Pensacola, Florida
Monday March 25th 2019


Black Lips Live On

By Shelby Nalepa

Known for gritty anthems like “O Katrina!” and “Bad Kids” and their rowdy stage antics, Atlanta garage rock band Black Lips are still finding new territory to explore despite being together for nearly 20 years.

They’re currently on tour with the Black Angels and will be playing a show at Vinyl Music Hall Thursday, April 19 with The Black Angels.

After meeting in middle school, founding members Jared Swilley and Cole Alexander started Black Lips in 1999. Born from the DIY punk scene, the band has withstood the test of time, touring across the world and releasing eight albums over the past 14 years.

After some lineup changes within the band and a desire for a new direction, the Black Lips hooked up with Sean Lennon, recruiting him to produce arguably their most expansive album to date, “Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art?” released last year on Vice Records.

“The experience was really magical,” Swilley said. “We were sequestered in this cabin. He has a really cool studio in his house up in the mountains in upstate New York.”

The current Black Lips lineup includes Oakley Munson on drums and Zumi Rosow on saxophone.

“All the changes that happened were changes that were natural and necessary,” Swilley said. “We’re on good terms with all former members. I mean, we’ve been around almost 20 years. I’ve been playing with Cole for 20 years. I think it would be weird if we did the same thing the whole time.”

Right now, Swilley said, the band is already working on new material for something a bit unexpected—a country album.

“We’ve done country stuff in the past before, but we really wanted to do an entire album of country,” Swilley said. “The older I get, the more I gravitate towards that. I think our music is definitely rooted in country and gospel. We’ve already recorded a bunch of songs and demos, and after the tour we are going to go to Berlin to start recording it.”

Swilley said he hopes the new direction will breathe some new life into the country genre.

“I don’t really like much after the ‘70s,” he said. “The genre is kind of lacking after that. I love artists like Roger Miller and Hank Williams, but George Jones is probably one of my favorites. Being from the South, I grew up listening to that type of music.”

Swilley had an upbringing rooted in the church, which also played a role in his affinity for being in front of an audience.

“Every male in my family is a preacher,” he said. “I grew up on stage in the church. People would be speaking in tongues; it was a spectacle and a show. That was one of my bigger influences.”

That influence of putting on a show has followed him throughout his own path in music.

“I wouldn’t consider myself Beethoven or Prince,” he said. “You’re in there for a live show; you want to give people their money’s worth. You don’t want people to leave feeling cheated.”

The Black Lips also have a special Record Store Day EP called “Play Safe” coming out next Saturday, April 21 that they recorded with The Khan Family, whom the band has a close relationship with.

“King Khan is one of our best buddies,” Swilley said. “I’ve known his daughter since she was in diapers, and she actually went on tour with us. On our new country record, we covered one of her songs. But the Record Store Day project was really cool, and I’m glad we got to do it with them. It’s super special.”

Swilley said that the band has been his and Alexander’s lifelong project, no matter the natural progression, and he doesn’t expect that to change.

“We are extremely excited to get out on the road,” he said. “We still put on a crazy show, but all the stuff that we did as teenagers wouldn’t fly in today’s world with guys in their 30s… Plus the shows were awful in our early days. It was more performance art than anything.”

This will be the first time the Black Lips will play in Pensacola.

“Florida is one of my favorite places to tour in the South,” Swilley said. “I grew up spending most of my summers in the panhandle, so I’m very familiar with the area. I love the UFO House on the beach. I’m really excited to get down to Florida since it’s been a couple years since we’ve been down there.”

WHAT: The Black Angels with special guest Black Lips
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox
COST: $25