Signposts to ‘Arabia’

Black Lips work with producer Mark Ronson on new album, due out in June

Secrecy still shrouds most of what is contained on the Black Lips' sixth studio album, Arabia Mountain, but two pre-release video clips point towards two different directions for the Atlanta flower-punk act. The video for “Go Out & Get It,” sung by drummer Joe Bradley, is a garage popper filled with goofy, drunken antics from on board a cruise ship and beach side during February's first annual Bruise Cruise, a festival of garage rock bands that took place on a cruise ship. It's the Black Lips that most people have seen or read about in print. The cruise and the video include both current Lips' tour mates the Vivian Girls. The band-packed cruise felt like a vacation with friends, says Black Lips co-vocalist/guitarist Cole Alexander. “It was a drunken excursion,” he says. Meanwhile the Jared Swilley-sung “Modern Art,” the first taste of the band's collaboration with producer Mark Ronson, comes with a video that explores the band's identity as dark-hearted occultists willing to dabble in black magic voodoo. There's an acid freakout middle, a human skull and found footage of exploding ordnance. The band has always been driven towards exploring that side. There's a spiritual force that always needs to be reckoned with, Alexander says. “We're always trying to tap into that,” he says. “Whether it's real or not.” “Modern Art” is a song that also goes a long way toward showing just what might be in store for the rest of the tracks produced by Ronson, who also produced the new Duran Duran album. Alexander says it won't be a shedding of the band's true spirit for studio-honed polish. Instead, it's more of the band focusing intently on how they make a record. He says the band wanted to work with an outside producer and it clicked with Ronson the second he told them that he was a fan and didn't want to alter the way they sounded. “ We spent a year working on making it awesome,” Alexander says. “It sounds like the Black Lips, but better. It enhances what is good about us.” The band pitched the idea of working with a big-time producer on their label, Vice Records, throwing out Ronson's name next to other big names, including Dr. Dre. During the sessions, the band used raw meat for percussion, had someone come in and play a saw and even used a human skull for a reverberation chamber. An experiment with a Theremin was scrapped, as well. “We're always trying to find new stuff to acquire to put on the record,” Alexander says. The band found the skull at Obscura, an antiques and oddities shop on Manhattan's Lower East Side. “We definitely sought it out,” Alexander says of the skull purchase. The next step was rigging the skull to process vocal and guitar parts through. Once the band figured out just how, Alexander says they immediately liked the effect. “The echo reverberation is very similar to what you would hear in your own head,” he says. Opposite of the Ronson sessions, the band also recorded in California with Mike McHugh, who tracked the Black Lips' breakthrough album, 2005's Let It Bloom. “We wanted to get that magic powder back on there,” Alexander says. Though Alexander says the band has definitely gotten better at their respective instruments, there's never been a growing feeling that they were becoming a professional band. In fact, Alexander says since Day 1 of the Black Lips, he knew he'd be in this for life. When asked, that's exactly how Alexander puts it “Day one. Think about it." He pauses, then makes sure he's being fully understood. “You got to write 'Think about it' after 'Day One.'” The band likes to get paid for playing music, but that's not what it's all about. Alexander says the band is only still barely getting paid for their art. “If we don't get paid, we'll still play music,” he says. In lieu of getting rich, Alexander has a list of just what he wants the Black Lips to be known for. “Fear, mayhem, panic, innovation and pseudo-science. We are part of the Flat Earth Society.” The Black Lips w/ the Vivian Girls and Solid Goldberg play the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St., Monday, April 25, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $13. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.

posted at 10:02 am
on Thursday, April 21st, 2011

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