Black Lips call their sound “flower punk”. Live on stage, however, there is not much that’s flowery about Cole Alexander, Jared Swilley, Joe Bradley and Ian Saint Pé. Antics include vomiting, inter-band tonguing, pissing in their own mouths, spitting in each other’s mouths, fireworks, nakedness and a dancing chicken called Popcorn. These boys are smart. A series of raucous 2002 performances in their hometown of Atlanta, Georgia saw Black Lips banned from several venues, helped label them the state’s most notorious act and got them their first recording deal. Now signed to VICE Records, the four-man team supported the Raconteurs on their US tour earlier this year – and managed to keep a check on the exchange of bodily fluids.
Where are the other two?
Jared Swilley: I dunno.
Joe Bradley: Somewhere else.
How would you describe your music?
JS: Like psychedelic pop… kinda.
JB: It’s rock but we take influences from lots of different places. I’ve been known to get inspired by classical Japanese composers.
JS: He means video-game composers.
JB: Hip-hop, sink taps and the sound of cars pulling off. You got to take influence where you can get it.
JS: We make it short and simple. I don’t like it to be intellectual. The music shouldn’t be too hard to get your head round.
What other band would you want to be in?
JS: If I had the talent or the voice, I’d be in The Falcons, Wilson Pickett’s first band. Actually I’d be in The Stones. Those guys are still like the happiest people on Earth.
JB: That’s because they’re rich as fuck.
JS: We have some friends who know them and they say those guys think everything is funny no matter what. I would too!
JB: They’re like, ‘Look at that microphone stand! Hahaha!’
JS: My whole life would be one big joke if I had that much money.
JB: Yeah, if presidents were coming to meet you, why wouldn’t you be happy?
Who’s the hardest in the band?
JS: Probably Ian. Ian’s the biggest.
JB: Yeah but Cole’s the scrappiest.
JS: But Ian could kill Cole. And Ian has a really tough older brother that he learned to fight with. I’ve seen Ian beat people up and I wouldn’t want to fight him.
JB: Ian doesn’t fuck around. But, see, we always fight together.
JS: We’re like fire ants. It doesn’t matter if one guy gets in a fight. We all fight. A little bit like the Three Musketeers but we’re not as gay as that.
JB: Or as fashionable.
JS: And there’s four of us.
What’s the last album you bought?
JS: The last one I actually spent money on was a 60s Jamaican compilation called Studio One Rockers.
JB: I bought an album by Brimstone Howl – they’re a band from Lincoln, Nebraska.
JS: You bought that?
JB: Yeah because I wanted to help them out. I was at their show in Omaha. They’re on Alive Records.
If you could teach the world to sing, what would you teach them?
JS: Living In America by James Brown.
JB: That came out so naturally. I concur.
Photography: Ben Rayner
Words: Ben Cobb
A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #15, Oct/Nov 2008