Interviews: Jared Swilley of Black Lips

Black Lips
Jeff Pearson, March 31, 2011
Originally published by Life’s Sweet Breath

Shortly after returning to Atlanta from the recording sessions in Brooklyn for the upcoming record, Arabia Mountain, Black Lips’ bassist and vocalist Jared Swilley sits down to talk to us about what to expect. The record marks the first time the band has used a producer in Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duran Duran). Swilley discusses the band’s South By Southwest gigs and a recent trip home which ended with security cutting the show short.

The band will embark on an extensive spring tour in a couple of weeks, where they will continue to test out the Arabia Mountain tracks on live audiences.

Tactile Tracks: How does the record sound?

Jared Swilley: I think it sounds awesome.

Tactile Tracks: Are we going to be hearing any new sounds on Arabia Mountain?

JS: You can expect all of our shit just amped up to eleven, you know. It’s going to be epic.

“Basically just trying to get a good, warm, you know, old-sounding tone, and he was an ace at doing that. We like things to sound, not necessarily old, but just those old, good warm sixties tones. That’s when they sounded the best, in my opinion.”

Tactile Tracks: What was it like to work with Mark Ronson?

JS: It was cool, you know. He dropped some knowledge on our heads, we dropped some knowledge on his head, and we came out with a good result. It was a real fun process having someone with his prime expertise, turning the knobs and giving us ideas.

Tactile Tracks: Did he have a unique approach to recording the bass, or any instruments for that matter?

JS: Basically just trying to get a good, warm, you know, old-sounding tone, and he was an ace at doing that. We like things to sound, not necessarily old, but just those old, good warm sixties tones. That’s when they sounded the best, in my opinion.

Tactile Tracks: Did having a producer help take some of weight off of your shoulders, as far as the overall sound of the record?

JS: No, it helped in the sense that, whoever would have their song, for example, if I had a song, I’d be mostly worrying about the song and the melodies and harmonies and stuff, and he would help me with kind of just rounding it out, and finishing it up, sometimes adding in little things I wouldn’t think of.

Tactile Tracks: By now you’ve gotten to test out some of the tracks live. How does it feel to let the songs breathe outside the studio?

JS: Oh, it’s real fun to do them live; we play all the time, so it’s always fun to play new songs. They’re fresher, and you get real into them because you haven’t played them a million times already.

Tactile Tracks: How were the South By Southwest shows?

JS: Oh, those were great. The first one we showed up to, I knew we were playing with OFF!, so that was kind of cool, but then we got there, and Bad Brains were there, and we had no idea that they were playing, so that was pretty rad.

Tactile Tracks: You got to play with them?

JS: Yeah, they opened for us on our first show. And we got to play with Davila 666 a few times, and they’re one of my favorite bands that’s really on right now, so that was really awesome.

“I know it’s happened to Cole too, where you lose your instrument, and then you get in the crowd and come back on, and they don’t know you’re in the band anymore.”

Tactile Tracks: The last time I got the chance to see the Black Lips live, at the Variety Playhouse in November, a joyful riot broke out on stage and you guys had to cut your set short.

JS: (Laughs) Oh, that probably wasn’t really our doing, I think the club probably got scared.

Tactile Tracks: Is it always that fun to come home to Atlanta?

JS: Yeah, yeah, Atlanta shows are fun as shit. We played Clermont Lounge on Valentine’s Day, a secret show, and that was pretty fun, and then us and Deerhunter did this show at Eyedrum, the day before they closed for good. It’s always fun to play parties and stuff in Atlanta. Even the Variety Playhouse is fun to play, actually; I like it there.

Tactile Tracks: I remember a security guard almost threw you back into the crowd after you crowd-surfed.

JS: Yeah, that’s actually happened to me a bunch of times. I know it’s happened to Cole too, where you lose your instrument, and then you get in the crowd and come back on, and they don’t know you’re in the band anymore. I’ve had that problem several times.

Tactile Tracks: What are some of your favorite spots in Atlanta when you get a break from touring?

JS: You know what; my favorite restaurant in Atlanta is Holeman & Finch. I love that place; I went there last night, and it’s just amazing. I had chicken heads; I had lamb testicles, some steak tartar, rabbit livers. Just that kind of stuff that I love. Other than that, I like sitting on my front porch a lot. I like the Cyclorama a lot. I’ve actually gone there a few times in the past couple of months. It’s relaxing.

Tactile Tracks: Have you ever been able to capture the energy of a hometown show in another city?

JS: Oh, yeah. All over. We just played in Nassau at Señor Frogs, in the Bahamas, and that was pretty nuts. There was a DJ between each band that would spray vodka into people’s mouths and sing Bahaman songs. Then we played and it was pretty fun.

Tactile Tracks: Will you be experiencing any new places this year?

JS: Yeah, we’re working on a tour of the Middle East right now. We’re seeing how things develop, but I’m fairly certain we’ll be there for a brief stint at the end of September.

Tactile Tracks: Can you tell us anything about your role in the New Garage Explosion documentary?

JS: I didn’t really have much to do with it. Vice was doing it; I think I only got interviewed once for it. I haven’t seen it but I don’t think we’re in it all that much. I think there’s just some stock footage and they interview Cole a little bit. I know Jay Reatard is a big focus on it, and some other bands. I heard it was pretty cool though.

I actually want to watch it. It sucks because they’re having the premiere next Wednesday, and that’s the day we leave for tour, in Atlanta. So we’re not even going to be able to go to that. I wish they would have scheduled it a day earlier.

Tactile Tracks: Are you guys going to be playing Atlanta at all this tour?

JS: I’m not sure. We don’t have anything planned, but once we leave next week, we’re going to be gone for a while. We might come back and play somewhere small, not announced or anything. Probably not until next fall will we have a regular show.

Tactile Tracks: Finally, is there anything you’ve been listening to lately that we must know about?

JS: New bands I like are Davila 666, and I like Odd Future. I think they’re cool; they have a good attitude. Other than that, I only listen to real old stuff. The last three days I’ve listened to nothing but Charlie Feathers. I just opened up a new record of his that I haven’t heard. That’s pretty much what I’ve been listening to. It’s like my chill-time music.

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