Before their set at the Osheaga festival in Montreal, guitarist Ian St. Pe raided the backstage water supply and tossed about two dozen bottles into the crowd with strict instructions to share. During their set, the band made even more on-the-fly adjustments to keep the overheated crowd comfortable: singer and guitarist Cole Alexander had some pretty bad guitar problems early into their mid-day set, and with the sun in the hottest position directly over the stage, frontman Jared Swilley got the band’s attention and passed along a simple message: “Let’s keep it going, it’s hot.”
Cole fixed his guitar during the next song and rejoined the band in the middle of the next number without missing a beat. The rest of the set was one continuous stream of crowd surfing, sprayed beers, on stage puking (acid reflux), and highlights from the band’s impressive back catalog.
Those professional chops come from their nearly non-stop touring cycling that includes extensive dates in the US, Canada, and Europe, and most recently scheduled appearances in countries most Western bands never make it to: Iraq, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Tunisia. We spoke in Montreal a few minutes after their performance at Osheaga.
Prefix: Tell me about the Chic-fil-a picture.
Cole Alexander: A lot of people didn’t get it because we were just trying to piss everybody off. Going to Chic-fil-a, and getting the sandwiches, and then kissing. Because we feel like we don’t agree with Chic-fil-a—we’re not a political band—but we grew up with Chic-fil-a like that’s from Atlanta, so I can’t stop eating those sandwiches, they taste too good.
Ian St. Pe: Yeah they’re delicious.
CA: They’re delicious. But I don’t necessarily agree with the stance. Gay people are more than welcome to go make out in the restaurant and freak them out, cool, but I can’t stop eating the sandwiches. But we just wanted to piss everybody off just to be punks. And everyone was like “Oh they’re trying to protest…but then they ate the sandwiches!” But anyways, nevertheless, our Facebook, we never had anything quite like this. This viral picture. Like our virility went off the Richter and we got like half a thousand comments, and 4,000 likes. But the comments, first they started out like people thought it was kind of funny, then it got kinda dark when people were like, “Oh wait, they’re eating the chicken sandwiches”. But then we got this kind of Westboro Church people. And they fucking went off.
Prefix: Oh no.
CA: First we were trying to defend ourselves but then all the people started fighting each other. We just look and start laughing. And now I want to try to get Westboro Church to boycott our shows, because to me, they make us look good if they’re outside the show with pickets.
IS: People want something to do and we give it to them. And I want to thank my brothers Cole and Jared for helping the situation.
CA: This guy from Uganda he’s like, “The world is coming to an end.” And if you don’t know, homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. That’s my issue. Everyone is worried about a chicken sandwich, but the American government is who they should get on because they gave all this money to an organization that’s not for LGBT. They lobby against gay rights. But the American government gives money to support governments like Saudi Arabia and Uganda that actually actively persecute homosexuals. So I think we need to focus on the chicken sandwich, but I don’t think we should give any financial backing to a government that would persecute a homosexual. That’s our money going to human rights violations. But I’m sure the sandwich you came to all talk about. But I had to clear the slate a little bit.
IS: To sum it up you gotta be smart to be this dumb. It’s a lifestyle we do here. You gotta think about what you’re doing. Even if people think it’s dumb, it’s smart man.
CA: So dumb. [reads from Facebook app on phone] “Faggots are the shittiest fucking Americans”.
IS: Hey and that’s not us [leans in closer to the recorder] that is a quote. Please do not, “Cole Alexander says…” We’re reading quotes right now.
CA: He says, “Does the moon shine out of your fucking cockhole? I doubt it so shut the fuck up and go kill yourself.”
IS: Whoa Lord. And that’s all over a delicious sandwich that we’re just trying to make another side to: that kissing’s cool.
CA: We’ve got 467 people going nuts on each other, just ripping on each other.
Black Lips - "Family Tree" [See our photo album of behind the scenes shots of the "Family Tree" video shoot]
Prefix: Where was that Chic-fil-a?
CA: In the airport. It was perfect, Ian was like, “You know the protest is going on from 12-2.”
IS: 12-2. We got to the airport at 1.
CA: We were like, “Shit we only have an hour to be there, Chic-fil-a is at Terminal C and we’re at Terminal B. Fuck…”
IS: They made it.
CA: Yeah we hauled ass over there. They made us wait in line to get the chicken sandwiches, and people starting squirming and screaming in the airport when they saw us making out. One of the Chic-fil-a boys came down and was like, [whispers] “That’s awesome.”
Prefix: That’s good there’s some support there.
CA: We’re not a political band that’s why we just say, “Fuck everybody.” It was a really fun publicity stunt.
IS: People need to lighten up.
Prefix: That’s true. You mentioned the Facebook page before, who handles all the social media for the band?
CA: Jared is more in charge of the Instagram, I’m more in charge of the Twitter. If you follow our things it’s Black Lips, like us on tour and shit.
Prefix: And Bradford Cox is on there too?
