Interview: Jared Swilley of The Black Lips – Live at the Cox Capitol Theatre – 1/17
Running from the cops, making out on stage, and international trouser-dropping incidents: All of these beer-fueled shenanigans were somewhat synonymous with Atlanta-based rockers The Black Lips in the early days. After a world tour with stops in the Middle East, Thailand, Australia and Turkey, shooting a documentary, and working alongside rock legends like Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney and Mastodon singer-guitarist Brent Hinds on their upcoming album ‘Underneath the Rainbow’ their sound has matured … but not to worry. One emailed Q&A with bassist Jared Swilley convinced me that they’d be giving fans more of the trippy, lo-fi flower punk they’ve come to know and love.
It also convinced me that pranking reporters might be one of Swilley’s lesser known talents. They play at the Cox Capitol Theatre on Jan. 17.
Describe your sound in 3 words.
Off the hook.
Your album Underneath The Rainbow is coming out this March. What does it sound like and how will it be different than your last album?
The concept is magnificence, this is our current magnum opus. Our aim was to outdo ourselves, which proved to be quite the challenge. It has sort of a trippy, almost satanic undercurrent that permeates throughout the album.
Who did you collaborate with on Underneath The Rainbow? Any favorites?
Patrick Carney from the Black Keys produced one part, and Thomas Brenneck from the Budos Band did the rest. Brent Hinds from Mastodon and our friend Curtis Harding chimed in as well. Can’t really pick favorites, they are all equally fantastic in different ways.
What was the inspiration for the cover art on this album?
Homo erotic bikers, satanic cult followers, and the images of Karlheinz Weinberg captured on camera in Switzerland in the early 1960s.
Talk about 3 of your most memorable experiences from your last tour.
That’s hard to answer because the amount of alcohol I consume on tour makes it difficult to remember things clearly.
How do you feel you were received in the Middle East and other areas you toured where Western Culture isn’t widely accepted? What were your fears about traveling to those areas?
We were very well received there, more than I expected. I think our music is fun and makes people happy so most people like it. My biggest fears going over there were getting killed or going to jail. Neither of those things happened. It was a really positive experience.
What was it like during the filming of your documentary “Kids Like You and Me”?
It was really fun. We love to travel and meet new people. The message we wanted to convey is that people like music everywhere and we should all be nice to each other.
Who influenced you musically as a youngster? Any GA-based artists strike your fancy?
Link Wray, The Germs, and the Ramones were some of the earliest influences that made me want to play music. As far as Georgia, my faves are Little Richard, Wayne Cochran, James Brown, Otis Redding, and the Mighty Hannibal.
In your opinion, how does having a local music scene affect young musicians? How can it affect the area in which music is being created?
It gives you a community and something to do. It’s pretty crucial when you’re just starting out.
How have you managed to meet the demands of your industry while staying true to yourself musically?
We’ve been pretty lucky. We just do whatever we want and people seem to dig it. Always do whatever you want.
Word on the street is that you guys had to flee from India in 2009 due to some of your stage antics. Is that true? Can you elaborate?
Yeah it’s true. That sucked. Basically we got kicked out for making out on stage and pulling our pants down. That’s a big time NO NO there.
You guys are known for your wild onstage antics (crazy costumes, live animals, blood, you name it). How do you feel these things define you as artists? Has the response been mostly positive or negative?
There’s been negative and positive. Mostly positive nowadays. We don’t allow those things to define us. We were young and drunk.
How has the music scene in Atlanta changed since you formed your band? Was the change for better or worse in your opinion?
I think it’s gotten a lot better. There wasn’t much going on when we were coming up at least not Rock and Roll. It’s pretty vibrant now.
Name 3 artists you’d like to collaborate with in the future.
Andre 3000, Kenneth Anger, Jaques Dutronc.
Describe your fans in 10 words or less.
Snarling, slobberingly deranged beasts high on love and glue.
What are some of your favorite places to eat, drink, and hangout as Atlanta natives?
I like to eat BBQ at Daddy D’s, drink at 97 Estoria, and see shows at The Earl. Other than that I usually hang out on my front porch.
What do you do in your downtime? Working on any hobbies or side projects?
When it’s not cold, I like to ride my bike and play baseball. I also just started a band with my little brother called Douglas’ Street Team. We are awesome so far.
What are the last 5 albums you purchased?
I don’t really buy a lot of records anymore. I listen to the same 200 or so records I have over and over. I did recently buy the first Sparks record and a Wilson Pickett album.
The Black Lips make their Macon, Georgia debut on Friday, January 17th at the Cox Capitol Theatre. Support comes from Curtis Harding and Shehehe. Tickets are available for $15.00-$35.00
Sonya Washington is a journalist working with Art Matters: Engaging the Community through Embedded Arts Journalists, a collaboration between the Macon Arts Alliance and Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works. Matching funding provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The journalists in the program will spend time with artists and arts organizations in the Macon area through June, report what they discover, and foster ongoing conversations about the arts in Middle Georgia.