Arabia Mountain

Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011: Black Lips Q&A

Matured from their younger days of vomit, blood, urine and nudity-ridden stage performances, The Black Lips have especially proven since the release of their acclaimed sixth album, Arabia Mountain, that there are more up their sleeves than outrageous antics. From their refined and bold sound and lyrics, to the their cleaned up front-page close-up in Spin's July issue, to the band's calm but powerful performances, the Atlanta, Georgia natives have finally found their center.

Best known for their hits "Bad Kids" and "Modern Art," Black Lips are no strangers to Austin, having played at Austin City Limits last year and South By Southwest countless times. The band will be playing on the black stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest on Sunday at 7:30p.m. 

The Daily Texan exchanged emails with bassist and singer Jared Swiley about good and bad times in Austin, working with music producer Mark Ronson and their Southern roots. 

The Daily Texan: This is definitely not Black Lips first time in Austin. Y'all were here in April with Vivian Girls for a show at Emo's and other times for ACL and South By. What has been your best and worst moments in this city? 

Jared Swiley: Yes, we are very familiar with Austin. My worst experience there was the first show we played at SXSW, which was probably 2006. I tried this old wrestling move called "icing" where you make a small incision on your forehead and it produces a lot of blood. I was drunk so instead of a small incision I made a huge gash and lost about a liter of blood and had to spend the night in the hospital and made my friend cry. On a good note, I at least had a place to sleep. The other guys all had to sleep in the van.

My favorite moment was when we played ACL I think and we got 200 hamburgers from McDonalds and threw them into the audience. People were throwing them and eating them. GZA, who is vegan, was standing by my amp onstage and got hit with one. It was the closest he had been to meat in a decade.

DT: You guys gained quite a following back in the day due to your crazy, out-of-control performances. You guys were inspired by GG Allin, but were there any other influences in regards to your live performances (Gwar, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop)? 

Swiley: We respect GG Allin for his dedication, but we're like kindergartners compared to him. Iggy was definitely an inspiration.  My main influences are pure entertainers like Little Richard and James Brown and Chuck Berry. They played amazing music and really put on a show. I like Jerry Lee setting his piano on fire, I like Lux Interior giving head to the mic, we just wanna give it our all. You are up on stage and you owe it to the audience. Otherwise they can just go and see a 3-D movie.

DT: People and critics have been saying that your performances have been less "chaotic" and "more reserved," would you agree?

Swiley: That just depends on how you judge the performance. If you had seen us in 2003 or 2004, then you would have seen vomit and piss, but no music. Now we have a balance. We know how to make songs and don't have to resort to performance art techniques. The shows are still crazy compared to everything else that's going on.

DT: There's that infamous London stage invasion that was all over YouTube. The invasion reminded me of the hardcore punk scene back in the '80s with CBGBs and how audience members could jump onstage and interact with the band. Is that something you try to do with your shows when you can, or do you just see what happens with every performance?  

Swiley: I like that that happens. It doesn't happen all of the time, but it happens most of the time. You can't force it. It has to be natural. Primal instincts of the masses. I always hated when bands would ask/tell everyone to move forward and get closer to the stage. You can't tell them what to do. They do what they feel like doing, and if they don't do what you want then it's your own fault.

DT: You worked with Mark Ronson for part of your latest album, Arabia Mountain. How was the recording process and working with Ronson? 

Swiley: Working with Mark was absolutely magical. We just really clicked with him. It was everything we had done before and he came in and sprinkled that magic fairy dust on us.

DT: Have you guys already started working on your seventh? What can fans expect? 

Swiley: We have started recording our own demos and getting the pre-game on. We are always working towards our next venture.

DT: Currently, what is the band inspired by? 

Swiley: I hear amazing new music everyday and am constantly inspired by music made decades before I was born. I'm listening to the Lonesome Drifter as I write this and it makes me want to get back to my roots and do a country album. 

DT: Atlanta has such an eclectic music scene. Did Atlanta's musical culture have any influence on the band? Are there any collaborations you would want to do with any of them (say maybe an Outkast/Black Lips split)? 

Swiley: Growing up in Georgia had a huge influence on us. Country, gospel, soul, hip-hop — music is all around there. I grew up in a gospel church and that had a big influence on what I do. To this day I've never seen people freak out at a rock show like they do on Sunday morning speaking in tongues and drunk in the Holy Spirit. I've tried to recreate that but it's all in vain. That being said, doing something with Andre 3000 would be amazing. Or Goodie Mob. 

DT: Lastly, as Southern gentlemen, how have you guys balanced being the crazy punk rockers that you are to being charming men? 

Swiley:You can do both at the same time. We aren't crazy all the time. In fact we are probably the nicest guys you'd ever meet. That's just how we were raised.

