Around the World with Black Lips

Atlanta’s Resident Rockers on Playing Iraq, South by Southwest

<b>ROCK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN:</b> Black Lips pose in front of a pyramid during the band's 2012 tour of the Middle East.

After 14 years as a band, the members of Black Lips have learned a thing or two about touring. Since capturing national attention with their 2007 long player, Good Bad Not Evil, the Georgia rockers have been perennially on the road, stirring up good, sloppy fun nearly everywhere they go. Ask fans, and they’ll tell you that the bandmates are at their best onstage, where their brazen punk-meets-psych pop tunes have been known to incite all sorts of rock ’n’ roll pandemonium. Their shows are loud, fast, and unforgettably high energy, and their onstage antics range from pyrotechnics and nudity to good old-fashioned dude-on-dude kissing — a stunt that got the band booted out of India in 2011.

This Wednesday, March 20, the Black Lips’ bus pulls into Santa Barbara for a stop at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. The show comes on the heels of a whirlwind year of constant gigging that saw the band sailing the high seas for the SS Coachella’s maiden voyage and, most recently, returning to Austin for an umpteenth South by Southwest showing.

“I don’t even know what year this is for us,” said singer/guitarist Cole Alexander last week. “We’ve gone pretty much every other year since we started.”

But listing the band’s festival engagements would hardly scratch the surface of Black Lips’ annual itinerary. In 2012, the band successfully upped the travel ante by trailblazing through the Middle East. The tour, which had been in the works for over a year, included stops in Lebanon, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, and Iraq, and made good on the band’s wish to reach fans beyond the typical North American and European circuits.

“We really like to travel, and we want to go everywhere we possibly can,” said Alexander. “And now, thanks to the Internet, it’s not that hard to do. We have people reaching out to us from all these places like Thailand and Egypt. Before, that just wasn’t possible.”

That Black Lips have grown from gritty punk act to internationally recognized name is no small feat, though. In the eight years leading up to Good Bad Not Evil, the band was cutting its teeth at house shows and Atlanta bars, slowly building a fanbase through notoriously rowdy live gigs. In 2011, Black Lips’ arrival moment came by way of Arabia Mountain, which found them pairing up with producer Mark Ronson (a first for the band) and embracing a fuller, clearer, and “more cohesive” sound.

Nowadays, the guys are splitting their time between live shows and prepping the next Black Lips record. “We’re working on stuff,” said Alexander. “It’s still pretty early, though. We’re making demos and hope to start recording in May, but it’s taking a really long time.” He envisions the new album will go in a similar direction as the last, with higher quality, more accessible sounds, and a producer at the helm.

But do more polished albums mean a more polished stage show? Hardly. “There’s an expectation for anarchy, definitely,” bassist Jared Swilley said, last time the band rolled through town, and Alexander acknowledged that they’re happy to bring it. “Touring-wise, we kind of hit our goals by going to the Middle East last year,” said Alexander. “In 2013, we’re all about making the best record possible.”


Black Lips play SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Wednesday, March 20, at 8 p.m. Night Beats open the show. For tickets and info, call (805) 962-7776 or visit


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