Georgia-based garage band Black Lips has cultivated such a reputation for extreme onstage antics — vomiting, public urination, lighting guitars on fire — that it could be seen as a lovechild of G.G. Allin and Flat Duo Jets. But success seems to have instilled in the band members a more measured approach: Black Lips Indian tour was canceled last year due to the members “making out” on stage, and they don’t want to do anything that might jeopardize an upcoming gig in Iraq, which was only recently confirmed.
But that doesn’t mean spending a day with Black Lips is devoid of excitement. In this photo essay and interview — the second installment of our Day in the Life series — photographer Ken Bachor met the band at New York’s Bowery Ballroom for soundcheck, where they were headlining later that day; documented a taping for Fuel TV that afternoon; caught dinner at a French restaurant; and then watched the members — guitarist/vocalist Cole Alexander, bassist/vocalist Jared Swilley, drummer Joe Bradley and guitarist Ian Saint Pé — jump on stage to do what they do best. Their show that night was everything it was supposed to be: electric and packed and sweaty, with everyone moving under the weight of good old rock ‘n’ roll.
Tour manager Armando Celentano and drummer Joe Bradley, backstage at Bowery Ballroom.
Cole Alexander, at soundcheck.
Guitarist Ian Saint Pé.
CA: We’re like a rudimentary rock band, but we sort of teeter on chaos a little bit. We’re kind of sloppy, not really by the rules of ’50s or ’60s rock, but that era is definitely our basis.
Bassist/vocalist Jared Swilley: We weren’t good at doing school and we weren’t good at doing real jobs.
CA: That pretty much sums it up. We kind of sucked at everything else. When we started, we kind of sucked at music also, but you could get away with that. Whereas if you suck at working in a restaurant, you just get fired. People are pretty forgiving of someone who is being sloppy but is just having fun playing music.
CA: We came up with the name in high school, thinking it was a good idea at the time. But then all of these “black” bands started coming out, which made us kind of annoyed. We thought about changing our name, but by that time we had already established ourselves, so we decided to keep it. Actually, the “black” thing has kind of chilled out. It then became “deer” this and “deer” that.
JS: Now it’s “neon.” And “crystal.”
CA: I heard “wizard” is coming back. I actually wanted to start a band named Crystal Deer Black Wolf.
Swilley switches to clean socks before a gig at Fuel TV.
Leaving Bowery Ballroom.
CA: We’re pretty involved in the recording process. We never had a real producer. In the past, we’ve had engineers help us, but we mainly produce our material.
In the depths of the tour van.
Unloading in front of Fuel TV’s studios.
Before the performance.
JS: We started the “flower-punk” thing as a joke, because people would ask us what kind of music we played. Really, it’s just punk rock. Psychedelic punk rock.
Click here to view Part 2.