Black Lips Live: Billboard Tastemakers Video

Black Lips perform at Mophonics for Billboard.com's Tastemakers series.

Black Lips Live


Our Tastemakers video series presents a closer look at -- and an exclusive performance from -- the cool artists hitting the Billboard Tastemakers chart, which brings you the top-selling albums each week based on an influential panel of indie stores and small regional chains.


With summer officially upon us, what better way to kick off Billboard.com's new season of Tastemakers than with ATL's troublemaking garage rock foursome, Black Lips?

Photos: Behind the scenes at Black Lips' Tastemakers taping

The self-proclaimed founding fathers of "flower punk" -- Ian Saint Pé (rhythm guitar), Joe Bradley (drums/vocals), Jared Swilley (bass/vocals) and Cole Alexander (guitar/vocals) -- doled out advice and crushed a few dozen cold ones when they invaded Mophonics Studios in Manhattan. Surprisingly, no major injuries or equipment damage went down in the process. Instead, the guys graciously ripped through a 3-song set fresh off their sixth full-length, "Arabia Mountain," released June 7 on Vice Records.

"Honestly, we wanted to reach a larger audience, but still do something totally messed up," says Alexander. "We didn't really want to make it more commercial; we wanted to have the commercial kind of to come to us."

The raucous rockers brought that vision full circle with U.K. super-producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Adele), who Saint Pé says was conscious from the very start not to change what Lips fans know and love.

"Basically, I think he made the drums sound amazing and he made the bass sound amazing. The guitars still sound fucked up, which is our sound. You can play it in a club now, which is cool," explains Saint Pé.

Alexander continues, "We were steering the boat. He just made sure it didn't sink."

Video Below: Black Lips perform "Family Tree."

The band's seemingly indifferent but entirely deliberate sound was amped by Ronson's doo-wop tendencies, with a number of new instrumental elements including a broader horn section and a pitch-perfect saw player. They also toyed around with Deerhunter's Lockett Pundt and his 4-track cassette tape machine, which allowed the band to stretch, yet still maintain, their signature lo-fi tonality.

"That was kind of keeping it real for us to record on a tape cassette. It has a certain sound that's kind of punchy and magical and there's electromagnetic pulses that take the music to a place you couldn't go otherwise."

Lyrically, however, things pretty much remained the same.

"We talk about backward messages with phonetic palindromes; we are kind of stupid but that's kind of how genius we are," Alexander continues. "We'll shotgun a beer and then read the Economist. It ain't no big deal."

Video Below: Black Lips perform "Dumpster Dive."

The Lips' super psychedelic video for single "Modern Art" came about after two very different sorts of trips: the first, surrealist, through the Dali Museum; the second, dissociative, while on hallucinogenics. It's here where the skull makes its first poised cameo.

"We shot the video on Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday in one of our favorite New Orleans spots, Saturn Bar, and showcased the art of Mike Frolich because we couldn't clear the rights to Dali," Alexander explains, "He [Frolich] went crazy underwater and was paid to decorate the place after his tour in the Korean War, so we took all those things and mashed them together for the video and added the skull for the extra voodoo element."

Coming up, you can catch the band stateside at Lollapalooza and 1234 Fest, along with hitting the road for a VICE-directed film as they embark on a Middle Eastern tour through Northern Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Egypt in September.

"Our country has kind of shit on the Middle Eastern region for the last 200 years so we're coming to bring rays of light," Saint Pé says happily. "We're doing everything we wanted to do. Things are cool. Dreams can come true."

Text by Lisa Binkert

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