surreal aesthetic band, The B-52s, has often been considered an LGBTQ trailblazer and pioneer along with fellow members Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson. The faction is globally known for their outlandish lyrics and their flamboyant confidence, as well as their super hit “Love Shack.” They sell out huge arenas every single performance, even 40 years after their genesis.
On September 24, 2019, at 6 p.m., the super group will be showcasing their antics at SummerStage in Central Park in New York City with special guests OMD and Berlin. The band will also be playing at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut on September 21. The show promises to lend a chaotic frenzy to those watching.
When The B-52s were originally spawned, several members identified as LGBTQ, including Schneider. The female members were sometimes mistaken for drag queens because of their colorful, offbeat, vintage clothing and hairstyles. Although Pierson was involved with a male at the time, she is now married to a woman. When the group first arrived on the scene in 1976, “gay” wasn’t trendy, but the band just seemed courageous enough to do their own thing.
Schneider worked as a Meals on Wheels driver before he luckily and accidentally became involved with the band, which began as a hobby. He knew very little about the music business at the time the band was formed. Original founders Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson, Kate Pearson, Keith Strickland and Schneider played their first impromptu number at a Chinese restaurant in Athens, Georgia, after having a couple of drinks, and the rest remains history.
I spoke with Schneider in the midst of his current tour regarding his music, his career and his brand-new coffee venture as the raging storm Dorian was preparing to hit Florida, where he happened to be.
You sell out every single concert. What’s your secret?
We just do something that no one else does. We’ve always done our own original material, and we make it as upbeat and uptempo as possible.
You are wild on stage. Is that scripted or impromptu?
I’m pretty laid back normally, but for the stage we’ve just got to really show a different side of ourselves. I like to make the band laugh too. I like to entertain the audience, but I like to make the band laugh.
Have you had your ultimate stage fantasy? If you have, what was it, and if you haven’t, what needs to happen to make that possible?
We did Central Park on Earth Day, and I asked the police how many guests there were. They said more than a million. Of course, that fag rag The Post said it was half that.
And you’re going to do Central Park again?
We’re doing SummerStage.
That will probably have a million people.
Well, I hope.
How many times in your career have you performed “Love Shack” do you think?
Every single time that we’ve been on stage since it came out.
Today’s artists have a hard time staying relevant for 40 minutes. How is it that you remain relevant after 40 years?
You can’t really pin a date on our music. Like, “Love Shack,” probably people are sick of it because of karaoke and weddings…
It’s probably the most played karaoke song ever.
I think so. I know I feel sorry for people. I’ve heard some really bad versions.
I bet you have! What made you go into the music business in the first place?
Well, I have no skills, and I dropped out of college. I just hung out in Athens and I just fell into it. I mean, I like writing, and Keith and I used to jam back in the day, before the band. I would recite with my guitar and actually Keith had a fan blow on a guitar when we jammed, and the band first jammed after having a Flaming Volcano at Hunan’s. Let’s just say it was luck.
So it was like an accident?
Yeah. I was living in Atlanta, and I came up for Halloween, and we jammed. I suggested we do this as a hobby, so I came back and got my old job back, and they made me a Meals on Wheels coordinator. So I had a sort of career for a while.
If you could have me ask you any question in the world, what would it be and how would you answer it?
Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think about things like that. I do interviews, but I’ve talked about the past a zillion times, so I’d rather talk about what I’m doing now. The band is going to continue. We probably won’t do major tours, but we will do festivals and events. I have a coffee business; that’s why I am here in Florida. It’s called Breyting. We are going to do a coffee club where you get two bags of coffee every month, and instead of doing a café, we have an event space, which is really nice for progressive groups and charities with my partner in the business, who brought me into the coffee business. We have blends by Elvira; I have Fred’s Monster Blend. We moved the roastery into the house. We are going to roast coffee here. We had to bring in some of the equipment like the vent and the chimney so it wouldn’t blow away.
So you are actually literally making your very own coffee?
Oh yeah, we have tons of beans in the garage, or what was the garage.
How does it compare to Starbucks?
Oh, it’s much better. Ours is organic, grown in Laos, and we give back to them. The men and women make the same salaries, and part of the money goes to antivenom. Snake bites are one of the main causes of death there, and also it goes to getting rid of all the chemicals we dropped during the Vietnam War, because the U.S. doesn’t take any responsibility.
That’s really cool and interesting. Will you be tying that together in any way with the music business?
Not really. I’m happy to keep it separate and have a career for when I retire.
Do the B-52s plan on coming out with anything new?
I’m constantly doing my own projects, and Kate and Cindy have their projects. We are supposed to do two songs this winter. We are going to re-release all of our albums, and those two songs will be two bonus tracks. So that will be good. Keith will be involved.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We’re still going. We have the next half of the tour, and we are trying to figure something out for Halloween.
I can just imagine.
Oh yeah, my costumes are so ridiculous. I just throw things together.
Facebook: Fred Schneider
Twitter: Fred Schneider3