CA: Bradford’s involved with the Twitter. He posts his Instagram on our Twitter, because I run the Deerhunter blog too.
Prefix: You do?
CA: It’s very incestuous. But Bradford will occasionally write something. It’s usually a picture of some record, or some psychedelic statement. I want him to do it more. Especially because it’s the Deerhunter blog, I feel bad. People are really big Deerhunter fans and I’m the one posting on it.
Prefix: It’s good stuff, anyways. I saw that “Early African Guitar” video.
CA: Oh that was great.
IS: Oh did you play Amanaz?
CA: No this was some video I found on some African company. He has this homemade guitar that’s really great. Have you seen the psychedelic Muslim prayer calls? Those are weird.
Prefix: I didn’t see those yet. Bradford Cox played here yesterday. Did you catch the set?
IS: No but we heard he had some problems because of the government. Nah, I’m just kidding not the government. The airport.
CA: We were on the flight after him. And he said that his equipment was on our flight. Ian just became a platinum member of the Delta Sky Team. He’s up in first class.
IS: I basically ride first class every flight now.
CA: He didn’t even have to pay for it. We just fly so much that they were like, “You guys are big time.” One time I got up in first because we fly all the time, and the guy was like, “What are you doing up here?” He was trying to be polite. He was like, “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing up here?” Because I have like holes in my pants and stuff.
IS: But what I was saying is, you don’t make no business contacts in coach.
Prefix: It’s all networking.
IS: You make business contacts in first. We’re already made a lot. They’re friendly, they actually care about you. They might look at you weird at first, but the minute they realize that you are International Rock Stars-- I’m just kidding.
CA: He made some great business contacts, people who create applications for computers.
Prefix: Are you guys thinking about making one?
CA: We’re thinking about making our own business cards so when we’re on these planes we can give out business cards.
IS: We can’t really discuss too much…but yes.
CA: We find a lot of industry talk. We share trade secrets up there.
IS: Oh yeah. Secret society type shit.
Prefix: Illuminati? Reptilian Race?
IS: I can’t divulge.
CA: We have a great story. We were in Australia and we got kicked off our flight.
IS: Oh yeah.
CA: They had to get police there. They kicked us off the flight because I guess we smarted off. I wanted to bring my bag and she said it was too big. And I was like, “It met the requirements.” And she was like, “Still, I don’t care.” And I said, “Man, get out of my face. Stop harassing me.” And Jared, they wanted him to take off his jacket or something. But they let the guy from Dirty Three on in our spot.
IS: Yeah Dirty Three got on in our spot.
CA: Then we get to Virgin Airlines—
IS: Virgin Airlines will really treat you good.
CA: The stewardess was like smokin’ hot, and she knew our band and was giving us free drinks. And she brought the pilot to the show. We ended up partying with them all night. Then the flight attendant wanted to take Ian home.
IS: Yeah! At the end of the night she was like, “Do you want to come up for a drink?” And I knew what that meant. But I was so tired. Jet lagged as a motherfucker, I said no. I could have banged a stewardess. Shit.
CA: Virgin is part of the SkyTeam we get the miles to get up in first. Quantas in Australia? Fuck ‘em. I’m going to go out on the record.
IS: Don’t do Quantas. It’s on the black books.
CA: They made our life hell. I never wanted to be that guy who got freaked out on the plane and they have to remove you with the police. Like Alec Baldwin or whatever. Or the guy from R.E.M. who we love.
IS: He got removed!
CA: I don’t want to be that guy.
Black Lips - "New Direction"
Prefix: So I see that ring. [Ian is wearing a ring with the Vice Records logo carved in gold]
IS: Oh you mean the Vice ring?
CA: It says "Ian" on the inside.
IS: Yeah it says “Ian St. Pe” on the inside. Well when we signed to Vice, I asked the owner, I said, “Rappers get chains. I want what you got.” And he’s got a ring. The owners…what do you call them? The VIP? The very important people? The very important people at Vice have these rings. And I said, “Well look, rappers get chains we should get rings.” And we set it up. We had to sell x amount of copies of records.
Prefix: And once it happened…
CA: He said we had to sell 35,000 records.
Prefix: And you said, “No problem”?
CA: Yeah we got it done.
IS: We got it done! So we got ringed. We got ringed out.
Prefix: Besides the rings, how is working with Vice different than a regular record label?
IS: Vice is cool. They’re an empire.
CA: They’re an empire to be reckoned with.
IS: What’s real cool about Vice is, the problem with labels these days is everyone’s ripping off music for free. Which is fine, we make our money on tour. Vice is able to sustain themselves because they’ve got a lot of other entities. Which is great for us. So we get all creative control, they treat us good. Kids like ‘em. “Kids like us.”
CA: Yeah man. They know how to leech off corporate power and take that money and put it back into kids. They hold his hand before they stick it in. Give him a kiss before they stick it in.
IS: [leans in to recorder] Prefix what’s up? Black Lips 2012. Osheaga. What’s up?
CA: I like Prefix too because you guys get gossipy.
