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.