AN EVENING WITH…
Black Lips’ most recent album, ironically titled, Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart, was released January 24th, 2020. It was just a couple of months before the nationwide lockdown took place, and with the ensuing national uncertainties, was in and of itself an almost prophetic and brilliantly titled segue into the hell-storm that was to come in the following months for our country and the world at large.
“Just as we were getting the ball rolling and building on the upcoming tours and videos, which was gaining steam, the pandemic did take the wind out of our sails.” Said Black Lips guitarist and vocalist Cole Alexander.
In the midst of this, a collective lull took up residence in the art and music scene. The unprecedented circumstances ushered in the opportunity for each member of the band to continue the process of individually working on new music, that being their tenth upcoming album, which they are currently working on in the Catskill Mountains located in southeastern New York.
“Basically throughout quarantine, we were all individually writing and working on music. We sent in our demos that we were separately working on and compiled a master list of our songs. It was also exciting to hear what each of us had been working on”. said Black Lips saxophonist Zumi Rosow.
With the early stages of the pandemic, Black Lips were approaching their final tour which took place in the states. Instead of flying back to Los Angeles and also with bassist and vocalist Jared Swilley moving to L.A, a couple of members of the band decided to drive the van back to California. Although with the pandemic in its infant stages, the group knew full well that a total lockdown was inevitable.
“We had no idea what was going on. We thought it was the apocalypse, which at the time it felt like. So we were like let’s just see what’s going on first hand. So we decided to camp and record music along the way. Cole had a video camera and we were buying camping equipment the further we got along. The trip took a couple of weeks and we even had the Grand Canyon to ourselves” Said Zumi.
Collectively the band had agreed that they had never been that stagnant in their entire lives, so as things are reopening, transitioning back into music, and being on the circuit again has been faring well while working, in concert, on the new album in Catskill. Needless to say, the pandemic affected all of us both mentally and socially, and the overall elemental progressiveness of simply coexisting with one another was even, at times, in question.
“There was so much downtime, but you also have to allow yourself to just simply exist, and part of the process which is also a luxury, was being able to just sit and look at the positive aspects of what was happening, because of the pandemic. Instead of looking at that time as a curse or a horrible thing, we just chose to focus on the positive side of things”. Said Rosow.
Although Black Lips are still in the early stages of recording their next album and with everything else aside, the band has been locking down more recent gigs. Despite the current influx of musicians getting back on the road and into venues, it’s been a sort of renaissance for music in general, and picking up where they left off, has proven to be lively for the five-piece.
When asked about the release of Black Lips’ next album, Jared Swilley went on to say, “It might be a while, and although we’re in pre-production, we didn’t get the chance to tour our last album. So we’re kind of technically still on that tour cycle. We had a whole year of touring that was already booked that we didn’t get to do”. Said, Swilley.
More recently the band released a video/song from their last album titled “Gentlemen”. It doesn’t showcase the immediate members themselves, but instead, entertainer, actress, and model Sandra “Sandie” Crisp aka “Goddess Bunny ” who passed away in January of this year. The video also features writer Tyler Watt aka L.A. Jokerman, who for some time the band’s close friends had been working with.
“He’s an overall interesting character, a feral creature,” said Rosow. The video which features Bunny and Jokerman coupled with Cole Alexander’s roughed-up humanizing lyrics is an honest glimpse into the two characters’ lives. Ultimately personifying most colorfully the undertaking of everyday life in its rawness.
“It was such an honor to have Goddess Bunny in our video, and it was also nice to be able to release the video following her passing. At least to give thanks”. Said Rosow.
Black Lips’ sound and taste extend far beyond musical boundaries, and why shouldn’t they? It’s prevalent throughout each of their albums both internally and externally. Taking a panoramic view of some of their previous albums recorded. They’ve worked with all-star musicians and producers like guitarist Lockett Pundt and Brit awards winning songwriter and producer Mark Ronson, who enhanced their album titled “Arabia Mountain”. Furthering the horizons on musical expansion with their following album, the band also worked with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, who co-produced their seventh album which was released in 2014 titled, “Underneath the Rainbow”.
When asked about potential collaborations on their current album Cole Alexander stated, “Well we’re always building, and If we have some key singles, as we did with Ronson, who also assisted in helping us tie everything together on Arabia Mountain. Guys like recording engineer Matthew Cullen, who’s also Sean Lennon’s right-hand man, is coming on to assist with this album”.
In the light of this past year, their current show ventures in the states are up in the air. That being said, with gigs booked to the max throughout most venues for musicians, and artists throughout the country, Black Lips, even amid everything they have going on, are also in the works of planning a European tour in the fall.
Interview by William R. Lankford. Photography by Alexander Thompson. Photographed in New York City at TV Eye. Thank you to Jonathan Toubin and Aaron Sainz.