Black Lips: The Good Kinda Bad

We're very nice Southern gentlemen, but if we have to get in a fight we will. So, it's like we're good people but we can be bad at times.

-Ian St. Pé


While the constant traveling can be grueling for some artists, the rock & roll vagabond life is all the Black Lips ever wanted. St. Pé segues into a relevant yarn recalling a time when he was 16 on an ever-dreadful, useless career day. "I sat in the office because the adviser said, 'If you don't pick anything you're going to have to sit in the office because we need to put you somewhere.' I said, 'Put me in the office'," he recalls with the verbal equivalent of a middle finger. "This [touring in a rock band] is the only thing I've ever wanted to do."

The Black Lips by Kelly Garrett Coffee
When you attend a Black Lips show, whether you like them or not, chances are you won't ever forget the experience. The Black Lips, along with An Albatross and the World Inferno Friendship Society, hold the title for some of the most outrageous and controversial live shows today. On any given night, a gig can include - but isn't limited to – fireworks, nudity and any and all body fluids such as urine, blood and vomit flying around the place. Contrary to what anybody thinks, St. Pé claims they simply "take the moment and run with it. Nothing is planned and I think that's what makes Black Lips shows exciting. What happens happens. Some people will ask us, are we going to do this, are we going to do that? We're nobody's puppets."

Recently one of their feathered buddies, a chicken named Popcorn, made his debut at a Black Lips show at the Siren Festival this summer. Popcorn was purchased from a slaughterhouse on the Brooklyn outskirts for seven dollars since the band wanted to save him from being "that night's dinner." He was brought to the stage and given roaring applause. "We gave him a rock show and he performed well, and photographed well, too," offers St. Pé before getting a bit pissed about PETA, who contacted the Black Lips and gave them some shit about it. "They can kiss my ass because we saved that thing," barks St. Pé. Eventually Popcorn was let loose in McCarren Park after a recent Band of Horses show.

A band as dirty looking and sounding as the Black Lips aims to take their live shows to the most squalid places, as they did last year when they recorded the live album Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo (released 2/20/07 on Vice Records) in Tijuana with hookers dancing onstage and a boozed up crowd blaring mariachi and air horns between the songs. This all took place while Mexico was in the middle of a runoff election and in a state of political turbulence. "It was kind of a seedy vibe," states guitarist Cole Alexander.

Earlier this year they met an Israeli fan that hitchhiked with them all the way to San Diego, and paid them back by booking them a ten-day sold out showcase in his homeland. They even flew by the seat of their brass balls by venturing into the West Bank with their acoustics to play for Palestinian kids. St. Pé says it went over well even though they were a Western band playing in one of the epicenters of anti-American sentiment.

The Black Lips
"It's kind of cliché to say but it's true - rock & roll and music really transcend everything. We played music and they dug it and we had a good time. The kids were floored," recalls St. Pé. "I don't know how many rock bands go into the West Bank. It's probably safe to say not many. I will say this: the wall on the West Bank makes the Berlin Wall look like a joke, like a little kiddie playground."

In spite of everything, the Black Lips are eyeing a way that they can bring their rowdy rock to the Third World, and hope to one day play in Dubai, China, and Russia.

Aside from touring, they're already halfway done with their next album, and the band will star in a yet-untitled feature film set to go into production next year about the '80s DIY scene, where they play, you guessed it, a traveling punk rock band. On top of all that, some of them are taking part in a band called The Spooks with members of their hometown indie kings Deerhunter. The eccentric Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox has stepped in to lend his skills, though Alexander "sometimes doesn't let him" join in because of Cox's affinity for noise. "He played sax one time and I was trying to get him to stay on the sax" says Alexander. "It's hard to tell Bradford what to do because he's a man who knows what he wants musically."

The fans seem to be piling up, and the more fans they get the more unusual they are. For instance, the day before this interview, a 57-year-old man with a few loose screws put on a pair of inline skates and scaled the large globe statue outside the Trump Towers to toss out confetti and fliers for a Black Lips show. By the time the long arm of the law arrived, he pulled an orange from his pocket and ate it before being tossed into jail for criminal trespassing. Some people say it was a publicity stunt but the band vehemently states it's not. "The funny thing is I think people think we sent this guy to do this and we have no idea who this guy is at all," says Alexander. They wanted this odd fellow to attend the NYC show his fliers were promoting but feared he'd be sitting in a cell at the time. "We want to put him on the guest list but we think he's going to be in there for a couple of days," says Alexander.

The Black Lips tour dates are available HERE.

JamBase | Georgia
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[Published on: 10/2/07]

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Flat5 Tue 10/2/2007 10:13PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
ThePaste Wed 10/3/2007 08:13AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
paulyblunts Wed 10/3/2007 09:29AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i saw these guys a few weeks ago..lead guitar guy kept puking all over the stage, but he never missed a chord while puking. they had the place going so crazy i thought a full scale riot could ensue. these guys are true rock stars..check em out if you get the chance.

paulyblunts Wed 10/3/2007 10:22AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i saw these guys a few weeks ago..lead guitar guy kept puking all over the stage, but he never missed a chord while puking. they had the place going so crazy i thought a full scale riot could ensue. these guys are true rock stars..check em out if you get the chance.

HoodooVoodoo starstarstar Wed 10/3/2007 05:02PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

HoodooVoodoo puking on stage is what defines a rock star? I guess anybody who gets really wasted and stands on a stage and gets sick is a rockstar. The article was well written (I liked the line about Marlboro miles) but these guys seem like a bunch of childish idiots who care more about stage antics than playing quality music. I guess its good if you like shock-value, but I don't go to shows for that. And their whole philosophy about playing crap instruments to counteract the sound of digital recording makes no sense. Why not just record in analog and play a decent instrument?

paulyblunts Thu 10/4/2007 09:09AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


oh yeah, i forgot to mention they make great music too. check it out for yourself...

KPLMMJ starstarstarstar Thu 10/4/2007 09:55AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

They really are a good band...I went to high school with them. They have always been like this, its just who they are. They aren't acting; they're just doing what they want and having fun doing it. Check em live and doubt you'll be dissapointed.

KPLMMJ Thu 10/4/2007 09:56AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

***EDIT-You'll NOT be dissapointed***