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Black Lips

Black Lips

Monday 9th August, 2010 11:57AM

The Black Lips have built up a reputation for being punks, but lovalble ones whose main goal is to have a good time and make sure you do to, despite the consequences. Last week we spoke to Jared Swilley (the one in photo with a big mo),  who’s more well known of late for his run-in with Brooklyn based band Wavves, I didn’t talk to him about this though, it didn’t come up and after speaking for 20 mins or so, I’m pretty damn excited about seeing them next week at Laneway Festival.

Tell me a little about when, where and how Black Lips came into being?

Oh it’s a pretty typical story, we lived in a suburb outside of Atlanta and were at school and there wasn’t much to do, we weren’t into sports except like skateboarding and stuff. We thought being a band was cool and started a pretend band and then became a real band and then we got shows and started writing songs. And yeah pretty much just went from there, I was 14 when we started and we haven’t stopped since. There’s many ups and downs stories in between but yeah that’s the basic outline.

Was there quite a supportive scene there for you? Many all ages venues etc?

Yeah, it’s weird not so much now but at the time there was like a big punk scene in the city and there was a club that was all ages but they still served alcohol and that kind of helped nurture us because it wasn’t just like a kids club, there were grown ups there and that was really cool that we had that, like I don’t think that could fly now just because it didn’t seem like it was very legal what they were doing. And then there was always a lot of house parties and warehouse parties so we had a good situation for when we were coming up.

What other bands were around at that time that we might know about?

Deerhunter…all the other bands were pretty crappy like mohawk bands and just forgettable punk rock bands.

Who would you consider were your main influences when you started out?

Early Rolling Stones, The Germ, Link Wray, Black Flag, Them, those were like the main ones. We were like into punk rock, but then I think a lot of our guitar styling early on came from Link Wray and early Rolling Stones kind of stuff, and The Trogs and things like that but it was like sixties punk was our idea.

You’ve described yourself as “Flower Punk” – explain?

People were just always asking what sound like/what kind of band we were and for lack of a better term for rock and roll there were all these stupid sub-genres of punk and rock and roll so it was kind of like punk rock, like we were like a punk band but we were also not very tough and into psychedelic and wimpy, sappy stuff so it was just a merging of the two. I figure if you event yourself a sub-genre and other bands start calling themselves that then your timeless, so that was kind of the idea.

I lived in Atlanta GA for almost a year in 1997/98 - I found it quite difficult to find any good music scenes where I was living and quite frankly didn’t like the city much – does this surprise you?

No that doesn’t surprise me at all, the majority of people, especially people not familiar with the south or cities like that hate Atlanta immensely when they come. But on the flip side of that my old apartment used to be almost like a hostel and would have people come stay with me from France and Spain and Austria and Germany come live me and they fell in love with it, Atlanta’s the kind of the place you can’t visit and have a good if you don’t anyone there it’s impossible. But if you go there and know what to do and where to go and who to go in with, then people fall in love with it. It’s really a nice place but it’s very local, for me I don’t leave a 1.5 to 2 mile radius from where I live (Dunwoody). Like I haven’t been to downtown Atlanta in like years, I’ve maybe been there a few times in my life because no-one goes there except businessmen and homeless people.

You released your 5th album early last year 200 Million Thousand tell us about that?

It was recorded in Decatur, we had a studio there. We did it ourselves, it was really hot when we recorded I just remember sweating all the time and getting bit all the time by mosquito’s. Probably my least favourite album, we were really rushed I didn’t like it very much.

What was your writing process?

There really wasn’t one.

You also released another album last year but under a different name –  All Mighty Defenders – how did this come about?

We have recorded with King Khan over the years and we’d always talked about doing a project together. We were doing a tour in India and the tour got cancelled half way through the dates, the promoter just pulled out of it. So we had nowhere to go and we had a tour in Europe starting so we went to Berlin where King Khan lives and we just wanted to do some recording because it was like winter time in Berlin and you can’t really go outside. We’d all been listening to a lot of the same records, like these old gospel records and we just started recording and he had some songs written and it turned out BBQ had some songs written and it went from two songs to a bunch and we just decided to do a record. It was really thrown together, I mean it was written and recorded in a week.

I read somewhere that the tour got cancelled because a show got out of hand?

It’s not that it got out of hand, just that there were cultural taboos that they didn’t tell us about. Like Ian (Saint Pé) and Cole (Alexander) kissed each other and homosexuality is illegal in India which they didn’t tell us, they just told us to do whatever we wanted to. And we’d done a bunch of shows already that were weird and they just pulled out, they freaked out.

India wasn’t really ready for us, I mean no western bands go there unless it’s Madonna or Metallica, like huge bands. The promoters that we had or the people that set up our tour, didn’t even understand the concept of touring. You do a show in Dheli and a month or two later you might fly to Calcutta and do one. You know, doing dates every night they didn’t get that concept.

No one really knew what to make of us when we got there, I think they just thought that we sucked, we were just like crappy white guys that didn’t know how to play our instruments and didn’t know how to sing. And the same goes for us, we didn’t understand what was going on either, just lots of cultural misunderstandings.

You do a lot of touring and often go to countries that most bands wouldn’t think of, have you had any similar experiences?

