Happy Birthday to me. I got the chance to wake up on my birthday at South by Southwest and drive straight to an interview with The Black Lips. Not a bad start to a day. We sat down at their hotel on the fourth day of SXSW to talk about BL’s latest album, Underneath the Rainbow, their Middle Eastern tour, their favorite Georgia venue and what’s next for the band.
VM: We’re really excited for Underneath the Rainbow; it comes out March 18th. How is different from your previous album releases?
Jared: It’s not really that different; it’s not really a radical departure. We have our sound and everything. We just keep recording songs; they’re just in different studios sometimes, but mostly the same process.
Cole: We’re just tightening up what we have always done.
VM: Who does all the writing?
Cole: We all do some.
VM: What was your inspiration for the album, or do you just write all the time?
Cole: We kind of just write all the time and let things gel together naturally.
VM: Tell us about your video for ‘Boys in the Woods.’
Jared: It was just a vision we had of a redneck odyssey in the woods. I guess it’s supposed to be about crankcuts and weirdos that live differently than most people.
VM: Where was it filmed?
Joe: Conley, Georgia.
Jared: I think it used to be a hospital or maybe a school. It’s like an abandoned place, and one of our friends has a horror studio there with props and everything. So, we had a lot of space to work with and sources.
VM: How many shows do you have at ‘South By’ this year?
VM: It’s Friday; how many shows do you have left?
Joe: We have three tomorrow and actually three tonight, so six.
Cole: We have DJ gigs as well.
VM: So, 10 shows plus DJ gigs; that’s intense. When did you guys get in?
Jared: Tuesday night, or Tuesday afternoon.
VM: Who have you seen? Have you seen anybody good?
Jared: OFF! played before us, and we saw them.
Joe: We saw Perfect Pussy last night.
Cole: We saw Sean Lennon’s band, Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger [GOASTT].
Joe: We saw Natural Child, right?
Ian: Pretty much if they played before us, we watched them.
VM: So you’ve seen a lot! Was there anyone you really wanted to see this year?
Jared: I personally gave up on trying to see shows a few years ago, because you get your hopes up about a show you probably won’t be able to go to. If I happen to be somewhere, then I’ll watch it; sometimes you get lucky.
Joe: I agree 100 percent.
Cole: I second that.
VM: So can we expect some typical Black Lips antics on stage?
Cole: You never know what you’ll get.
Jared: Depends on what’s in the water, and the mood, what time of day it is; you have to feel it out.
Ian: We’re like a Ferrari; the years might change, but we’re still fast and smooth.
VM: Well said. Tell us about your Middle Eastern tour.
Jared: Well, it was really unprecedented. We took the first step, and – to our knowledge, and no one has disputed this since – we were the first western band to do that full circuit. It sounds crazy. Like, we went going to Iraq and Egypt at this time when it looks crazy over there, but it really couldn’t have been more normal. The shows were really well attended, it was organized, and everyone was really nice to us. No running over borders in the middle of the night or riots or anything. It was just like your average tour. Actually, it was one of the more wholesome tours we’ve ever done. We had a lot of families there and a lot of little kids. We didn’t really party. It was very wholesome and special.
VM: So did you go on that tour intending to be the first, or did you find out later that that was the case?
Jared: Well, it was there, and we were like, ‘why not go play?’ We started meeting bands that were from around the region and different people, like filmmakers, and it just started to become more of a reality. So, we were like, ‘why not go there? We haven’t been.’
VM: Do you have any other places you want to go?
Jared: Malaysia, Indonesia…
Jared: I guess at some point, we’ll have to go to China. It’s hard to avoid.
VM: Do you want to go to China? You seem a little ‘meh.’
Jared: I’m sure it will be cool, but if I had to make a list of places, that’s not super high up.
VM: What would be your number one?
Cole: We wanted to go to Antarctica, but not anymore, because Metallica did it. We want to be the first in some things.
VM: What’s your favorite venue to play in Georgia?
Jared: If you could fill it up, I really like Variety Playhouse. Actually, now that they’ve redone the Georgia Theatre. I really like the Georgia Theatre.
VM: It’s awesome now! There’s no bad place as an audience member. Wherever you are, you can see the stage.
Jared: I’ll go ahead and say Georgia Theatre. There’s Nintendo backstage, restaurant and bar on the roof, and good sound.
Cole: Giant bands.
Ian: The food’s good.
VM: The food is good.
Cole: My dream is to play the Fox Theater in Atlanta. It’s gigantic! We’d have to be lucky enough to open for somebody, probably.
Jared: I think to put on a show there is just thousands and thousands of dollars.
VM: Bill Cody from Athens directed the documentary, ‘Kids Like You and Me,’ for your tour. How did you get connected with him, and why did you decide to do a documentary?
Jared: I can’t remember how we met him. I think he just started coming to our shows in L.A. Over the months and years, we found out he was a filmmaker, and I was a fan of ‘Athens, Georgia Inside Out.’ We would always talk sh*t about playing in Iraq but not in the green zone. He said, ‘well, I used to teach film there.’ So we were like, ‘well, if you actually have some contacts there…’ and he actually took it seriously. Three years later we were there with him, but it just started from that one little ‘I want to play in Iraq’ and snowballed from there.
VM: What is your favorite part about playing at ‘South By?’
Joe: Seeing friends.
VM: After ‘South By,’ what are your plans?
Jared: We’re hitting the road for a while. We’re going to the West coast from here, going to do a little circle up and down the coast and a little, quick dip into Canada, then the East coast, then Europe and a bunch of other stuff.
VM: Thanks for talking to us.
Jared: It was a pleasure.
Emily is an over-enthusiastic lover of music, books, movies, fashion, and culture in general. Her love of music spans across all genres (what is a genre anymore? she waxes poetic to herself), though she was nursed on true punk and will never understand “redneck country” music – tractors are not and cannot be sexy. Emily currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and considers herself to be a great wit, though she is still waiting on validation from a credible source.