All tomorrow’s parties

Atlanta’s Black Lips take their dirty rock out of the garage and onto the open road.

by Haily Gostas

It seems like everyone who’s been to a Black Lips show has a tale to tell – and they’re usually never too tall. Since their inception, Atlanta’s fearless foursome of lo-fi garage-punk warriors can always be counted on for such hilariously rowdy, wholly irresponsible onstage antics as wigs, nakedness, throwing fireworks at the audience and pissing in their own mouths.

Show

WHO: The Black Lips (with the Selmanaires and Private Dancer)
WHEN: 9 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30
WHERE: Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $10-12, 21-plus, (612) 333-7499, [email protected]
ALBUM: Good Bad Not Evil
LABEL: Vice Records

But then there’s the music, those slightly sloppy, undeniably vintage-tinged tunes indebted as much to noise and punk as to the band’s down-home Southern-rock roots. There’s such an earnest bond to their material that it’s almost irrelevant to wonder whether they actually uphold the self-perpetuated, satirical myth of rock star debauchery.

The bigger, bolder “Good Bad Not Evil,” Black Lips’ fourth studio album, sounds as though they passed out drunk through the last several decades of rock history and finally woke up again, still slurring but wild ‘n ready to keep doing it. There are dirty psychedelic blues songs, damaged, droning cuts with dark undertones, and undeniable pop confections, but “Good Bad Not Evil” never becomes an unlistenable mess of sound. Instead, it’s the magnetic record that will command all listeners within earshot to shut up and freak out.

Before trekking to Minneapolis as part of the Black Lips’ massive tour, ever-polite bassist Jared Swilley took a break to chat with A&E about sound, reputation and world domination.

It seems like people want modern garage bands to sound both disturbingly authentic and yet not too close to their influences, lest they be considered rip-offs. Does that contradiction frustrate you at all?

I don’t really care. We’re just into that quality of music, because it’s timeless today or whenever. We definitely don’t ever want to sound retro at all, like a carbon copy of all American roots music. We just put a modern spin on it, because we have an extra 40 years of perspective since that music was first born.

How do you feel about your various reputations, i.e., “musical bad boys” or “one of the rowdiest bands in the world?”

Sometimes it’s annoying, like the reputation precedes us. But we don’t really want to dwell on that; it’s going to happen because we’ve done Ö stuff, and everyone is always going to try and mention it. But we’re not that bad! We’re nice guys. People can think what they want to think, I don’t care. I mean, I do care, but I’m not going to have issues with it anymore. My dad is a preacher, and even he’s been to a few shows. And those shows are crazy and energetic, but the crowd helps with that too. We just want to put on a good performance. That’s what matters.

Are shows necessary in order to understand Black Lips? Is your band one of those “it’s not the same until you see ’em live!”-type situations?

In a sense it could be, but I think the albums themselves can stand alone. The shows just add to the experience, but that’s the same with any ba- Ö well, some bands are really bad live. Most bands.

on the web

Check out the A&E blog for more Swilley soundbites on the Black Lips’ tours to Tijuana and the Middle East, his healthy obsession with 1950s girl groups and how an unlimited supply of Cuervo can help make an album: A&E Blog

For South by Southwest, you played a record-breaking number of shows throughout your duration there. Is it one of the band’s priorities to play as many shows as possible, wherever? If so, why?

Between every show, we were doing interviews or radio stuff, from the second we woke up at 8 or 9 until the four hours of sleep we got before having to get up and do it all over again the next day. SXSW was probably the most intense thing we’ve ever done. We’re workaholics, and even still it was a challenge. I’m glad we made it through, though. It was worth it. We’re always on tour; we’ve been that way since we started. If you asked us to play, we’d do it – your basement, someone’s parent’s house, anywhere. But there’s an intense work ethic alongside it. It’s not just playing a show and calling it a night – everyone’s doing full days, every day.

Can you talk about what constitutes as “flower punk?” How would you describe that self-deemed sound for those unfamiliar?

We made up “flower punk” as a little joke to use in interviews. It’s like tough but wimpy, or ugly but beautiful. I mean, we’re like a punk band, but not testosterone-heavy douche bags. One of my favorite bands ever, the Germs, is a punk band that I still love. And we’re really into pop and hip-hop, and a lot of other stuff too. I just always say we’re too hippie to be punk and too punk to be hippie.

The new album sounds like you’re shooting for something new, different, bigger. It seems a little darker thematically, too.

Well, we want every album to be different from one another. I don’t want to do the same thing all the time – that’s just boring. And it’s darker, but that’s kind of always been in the background. All of our songs come off like happy pop songs, but they have dark undertones. We just don’t want to be too overt about things. We’ve gone through a lot even though we’re not that old. I feel a lot older than I am, but we all have a long way to go, hopefully.

What do you hope it will accomplish?

(Covers phone) Hey, guys! What do we hope this album will accomplish? (returns) We hope this album will Ö um, conquer the world! We want to change the world, and we want to be kings of the world. Total domination!