The American Midwest and middle provinces in Canada, everywhere else has been fine. Actually probably the middle Canadian provinces are the worst, we had some culture clashes up there.

Like what?

Oh just rednecks, everyone says rednecks are from the south but they’re everywhere. Nothing to the degree of India though. I thought Israel might have been…I thought we might have had problems there but that was an amazing experience. I mean Russia is little weird but still like everyone was enjoying themselves. I think India is just the most far out place we could have gone and had gotten shows. Like we’ve never got emails from people in India, we’ve never sold a record there, absolutely no one new who we were there, we were just an American band. We were playing with mostly heavy metal bands. Everywhere else we’ve been people have had an idea of who we are, they have listened to similar music to us but there was none of that when we went to India. The guy that set up the tour was a Canadian of Indian descent and he was just doing research out there and thought it would be fun to set up a tour.

But you’re well known for your live shows and on stage antics, it’s not hard to find examples online…

Well yeah and that was the annoying thing about it because when we got there they just said do your shows, do whatever and gave us no guidelines. The first 4 or 5 shows were really stale and weird and we were uncomfortable cause we didn’t know what to do. We weren’t allowed to drink or smoke at the shows, which was kind of annoying. So finally on that show that we got into trouble, I went off on my own and got this cab and went to get whisky. We were so bored with the shows and that show actually turned out great, kids were dancing, well boys were dancing up front and everyone seemed to really like it. And afterwards it seemed like everything was fine and then all of a sudden they pull out all the rules on us and that was obnoxious because they’d seen all the youtube videos, they’d read everything about us because that tour had taken about 1 year and half to plan. And they didn’t give us any warning and just pulled the plug on us.

What are your favourite countries to tour?

My personal favourites are (thinks) favourite might be Mexico and right behind that is France and Spain. Well France and Spain we probably know the most people have the most fun and the crowds are really fun and the food is really good. Mexico is just wild and the food’s awesome and everyone’s really cool. And actually Australia, that Australian and New Zealand tour we did last year (he means 2008), was so much fun. I was kind of apprehensive about what it be like because I’d never been there but then we got there and it was just a really really good vibe, everyone was super fun and we met really great people and we got to surf. We had really good parties, we actually had good food, went to lots of bbqs. Yeah it was great.

What are you looking forward to down here this time?

Summer. Yeah, summer, bbqs, surfing. Seeing the people we met last time, because everyone had such a good sense of humour there, reminded me a little of the same attitude that southerners have, just really easy going and friendly.

Do you every get sick of each other?

Not really, never anything bad. We’ve been in close quarters with each other for 10 years so everyone knows each others breaking points and what to do and what not to do so we have quite a harmonious situation.

You’ve got quite a catalogue of music behind you these days, how do you go about planning your shows?

Um, there’s some stuff we can’t play live, there’s a lot of stuff we can’t remember how to play, like there’s a lot of songs we only played once in a studio. So that’s the main thing, and then also like what people react to the best. We feel it out with the crowd depending on where we are. I don’t know, that’s a good question I don’t even know what we’re going to play tonight so I have to start thinking about that.

Where are you playing tonight?

We’re going to be play on the beach in Costa Mesa (just south of LA) the night.

Who are you playing with?

Oh this guy called Nobunny, he’s really awesome, we’re going to be doing the next couple of shows with them.

They’re actually a band, I don’t know how to describe them, they’re just like a fun kind of punk band.

What others bands are you into at the moment?

I would definitely say The Spits, are like my favourite band. We’ve toured a lot with, well actually they just broke up, this band from LA called Mika Miko they’re really awesome, we did American and European tours with them. They’re like an all girl punk band from LA. King Khan and The Shrines, they’re my favourite live band to see. The Strange Boys are good, they just put out a new album, it’s pretty damn good. I know I’m forgetting a bunch of stuff, I know I am, I am always asked this question and I always have a list of ones I want to say but yeah…

What’s ahead for you guys? Are you writing new material, recording etc?

We recorded all through December in our studio and then we recorded this month (January) a little bit with Deerhunter. After Australia and NZ we go to Japan and then we get back from there we’ll record somewhere else. We’re just going to keep recording and put out the album this year. We have an Almighty Defenders European tour coming up and we’re playing Coachella with them. We’re going to try and go to China this year, Puerto Rico…

Have you been to China before?

No no, we’ve had it in the works for a long time, we’ve had the invitation to go but we’re touring so much that it’s hard to coordinate it all. I’m really interested to go there.

Do you envisage any India type issues there?

Yeah well, we don’t have any over political stance on anything and I think they’re more politically repressive and less sexually repressive, maybe, hopefully, so I don’t think we’ll have a huge problem.

What were you doing with Deerhunter?

They have a studio out in Marietta, we were just recording our songs out there with them. It was fun, they turned out good.

So not a collaboration?

No, no. I think Cole and Bradford have a band together (Ghetto Cross) and they record over at his house. We were just recording.


And that’s that – be sure to check out Black Lips next week, they always put on a good show.

The Black Lips NZ Tour

Monday 1st Feb, Laneway Festival, Britomart Square, Auckland
Tuesday 2nd Feb, SFBH, Wellington – click here to buy tickets.

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