Monday, March 29, 2010

Bad Kids From Georgia: The Black Lips

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

I caught up with Black Lips bassist Jared Swiley on the phone. We talked about everything from boiled peanuts to his grandmother.

So How’s it going?

Jared: Good, I’m building a fence in front of my house.

That’s pretty awesome, do you still live in Georgia?

Yeah, I live in Atlanta.

You and Cole [the rhythm guitarist] started The Black Lips right?

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 [the drummer] joined. And then Ian [the lead guitarist] came a few years after. He’s our fourth guitar player.

I read somewhere you and Cole used to bully Ryan Seascrest in high school, is there any truth to that?

Uh, [laughing] he went to our high school but I think he graduated before I did, he’s a lot older than us. I think Cole was joking around in an interview, saying that. He used to do the morning announcements before I got there. I wish it was true.

So what of you think of being signed to Vice? They are your third record label.

It’s been great for us, cause we did seven years kind of touring, just as much as we do now, but no one knew who we were. It’s hard to survive off nothing, when you’re in that much poverty. So, Vice gave us a lot of exposure we wouldn’t have gotten before so, it made it easier for us to do this full time.

They also filmed you guys in India right? You guys got in some trouble right? You’re pretty well known for your stage antics.

[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 up tight when we got there because we thought it was so strict; we were on our best behavior. Then the guys doing 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 kind of a bummer, but we didn’t let it get us down.

Last Summer I saw you guys in Chicago. A guitar was broken and thrown in to the crowd on the very first song, there was fire extinguishers shot at everything, and you asked the crowd to rush the stage. The security guards were pissed. They wanted to get you in trouble.

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. We thought it was really funny because they would freak out on us, and yell at us, but we didn’t do anything. Actually we shoulda yelled at them for letting the crowd get through security.

But, usually security guards hate anyone that’s doing anything awesome. Which I can understand but, I think it’s fun for everyone. I got beat up by security after a show in London we did last year ‘cause kids invaded the stage. And it was an all ages show, so it was like really young kids, like girls jumping on stage and getting thrown off. They were really man-handling people so I was trying to get them away. Afterwards I was running my mouth at them, and they ‘bounced’ me.

We haven’t gotten in to much trouble lately. It was mostly in the early days, in the smaller clubs. Cause we wouldn’t bring anyone in, so we’d do stuff like that and they’d freak out. But, if people come to see you, you get a little more leeway.

What’s the most fucked up thing you’ve done on-stage?

We’ve never really done anything too bad, never intentionally hurt anyone, or intentionally break anything unless it’s our stuff. Nothing too fucked up. Nothing I’d want my grandmother to see, but stuff my Mom wouldn’t be too offended at. I mean there has been some gross stuff.

How and why do you do your stuff lo-fi?

We just record everything analog. That’s already gonna give it an older, warmer feel. We try not to overdo it on microphones. Even when The Beatles were recording, they were one of the top-selling bands ever. They didn’t use very many microphones. It’s about placing everything right. We’re more into minimalism than lo-fi. There’s a lot of stuff that’s too lo-fi where you can’t hear anything. We just use old equipment, we only use tape and a lot of tube microphones.

Anything new coming up?

We pretty much have the new album written. And we’ve done a couple of sessions; over the spring we’ll have the album done. So hopefully it’ll be done this year.

Top three bands you’ve been listening to right now. Go.

Hmmm. I just got this French girl group compilation. I’ve been listening to that a lot. French sixties girl groups. I’ve been listening to Reckless Eric a lot. And Alex Chilton a lot.

What do the Black Lips eat for snacks on the road?

Boiled peanuts are our favorite, but you can’t really get those outside of the South. And beef jerky. I usually eat a lot of that.

Very cool. I will see you when you’re in Boston.

Take it easy.

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

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