Reading Through the Refraction: Black Lips Talk Touring and New Releases

Posted March 27, 2014 in
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Black Lips

Raising hell since the late ’90s, the foursome of the Black Lips has always made music-making look effortless. But over the last few decades, these raucous dudes have come a long way from the high school garage band they started as. They’ve pushed the boundaries of production and sound with their seventh studio album release, Underneath the Rainbow—a melodic mixture of gritty rock n’ roll, tangy lyrical wit and a dash of sticky-sweet Southern soul that drips off the tongue like molasses. Digging deep into their Southern roots, these dudes have just begun to tap into a layer of ripe maturity and authenticity the world has yet to see. SLUG was able to hash things out with bassist Jared Swilley to discuss life on the road, battle plans and bucket lists.

When I finally catch up with Swilley, the band is getting ready for day one of their five-month long tour, beginning in a little cowboy village in southern California known as Pioneertown. They’re to meet up with their cohorts for the first leg of the tour, The Coathangers, who are fellow Georgians and friends of the band. Swilley says they’re psyched to be touring with them and that, when it comes to who makes it onto the list of groups they share the road with, in the end, the boys typically get what they want. Swilley says, “We just usually make a list of bands we like and see who’s free. We’ve been trying to tour with Natural Child—who is doing the East Coast part of the tour—a bunch of times, but it’s always hard to coordinate schedules.” They were finally able to nail them down and will sharing a stage with them come April.
 
The Black Lips have a lot more say in their musical career besides whom they’re touring with. They have a heavy hand in the production of each album and where their tours take them. Previously they were touring the Middle East, which I’m told was a truly “wholesome” experience. “The Middle East tour was probably one the most mellow tours we’ve ever done in terms of wild partying,” Swilley says. “Everything went really smoothly there and it was just really nice. [It] was amazing being there. It’s always great going somewhere you’ve never been before.” I’m jealous I missed out, but then Swilley admits that “this tour will probably be more wild—there’s more party towns,” I’m silently thanking the Gods of Rock for the bounteous harvest of grunge we are about to receive.
 
Between touring the world and working tirelessly in the studio with producer Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, they’re still managing to find time to do the things they love like reading, skating and hunting down the most perfect swimming hole.  From what I can tell, Swilley is sounding pretty confident that he’ll find what he’s looking for in the Pacific Northwest. I agree with him (being a native myself), but refrain from arguing that Utah’s watering holes are way ahead of the curve. 
 
Of Black Lips’ touring format, Swilley says, “There’s usually a show then two days off, then a show and two days off. So, if we haven’t been there, we make a point to try and explore. A lot of times, you really don’t see anything. Like, I’ve probably been to Vienna eight or nine times and I don’t really know what the city looks like.” It’s a tough routine that’s hard on the body and comparable to heading into battle. But I’m told that a man can survive with proper hydration, sleep and a good space cruise. Smilley says that they “have pretty good genes, so we usually hold up,” and from what I can tell, he isn’t lying.
 
The longer we talk, the more awestruck I’m becoming. Not to say I wasn’t already at sweaty-palmed-fan-girl status beforehand, but now I’m realizing just how much these four have accomplished in their lives. When I ask what’s left on their to-do list, I learn they want to tour deeper into Asia and South and Central America. They were even shooting to be the first band to play in Antarctica, but were beat to the punch. “We secured a sponsor that would bring us down there, but then Metallica came and did that … so, I’m not too worried about that anymore,” Swilley says nonchalantly. Also, the dudes want a Top Ten Billboard hit and a Grammy while they’re at it. Swilley admits there is so much, he doesn’t think they’ll have time for it all.
 
I’d say that, if their past accomplishments and experiences have taught the world anything, it’s not to challenge them in getting what they want. These dudes don’t seem to take “no” as an appropriate answer too often. I wish them the best of luck in their musical careers, and I’m psyched for their futures. It’ll probably be grimy and chaotic, but they’ll get where they want to be, and I’m sure they’ll put on one hellova show getting there. 
 
The Black Lips latest album, Underneath the Rainbow, was released March 18. Be sure and snag yourself a copy now and prepare yourselves for the boys stop in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 31 with The Coathangers (whose SLUG exclusive feature you can find here) at 8 p.m. at Urban Lounge. 
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