Arts, The Muse

The Black Lips loosens its tongue

Thank God for The Black Lips; it’s rad to be able to listen to real rock-and-roll music again. The Georgia-based revivalists have been making a dirty, lo-fi mix of rock-and-roll and blues for about 10 years. They tour extensively, including places Western rock bands don’t frequent, such as India and Israel. The four garage-rockers have also become famous for their wild live shows.

The MUSE caught up with Black Lips bassist Jared Swilley in a phone interview, in which we talked about everything from boiled peanuts to his grandmother.

The MUSE: You and Cole [Alexander, rhythm guitarist] started The Black Lips right?
Jared Swilley: Me and Cole started a band in high school called The Renegades before that and we just morphed in to the Black Lips. And then Joe [Bradley, drummer] joined. And then Ian [Saint Pé, lead guitarist] came a few years after.

TM: So what do you think of being signed to Vice? They are your third record label.
JS: It’s been great for us, “cause we did seven years of touring, but no one knew who we were. It’s hard to survive off nothing when you’re in that much poverty. Vice gave us a lot of exposure we wouldn’t have gotten before, making it easier for us to do this full time.

TM: They also filmed you guys in India. You guys got in some trouble right? You’re pretty well known for your stage antics.
JS: [laughing] Yeah. It was so silly because I worked on booking that tour with them for a year and they knew everything about us. We were the ones being uptight when we got there because we thought it was so strict. Then the guys running the tour were like, “You don’t have to hold back, you can do whatever you want, just be yourselves.” And right when we did that, the promoters kicked us off the tour and we didn’t get to finish it. It was a bummer, but we didn’t let it get us down.

TM: Last summer I saw you in Chicago. A guitar was broken and thrown into the crowd on the very first song, there were fire extinguishers shot at everything, and you asked the crowd to rush the stage.
JS: We usually don’t ask people to [rush the stage]. I think we did it then because we had just gotten back from doing a bunch of festivals in England. English kids would break down the barriers and run on stage. Security would freak out and yell at us, but we didn’t do anything. Actually we should’ve yelled at them for letting the crowd get through security.
I got beat up by security after a show in London we did last year “cause kids invaded the stage. It was an all-ages show, so there were young kids, girls jumping on stage and getting thrown off. They were really manhandling people so I was trying to stop them. Afterwards, I was running my mouth at them, and they “bounced” me.

TM: What’s the most fucked up thing you’ve done on-stage?
JS: We’ve never really done anything too bad, never intentionally hurt anyone or break anything unless it’s our stuff. Nothing I’d want my grandmother to see, but stuff my Mom wouldn’t be too offended by. I mean there has been some gross stuff.

TM: How and why do you do your stuff lo-fi?
JS: We just record everything analog, which gives it an older, warmer feel. We try not to overdo it on microphones. The Beatles didn’t use very many microphones, and they were one of the top-selling bands ever. We’re more into minimalism. There’s a lot of stuff that’s so lo-fi you can’t hear anything. We just use old equipment; tape and a lot of tube microphones.

TM: Anything new coming up?
JS: We pretty much have the new album written, and we’ve done a couple of sessions. Hopefully the album will be done this year.

TM: Top three bands you’ve been listening to right now?
JS: I just got this French sixties girl group compilation. I’ve been listening to that a lot, as well as Reckless Eric and Alex Chilton [of Big Star].

TM: What do the Black Lips eat for snacks on the road?
JS: Boiled peanuts are our favorite, but you can’t really get those outside of the South. And beef jerky.

You can check out the Black Lips tonight at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge at 8:00 p.m.

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