Thursday, March 5, 2009



“200 Million Thousand Black Lips Fans Can't Be Wrong”
Stephen SPAZ Schnee catches Black Lips fever while Rainbolt does the layout.

Some call them Garage Rock while others swear that they are Punk rockers to the core. Some politely nod their heads as they listen to their music while others writhe and wiggle on the floor in unabashed ecstasy, absorbing each and every note through their pulsating pores. Some say they like them, but most of the folks who have heard them adore them with a passion usually only reserved for someone of the opposite sex. Some who have experienced them live are reduced to blubbering babies for days afterwards while others joyfully walk away drenched in sweat and urine. Yes, folks, there's only one band that I could possibly be talking about: The Black Lips!

With the world changing and evolving around us every single day, you can always count on The Black Lips to be reliable and consistent. And their new album, 200 Million Thousand (Vice Records), is everything you’d expect... and more! On the surface, they might seem like the same snotty little Garage Punks they've always been but listen closely and you'll hear more influences creeping into their primal Rock 'N' Roll sound. Anyone expecting them to 'sell out' due to the success of their previous album, Good Bad Not Evil (2007) will either be happy or disappointed to know that this quartet has done nothing of the sort. The Black Lips have stuck to their guns and created an excellent follow-up that is equal parts dirty and melodic. And, genres be damned, they are unclassifiable!

On 200 Million Thousand, the boys in the band (Cole Alexander, Jared Swilley, Joe Bradley and Ian Saint Pe) play their 'Flower Punk' as if their lives depended on it. Every note on the album reeks of blood, sweat and beer. While some bands play faceless Garage Rock and hope that loads of reverb will add an 'authentic' sound to their less than remarkable songs, The Black Lips ARE authentic. On first listen, the hooks may not grab you right away, but they will certainly pull you in on repeated spins. Whether you are looking for a righteous chorus or a scraggly guitar lick, The Black Lips have more on display on this album than some artists have in their entire career.
One of the album's many strengths is the band's ability to create a platter filled with tracks that don't blend together and all sound the same: every Black Lips track has its own unique vibe, from the arrangement to the production. Sure, there are plenty of gnarly guitars, yelping vocals and tribal drum beats, but the songs sound great on their own and as one piece of the entire pie. “Take My Heart” is classic Black Lips with its repeating guitar riff and pained vocals. “Drugs” is the drunken distant cousin of their 2007 Punk anthem “Bad Kids”. “Starting Over” sounds like a Byrds outtake (that is, if the Byrds were fronted by Roky Erickson!). “The Drop I Hold” sounds like an inebriated Joe Strummer reciting a lazy rap over Can playing a Gospel tune. I'll tell ya, there are jaw-dropping moments on display here, most of them life-affirming slices of pure Rock exhilaration.

After the excitement of spending a few days listening to the album, I was able to catch up with The Black Lips' boss bass player Jared 'Hondo' Swilley immediately after they returned from a recent tour in Europe and discuss a bit about the band and this fab new platter.
SPAZ: Some label The Black Lips as 'Garage Rock' while others have called you Punk. How do you describe the band's sound? Sounds like primal Rock 'N' Roll to these ears...JARED SWILLEY: In our words, it’s Flower Punk. Kinda dirty Psychedelic Pop... but it is essentially primal Rock 'N' Roll.

SPAZ: Listening to the band's progression since your debut album in 2003, the songwriting has definitely evolved and, contrary to most bands in your position, has gotten better over time. Do you approach songwriting differently now than when the band first started out?

JS: No. Well, not consciously. I think we've just gotten better at it through lots of experience. We still just write songs that we like.

SPAZ: On 200 Million Thousand, there seems to be quite a variety of styles crammed into your signature sound. Do you consciously integrate these different genres into the Black Lips' music or does it just come natural for the band?

JS: In a sense. But it's a little more natural just because there are four of us writing and we all listen to a wide range of music

SPAZ: Your 2007 album Good Bad Not Evil was the album that really introduced the band to a larger audience. Because of expectations, did you feel at least a little pressure when going in to record 200 Million Thousand?

JS: Maybe a little. But we just did what we always do. It's never failed us that way... but there was a little more pressure, I guess.

SPAZ: Were any of these songs road-tested before you actually recorded them? And, if so, how important is the audience's reaction to a song in terms of its chances making the album?

JS: No, we did it all in the studio. We usually don't show the songs to the audience until it's recorded. We just put what we think sounds best on there, and all vote on it

SPAZ: Is there usually an excess of material written and recorded for each Black Lips album or do you generally choose 12 to 14 tracks to work on before heading into the studio?

JS: We usually average about 25 songs per session. We do them all and see what we think is best

SPAZ: With technology advancing every minute, The Black Lips have defiantly remained raw and uncompromising. Are you satisfied that you've been able to continue to make timeless records while many of today's bands will sound dated within a few years?

JS: I think recording and production techniques peaked in the mid '60s and digital recording is cheap and soulless. So, if it's not broken, don't fix it!

SPAZ: Do your influences stretch back to the '50s and '60s or were you fans of some of the great '80sGarage bands like The Cramps and The Fleshtones?

JS: I like The Cramps, but most of the music I dig from the '80s is Hardcore. I wasn't into too many of the '80s (Garage) revival bands except The Pandoras, the first Dwarves record and The Lyres.

SPAZ: Do you remember the first song that you had written when you realized that The Black Lips were more than just a bedroom hobby?

JS: No, but when we signed to Bomp (Records), it became more than a hobby.

SPAZ: If the band were invited on to American Idol to perform one song to millions of viewers, which Black Lips song would you choose?

JS: Probably our worst one. I DON'T like that show!

SPAZ: What is currently spinning on the Black Lips' CD player?

JS: I'm listening to Roy Orbison right now. And earlier, I was listening to Paul Wall. A lot of Gospel music, too.

Thanks to Jared Swilley

Special thanks to Bob Ardrey and Jocelynn Pryor.

No comments: