Bad boy garage rockers The Black Lips are returning to Santa Barbara, with a plethora of new material and their ever-present desire to entertain in tow. The band’s seemingly perennial tour will stop at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club on October 9 for a gig showcasing songs from the quintet’s upcoming ninth LP “The Black Lips Sing… In a World That’s Falling Apart,” due for release in January 2020.
In an interview with the News-Press, Black Lips bassist and co-vocalist Jared Swilley expressed satisfaction with how the band’s new songs have gone over in a live setting. In particular, he was surprised at the reception the new cuts received during the band’s recent concerts in Europe, given the sonic direction the band has taken.
“I’m surprised because they’re more country-sounding, but people dug them,” he said.
According to the bassist, the songs to be featured on “The Black Lips Sing…” are only half of the material recorded during the sessions that produced the album. While a whole another album’s worth of material was produced, Mr. Swilley said that he and his bandmates could produce yet another record if they ventured into the studio tomorrow. He attributed the group’s prolific song generation to the fact that he and his bandmates all possess songwriting ability.
“It helps when you have five songwriters,” he said. When it comes to the songs he writes, Mr. Swilley described his favorite lyrical topics as “upbeat things with a very brutal undertone.”
The Black Lips originally formed in 1999 by Mr. Swilley and guitarist and co-vocalist Cole Alexander in Dunwoody, Georgia. The two attended high school together and according to Mr. Swilley, were popular guys who got expelled for minor offenses in the panic following the Columbine High School Massacre. As the bass player recalled, after the Columbine shooting high schools began enforcing a no tolerance policy on bad behavior, so he and Mr. Alexander ended up getting kicked out for cutting class and smoking cigarettes.
Over the years, The Black Lips have earned a reputation for unpredictable and shocking stage antics like onstage urination and vomiting, the latter related to a medical condition of Mr. Alexander’s. Mr. Swilley said their shocking acts were always for the purpose of putting on “a hell of a show.”
“That was a long time ago, but our aim is to entertain,” he said.
When questioned if he still feels inclined to do such things onstage, the bassist replied that he’s at the age where it’s no longer appropriate.
“I’m 36 years old. I’m not going to get onstage and pee on kids who are 20 years younger than me,” he said.
During the band’s younger days, their antics did attract the ire of some people and even resulted in the band members getting beat up. As Mr. Swilley recalls, those who were violent toward The Black Lips were mostly skinheads from the organization Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice. Although their organization had a stance against racism, SHARP members still had a modus operandi of fighting every night.
“They just though we sucked,” Mr. Swilley remembered.
Among his musical influences, Mr. Swilley cited punk bands like The Ramones and The Stooges, but perhaps more surprisingly also named ‘50s rock and rollers like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and others rooted in southern gospel tradition. Mr. Swilley himself comes from a religious background and is the only male in his family who isn’t a preacher. When asked if the shocking reputation The Black Lips received over the years received pushback from his family or the religious community in which he grew up, Mr. Swilley said his family and their church were very accepting.
“Their churches are all about love,” he said.
However, getting his parents to accept music as a possible career did take some convincing, and more than any particular song, album, or gig The Black Lips have done, Mr. Swilley is most proud that managed to convince them. Whereas other people in bands have a fall back plan in case music doesn’t work out, Mr. Swilley and his band mates made music work out by not devising a plan b.
“We just chose not to fall back. We were either going to do this, go into the military, or go to prison. This the best option,” Mr. Swilley said. Tickets for The Black Lips’ October 9 gig at SOhO cost between $20 and $22 and can be purchased online at www.sohosb.com. Doors to the venue open at 8 p.m. and the show begins at 9 p.m. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is located at 1221 State St. #205.