Album Review

The Black Lips
Arabia Mountain
Genre: Garage Rock
Grade: B+
For fans of: The Clash, The White Stripes, The Strokes

For their sixth studio album, Arabia Mountain, The Black Lips brought on producer Mark Ronson, best known for the retro-infused songs of Amy Winehouse. But don’t expect the Atlanta-based band to retreat to the comforting pastures of soul.

The album is a collage of influences from the Velvet Underground and '60s pop to Pavement and The B-52’s. It's stamped with their signature hazy, lo-fi garage rock sound. The band rarely calms down the peppy pace.

Arabia Mountain is firmly in the land of rock where the music is messy and lazy and the lyrics are surreal. There’s definitely a mention of eating Cap N’ Crunch and chasing the dragon on “Don’t Mess Up My Baby.” While The Strokes meander through their so-called comeback and other bands reach for experimental heights only to fail miserably, The Black Lips stick to their guitars and do what they do best: let it rock.

Listen to the rest of the Black Lip's new album on Grooveshark

The Black Lips are an Atlanta-based punk band that has been playing for nearly a decade. Their sixth studio album, Arabia Mountain, will be released on June 7.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

It isn’t necessary, at least for Black Lips and Vivian Girls, to cite the growing lo-fi trend in music anymore.

In Black Lips’ case, mega-producer Mark Ronson took the helm on its upcoming sixth studio album Arabia Mountain. Ronson, you may remember, also produced Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Adele.

For Vivian Girls, singer-guitarist Cassie Ramone always asserted that the band wasn’t intended to be associated with the leagues of lo-fi bands emulating its sound, while also vehemently denying that the band’s all-female roster was some sort of gimmick.

One thing Black Lips and Vivian Girls do share though is the true, quintessential spirit of the D.I.Y. punk scene, buried under layers and layers of fuzz and distortion. Black Lips singer-guitarist Cole Alexander talks about bringing punk music to the far corners of the world like a new-age Marco Polo. Ramone talks about the Vivian Girls’ latest album, Share the Joy, the way you would describe an existential nightmare: “[It dealt] with alienation, rejection, loneliness ... ”

Read on to find out what Alexander and Ramone had to say about the ongoing tour, 1990s nostalgia, collaborating with Waka Flocka Flame and more.

The Daily Texan: Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming album Arabia Mountain? Were there any issues in recording?

Cole Alexander: It’s a little more together. I feel like 200 Million Thousand is a little more trashier, sloppier. But this is the first album we ever used a producer, and so it’s a little more together, I think. It’s more cohesive and accessible, but still fucked-up at the same time. That’s the vibe we got. Like thunder ... in the night.

DT: You mentioned a producer: were you talking about Mark Ronson?

CA: Yeah, and you would think that that would be contrary to our sound. But Amy Winehouse’s album has those great rich sensibilities, those '60s sounds and old-school vibe. We tried to go with that retro vibe with him.

DT: I understand you’ll be touring with Vivian Girls as well — I really love those girls. I understand you guys recently partied with them, Surfer Blood, the Strange Boys and a bunch of others recently? Can you tell me a little bit about Bruise Cruise?

CA: [laughs] We partied with them on the Bruise Cruise. They did a cover of Celine Dion’s song from “Titianic” on the boat and scared everybody. But yeah, they’re really really cool.

DT: Now that the band has been putting on live shows for a little over a decade now, do you feel obligated to tone down the energy?

CA: I wanna bring up the energy, actually. We haven’t settled down, we just don’t do the same thing over and over again. We’re not one-trick ponies that do the same thing. I always tell people that like with GG Allin, if you can do even 20 percent of what he did, you’re going to do amazing things.

DT: Considering that you’ve travelled all over the world – Europe, India, and beyond, what does it feel like to play in, say east Atlanta Village, or a small town in the Midwest?

CA: Well, I mean, you’ll notice, all the great explorers — even Marco Polo — stopped in all the small towns to meet the people. We’re like punk rock Marco Polos.

DT: I think it’s really terrific that you’ve collaborated with GZA, and I think it was Jared who mentioned during SXSW that you might try to talk to Waka Flocka Flame about doing something as well, but I couldn’t tell if that was a joke or not.

CA: We’re talking to Waka Flocka. I really like his Gumby chain and I think he’s bringing some good stuff to the rap game. I really want to talk to Tyler [the Creator] from Odd Future [Wolf Gang Kill Them All].

DT: Speaking of collaborations, I have to ask about Almighty Defenders – was that sort of a one-off with King Khan & BBQ Show?

CA: Yeah, that was a one-off, but you never know! One of these days, who knows.

DT: What was the first album you purchased with your own money?

CA: I think Nevermind by Nirvana.

DT: How would you describe your perfect sandwich?

CA: [laughs] My perfect sandwich is the like fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.