IS: We’re into gossip.
CA: That’s what drew me to it. I like how it’s like dirt and stuff.
IS: We have the TMZ app. On our iPhones. Has Prefix thought about doing a Prefix app?
Prefix: Hopefully it’s in the works.
IS: I’m just shooting that out there, that we are heavy TMZ fans. We like Prefix, but there’s no app.
Black Lips - "Modern Art"
Prefix: Soon hopefully. You puked on stage today Cole. Do you feel better?
IS: I heard it, I didn’t see it.
CA: I feel great. Right after we did that I went and ate about 40 oysters. I love oysters I was waiting for them.
IS: I had about 25. You had about 40.
CA: If I had those before the show I probably would have vomited. That was so good. But I vomited a lot. It was so hot up there, and I have really bad acid reflux. I got some medicine recently that lowers the acid so it’s not that acidic when it comes back up. It’s not that bad. It’s just like water coming back up. Fans love it. They think it’s something I do on cue or something.
Prefix: Yeah I saw a huge pop when it happened.
CA: They’re like, “Oh you did that on ‘Bad Kids’!”
IS: As provocateurs of festivals, one might ask, “How was the food?”
CA: The best I’ve ever seen it.
IS: I want to say in the top three of all time. We do a lot of festivals. I would say Osheaga—
CA: Definitely top three. Norway bringing the whale meat was pretty good.
IS: That was amazing. Norway did have whale power. Mudhoney played right after us, and they had whale meat right before us.
CA: A lot of lobbyists are trying to stop that, trying to save the whales.If you go to Papua, New Guinea and they serve you human brains and you don’t eat it, it’s highly disrespectful.
Prefix: You have to go with the culture?
CA: I would eat human if it were served in the right context like that.
Prefix: What else is your go-to food when you’re touring?
IS: I guess to keep it interesting, the thing is whenever we get weird shit. Weird shit is always fun. Our lifestyle is always fun, but when everything gets weird that’s always fun. We had maggots in maggot cheese in Sardinia. That was memorable.
Prefix: Have you looked at any Iraqi food yet?
IS: Speaking of Iraq, we’re going there in September.
CA: I’m nervous, because it’s hard to get in that country and we’re still trying to work out some way to officially go in.
IS: I don’t know if we should talk about it. We’re having trouble with Iraq right now.
CA: I think we can make it happen, but I’m nervous because you can’t just go to Iraq. We’re not playing for the troops, we’re playing for the real people.
IS: The real clubs.
CA: If things go as planned we’re going to the region, we will be in Iraq. There’s this dish called Uzi. Even their dishes are named after fucking guns and shit. It’s going to be so good. I love Iraqi culture.
IS: Uzi. Fucking awesome things. Their dishes are named after awesome things. Jordan, Lebanon, Dubai, Tunisia, Egypt. Iraq’s in the works. Syria got cancelled, obviously.
CA: We’ve already done Israel and Palestine before. And India and Turkey.
Prefix: How do you do something like this tour?
IS: How? If you want to do something, there’s a way to do it. I know that sounds stupid but it’s true. If you want something, you can get it. And just making contacts. Do you want to tell him exactly how it happened? With Bill Cody?
CA: Bill Cody the guy who did “We Fun” he’s throwing the tour together.
IS: He also did Athens, GA: Inside Out in the 80s. Which showcased B-52s and R.E.M. before they were big. Especially R.E.M. But now he wants to do a new movie, and he likes our band, and asked us if we would want to be “the band” to bridge a gap. Which is true, bringing West to the East.
Athens, GA: Inside/Out Clip
CA: No band has ever done this before. We’re treading new waters.
IS: Like he said, we’re going into the fucking “red zone.” Whatever you want to call it. We’re not going in as troop lovers.
CA: We could die. This is rock and roll and we’d give our lives to this. Some other people, this is like a hobby.
IS: You ever think about walking to your car at night? Seriously. You walk to your car at night—
CA: Get popped.
IS: [opens beer] Popped. Just like that. You can get popped walking to your car. So as long as we’re not stupid, we’ll be fine. We’ll be smart about it. Once again, gotta be smart to be stupid, stupid to be smart.
CA: You gotta be pretty dumb to play Iraq, but we’re gonna do it, because we are actually so smart. Iraq is going to be fucking awesome.
Middle East Tour Promo Clip
Black Lips 2012 Tour Dates
09.14 Amman, Jordan: TBA
09.19 Larnaca, Cyprus: Savino Live
09.21 Cairo, Egypt: Culturewheel
09.23 Tunis, Tunisia: Le Squat
09.26 Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Music Room
09.28 Hawler, Iraq: TBA
09.29 Sulamaniah, Iraq: TBA
10.06 Beirut, Lebanon: Metro Al Madina
10.11 Austin, TX: Antone’s
10.12 Austin, TX: Austin City Limits
10.13 Mexico City, Mexico: Corona Capital Festival
12.16 Bahamas: SS Coachella
12.19 Jamaica: SS Coachella