Formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 1999, the self-described ‘flower punk’ band The Black Lips are one of the most interesting bands in the world at the moment. Signed to hipper than hip Vice Records, also the home of Vice Magazine and the fantastic Vice Guide To Cult Cinema, recently screened on ABC2, this really is a label at the cutting edge of what’s happening in the world at the moment.
The Black Lips have a really interesting grasp of musical counterpoint. While sonically sounding, at times, quite sweet and charming, when one listens to the lyrics, they usually totally contradict what they are put against in a musical form, addressing some quite weighty issues such as juvenile delinquency(“Bad Kids”) and drug abuse (the rather self-explanatory “Drugs”).
The band have a wonderfully youthful energy and spark to them. Their profile has increased somewhat in the past eighteen months or so with some of their tracks being used in the rather wonderful and charming film (500) Days Of Summer and with the release of last year’s Arabia Mountain.
Musically, this is a band that throws everything but the kitchen sink into their sonic sound and vision. One can hear everything from punk and hip hop to doo wop and country in the rather unique sounds The Black Lips create. They have also become infamous for their highly unpredictable live shows, which can involve gratuitous nudity, vomiting, fireworks, chickens, flaming guitars and other provocative theatrics. It is true to say that no two Black Lips live shows are the same.
“The Black Lips has been pretty much inspired by fifty years of musical history,” says bassist and vocalist Jared Swilley. “Each of the band members has their own taste. We try to have our own take and perspective on music and try to express that in what we do.”
“Over the life span of The Black Lips, we’ve gained experience although I don’t think we’ve evolved that much with sound. We’ve always recorded everything live and analogue. To us, it makes everything sound raw and it’s most honest. Working with Mark Ronson was really cool. He was really cool with getting the best out of us, especially with how our drum sound. He had a great sensibility that clicked really well with what The Black Lips do,” says Swilley.
The Black Lips are perhaps best known for their striking and unforgettable live shows. Where does that energy and passion come from? “The people that I love musically, such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, were absolute entertainers who really knew how to put on a show,” says Swilley. “That’s something that I’ve always really responded to with live music. The last thing that The Black Lips ever want to be is a flat and boring live experience.”
“Working with Vice Records has been a fantastic experience. They are incredibly supportive and pretty much let us do whatever we want. It’s a really different approach for a record label, as the record label is part of a broader media collective with Vice. They have a wonderful outsider philosophy that works beautifully with what we do”, says Swilley about his record company.
“Last time we were in Australia was as part of the Laneway Festival. It was a really fun experience in that not only were the bands playing together, but we also stayed at the same hotels and caught planes together. It was a really strong bonding experience as well as a chance to see other bands that we had a great deal of respect for,” says Swilley. “We’re happy to be getting back on the road for a multi-date tour. We have been off the road for a little while and are very much looking forward to coming back to Australia, as we have very positive memories of the last time we were there.”