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Dance This Mess Around: The B-52’s Cindy Wilson

There are certain moments in life that you can always return to, palpable memories that never leave you. For me, one of those moments was standing in the front row at a sold-out B-52’s show with my dad at the brand new House of Blues in Boston the night of my college graduation.

As I watched this legendary dance rock/art pop/new wave/insert quirky genre band that I grew up listening to perform just feet away, swooning at Kate and Cindy’s perfectly intact pipes and Fred’s signature deadpan vocals as they kicked it onstage like they were still 25, I thought to myself, “This is once in a lifetime.”

On a call with Cindy Wilson a few weeks ago, I shared this memory with the singer-songwriter and cofounding member of the band, and asked her if she had a comparable moment. It wasn’t easy for her to pick just one, but she landed on the time she snuck into an Ike and Tina Turner show.

“It was just awesome,” she says. “I’d never seen such live emotion and electric dancing. It blew my mind, totally.”

Wilson, who still performs regularly with the B-52’s, is now on tour promoting her new full-length solo album CHANGE, out on December 1. I jumped at the opportunity to catch up with her before her band’s stop at the Black Cat on December 4.

She traded in her iconic beehive and funky outfits for a Twiggy-esque haircut and more alt-rock look, and hit the road last month with bandmates Suny Lyons, Ryan Monahan, Lemuel Hayes and Marie Davon. Wilson describes Lyons and Monahan as her partners and songwriters; the two musicians wrote the majority of the songs on CHANGE.

“I’m working with some incredible musicians,” she says. “It was really fun for me to be in [studio], and [it] just really came together so well.”

CHANGE is the culmination of nearly four years’ and two EPs’ worth of collaboration with Monahan and other musicians, working to define their sound and hit their groove as a band.

“It took us about three-and-a-half years to get it together, and it just turned out really wonderfully,” she says.

Wilson’s solo sound seems to span genres, just as the B-52’s always have. She says her music combines a lot of different elements – psychedelia, pop and electronic among them – but if CHANGE had to fit into a category, it’d simply be alternative music.

“I think it surprises people and it’s a beautiful album, really.”

When I ask how her musical influences have shifted with her new work, she tells me she’s recently become obsessed with Tame Impala. But generally speaking, her musical taste is very eclectic – from 60s/70s garage bands to bossa nova to bluegrass to world music. Wilson’s also influenced by her B-52’s bandmates, sharing her latest releases with them and welcoming their feedback.

“I’ve played them things all along,” she says. “They’ve heard everything. They didn’t know how I was going to do the B-52’s and the solo shows, but it’s worked out fine. It’s been great.”

Wilson has been balancing the B-52’s fortieth anniversary with her own album release, and says she’s definitely very busy.

“But it’s fun. They’re both different and it’s been a grand adventure. I like to affect people, and both bands really do it. So it’s really wonderful.”

On the B-52’s front, Wilson says she’s encouraging the band to put out one more song. As for her solo career, she’s already written a few new songs for her next release and is gearing up for a European tour in February.

In the meantime, she says her current tour offers a show “that’s kind of unto itself,” flowing from beginning to end without stops between songs, full of beautiful melodies set against an artistic multimedia backdrop.

“I’ve got fantastic, first-rate musicians and they’re just a dream to play with,” she says. “I think [audiences] will enjoy it.”

Catch this rock icon and her talented band at the Black Cat on December 4. Tickets are $20-$25. Learn more about Wilson at www.cindywilsonb52s.com.

Black Cat: 1811 14th St. NW, DC; 202-667-4490; www.blackcatdc.com