an interview w/ Black Lips (and pictures from Brooklyn Bowl)
by Gabi Porter
Black Lips & fan @ Brooklyn Bowl
On Tuesday night (3/23) Atlanta's Black Lips played Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg. One night later they played Bowery Ballroom. For a band as well known for outrageous stage shows as their scuzzed out garage rock, it's disarming how charming they are in person. From the outside, watching the Black Lips (the band and the audience) might seem like nothing but an exercise in violent eruptions of chaos, but if you stop to actually see what's going on, there's something more. These are four friendly guys who seem really passionately committed to a DIY aesthetic, building on fan relationships, cooperation and support for other bands and delivering really kick ass rock shows. And there's a sense of joy and family out amongst the fans. On stage, the guys seem perfectly content to stir up chaos with compact precision - they don't actually do all that much more than play - but there is a sense of something unpredictable hovering right on the edge of whatever they're doing. Even though they've been playing together for close to ten years, they still seem like those guys I knew in high school who drank too much, acted up in class, and threw the best basement parties. But before this gets too sentimental, let's first remember that these are guys who still hock loogies several feet in the air on stage and catch them in their mouths.
I have heard you guys described many times as Southern gentlemen, and then in the same breath people will talk about how crazy you guys can be on stage. How do you reconcile that?
Cole: I think we kind of have like a bratty reputation, but it's not really - to me - being bratty. We're just having fun, sometimes that gets us in a little trouble, but it's just in good fun. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, we're just having fun. We're pretty light-hearted.
interview continued w/ pictures from Brooklyn Bowl below...
You guys don't seem like you have any malice about you...
Ian: No we're nice.
What was going through your minds when you're getting chased through India?
Jared: I was so delirious when we were on the run, because we thought everything was fine after the show. Then we got back to the hotel and I'm just layin' down getting ready to smoke a joint. And then everyone came in - and it didn't seem real at first - and I said, "We've got to do WHAT? We're driving 10 hours?" It was like 2 or 3 in the morning, and we hadn't eaten and we'd drank a lot, and they woke us up and we had to get in the car. Driving in India is not a comfortable experience. The roads are fucked and they drive crazy, like they drive into oncoming traffic. - Cole: It's dangerous. - So I was so delirious by the time we got to where we were that nothing was going through my mind, it seemed so surreal.
And they tried to take your passports?
Jared: Yeah! Cos at every hotel you stay in [in India] you have to leave your passports at the front. And I got this weird feeling and I was like, "This is really weird and I really want to be holding my passport right now." Went back to the front desk and they said, "Oh this gentleman came and put them in the trunk." And we freaked out, and we still hadn't slept at that point, so we looked and felt like hell.
So how did you get them back?
Jared: So the guy from Vice who was filming us is a lot bigger than us, and there were five of us and only two of them. The cameraman he just lost it, he grabbed the guy and was like, "Gimme my fucking passport back right now." And the guy kept trying to get out of it and was like, "No, I'm just holding it for a minute." So we just said, "Fuck you," and we got our passports and leave the hotel and we're not even going to try and negotiate the money.
So was that the end of the tour?
Jared: Yeah. Cos we were going to try and figure out like money and stuff. After that we're like, "Let's get the fuck out of here, we're not talking to you anymore." And we booked tickets like 10 minutes later.
Cole: They said our whole tour had been cancelled after like the one incident. They wanted money compensation for the whole tour failing, but we'd already gotten paid by the first shows, but they just took all the money, it was weird. The way they do business is just... They don't really get a lot of rock tours. Big bands will come play one show in like Mumbai.
What gave you guys the idea of going out there in the first place?
Jared: It's the same way we book a lot of our tours, literally over MySpace and Facebook. Like a kid that was living in India just sent me a MySpace message that said, "Would you play in India?" And I said, "Yeah, of course!" That's how we booked our Israeli tour, that's how we're working China out. That's how I'm getting a show in Beirut, that was through Facebook.
Cole: We're kind of like punk rock explorers a little bit, we're globalizing punk. So we're planning on going to Iraq soon
Ian: Music is an international language, people love that music, so why not use it to our advantage to travel and see the world.
Jared: When you go on tour over there, you automatically have tour guides that are in to the same stuff you're in to, for the most part. And they know exactly where to go, you don't have look in "Let's Go Wherever" travel books, you get right to the meat of it without having to do all that much work. And you get to hang out with kids, and you automatically have parties you get to go to, you don't have to worry...
Ian: Real parties, real food, no tourist bullshit. Real stuff.
Cole: A lot of the Middle East, I feel like there's kind of an under belly, kind of burgeoning punk rock Islamic birth happening.
There are documentaries about some of those bands...
...yeah, we're friends with a lot of those guys. There's this other band Po Po, and they're friends with some of the guys in Pakistan and did a tour. So even though we're not Muslim, I feel like we kind of a part of that scene, just because of the fact that we've gone to Palestine and India, and we're planning on going to Iraq and Lebanon and Turkey.
With all your crazy antics on stage, what do your parents think of your shows?
Jared: They're proud now. I had troubles sometimes because my dad's a preacher and my grandpa's a preacher. Sometimes things come up. The worst was one time in our local Atlanta paper, they had a thing where - and like [my dad] had the religion section and we had the music section - and the paper lied about something. The journalist said that Cole had sucked me off on stage, which has never happened. And everyone in his church picked up on that thing. He was really bummed about that.
Cole: And at work, people at work would all stare at us.
Jared: We worked at the same diner, and there were all these really old people who would come in, and they were just like... [looks askance at each other]. They were really bummed about that.
Cole: And all these guys who had just gotten out of jail worked there, and they would all look at me like, "You're a freak."
Ian: We're crazy.
Jared: It's a little conservative in Georgia. But now my dad comes to our shows in Atlanta.
You guys seem like you've grown up a lot, and gotten a lot calmer.
Cole: You'd be surprised. We haven't People are always saying, "Their shows have really toned down." And some nights something crazy happens, and some nights it doesn't, so some nights they don't see something spontaneous happen and they say, "Oh, they're not crazy anymore." I think we're just as crazy -
Ian: And we're not monkeys, we need that interaction. A lot of times when we play smaller places crazy shit happens. [On bigger stages] it's hard to get a connection when you're all the way up here [holds hand up high] and they're all the way down there. And we just don't play them small clubs that much anymore, but when we do it gets nuts.
Jared: And a lot of the stuff was like, every tag line in every article was like "nudity, fireworks, kissing" a lot of that stuff people have seen, but a lot of the stuff they write about that was "so insane" no one came to see us for like 5 or 6 years, so not many people ever saw a lot of those things. When we used to play in New York, we were playing to like 15 or 20 people. For ages.
pictures from Brooklyn Bowl...
("Mr. Dick" is reportedly the guy who
climbed the globe in Columbus Circle on rollerblades and a huge Black Lips fan)
The Black Lips