Kate Pierson is a jack of all trades. Not only is she a member of the globally-recognized band The B52s, but she’s also collaborated on R.E.M.’s massive hit, “Shiny Happy People”, has a solo career, and, on top of all that, she runs her own glamping resorts, alongside her wife, Monica Coleman.
I spoke with Kate to ask about her career, her resorts, and what life after lockdown looks like for one of music’s most dynamic personalities.
So, I have to start by asking, how does someone go from touring the world with The B52s to owning resorts? How did that opportunity present itself?
Well, I didn’t really go from one to the other. It was actually just kind of on a whim. I was driving through the Catskills one day and came across this run-down motel with a For Sale sign out front. It was pretty old, but it had this beautiful meadow out back, and the owner was a biology teacher, so he had planted all these gorgeous varieties of plants around the property. There were hummingbirds flying around and goldfinches in the bushes. There was a creek right next to it, and these gorgeous mountain views. I just saw such potential for it to be a beautiful place.
I thought of how awesome it would be to theme all the rooms, and I became instantly hooked. And you know, I was in charge of all the theming and decorations, along with some friends who have helped out with The B52s throughout the years. It was really my wife, Monica, who turned it into a thriving business.
The style of your Catskill’s resort, Kate’s Lazy Meadow, is loaded with retro-inspired, campy fun. And that’s exactly the vibe you get when you listen to The B52s. Was the goal of the resort to bring the energy of the band to life?
Well, we didn’t necessarily have that intention, but basically, for The B52s “Love Shack” video, our friends were like, “We know these two people, and they literally live in the love shack. You need to film your music video there!”
After we saw the place, we instantly knew it’s where the video would be shot. The two who owned that house became good friends of ours, and they ended up helping me and Monica design the Meadow resort. So, between us, along with one of my interior design friends, we filled the place with retro kitchens and painted everything in these classic 50’s colors…By the end, yeah, it basically became a de facto Love Shack (laughs)!
For the other resort, Kate’s Lazy Desert, which is a “glampsite” of retro refitted Airstream campers, we did it where each trailer has its own theme. There’s a tiki theme, a Pacific Northwest and Alaska theme, and we even have the “Hairstream” trailer, which is like a fantasy B52s-inspired tour trailer. They’re all stunning and tons of fun, and we spent a lot of time designing each one to be perfect. And they’re just a few miles away from Joshua Tree, so you get all those glorious desert sunsets.
Both properties have reopened since the pandemic, what are you doing to keep visitors safe during these times?
Well, for the Desert property, we’re only renting 50% capacity, so only every-other trailer is occupied. But out there, it’s so wide and open that guests will have lots of space to roam and be socially distanced. Plus, all the trailers have their own fridges and stoves and bathrooms, so there’s really no need for anyone to have to come in contact with each other. It’s honestly a great place for social distancing.
For the Meadow, we’re only renting every-other room. And last year, Monica constructed these great partitions between the room’s patios, so not only is it better for social distancing, but it also added a lot of privacy as well.
I have to say, having the lower capacity has given us the time to really reconnect with the property a lot, which has been really nice. It’s felt like a refuge for us during these crazy times.
With regards to pandemics, The B52s were directly impacted by the AIDS crisis back in 1985 when you lost bandmember Ricky Wilson to the virus. Do you think that experiencing the devastation of a prior pandemic firsthand has impacted the way you’re experiencing COVID-19?
Well, sadly, I don’t think any of us have experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s on such a huge scale. But to me, the AIDS epidemic is personal, because I knew so many people, so many friends, who died. And it seemed like the government wasn’t doing anything. Ronald Reagan didn’t seem to care, and didn’t even mention the virus for the longest time.
It really wasn’t until ACT UP and organized protesting that things started moving forward. And before AIDS, I had done anti-Vietnam activism in the 70s, and I also do work with PETA. Through my own activism, I’ve learned that change can happen when people not only work politically, but take to the streets in solidarity through peaceful protest. You know, I believe in nonviolence, but I also believe in flamboyant protests. I think stuff that’s eye-catching really helps raise awareness.
As for COVID, despite the lack of leadership from some government officials, most people have done the right thing, especially here in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. We really shut it down early with the guidance of the fabulous Governor Cuomo. But some governors opened their states way too early, ignoring the science, which fueled the pandemic into a bonfire.
With the world kind of on pause, how have you been spending your time?
Well, we’re actually loving it up here in the Catskills. We’ve got our garden, I’m taking lots of time to reflect on life, and I’m also doing some web performances coming up and finishing my solo album. It’s weird, these days I don’t feel like there’s any urgency to do anything. Last year I was touring with the band all summer, which I loved, and it was extremely successful. But I’m also glad to be home. I’m learning to love the slow pace we have right now.
Speaking of the band, The B52s have been together for over 40 years. A lot of bands don’t manage to last that long, or the bandmembers have drama and the group breaks up… What’s been the secret to The B52s’ longevity? And does the band have anything planned for when the world opens back up?
We were actually just talking about this before the pandemic. We’d love to get together and write a few new songs to be released with a box set. We were making plans on when and where…but when lockdown hit, that put everything on pause. But we’d definitely love to get that going soon.
And I think we’ve stayed together because, at this point, we’re family. We know what buttons not to push (laughs)! We know that everyone goes at their own pace, so we get together when it works out for everyone, rather than forcing a time. And, you know, sure, we haven’t released as many albums as we could have because of that, but I think that what we have released is excellent, and that’s what keeps the fans coming back.
And like I said, at this point, we’re family. We make each other laugh. We split everything equally. There’s no leader in the band. We co-write the songs. We also have a group chat, so we’re always sending each other funny pictures and checking in. In total, I’d say the sum is greater than the parts. When we come together, we create stuff that’s unique and that none of us could have created alone, and I think that’s a very powerful thing!
To catch Kate Pierson’s next performance, be sure to watch Women Take the Stage on August 26th, a concert that will honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. To stay in touch with Kate be sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram.