MOVING ON UP In Studio with Black Lips
It was at last years SouthxSouthwest. The one where the Atlanta music scene became known from sea to shinning sea. I was at a taco stand one morning looking at Black Lip’s Cole Alexander front and center on the cover of the Austin Times . I fold the top of the paper down and there he was standing in the parking lot. Right in front of me, breakfast burrito in hand. He was wearing a "Bart Sanchez" t-shirt from Tijuana that had our antagonist Bart with a sombrero, knife and bottle of whatever "XXX" is.
So many parrallels. Perfectly weird.
It’s two years later, and after going twice the world over, repping ATL every inch of the way, the boys are back in the studio to follow up 2007’s "Good Bad, Not Evil". They’re doing it themselves this time. They even have their own digs, setting up shop at New Street Gallery in Decatur. Taking the whole place over, I can barely get in the door with microphone stands and random junk in the way. Junk that I’m sure at one time was necessary to someone. The place is spacious and awkwardly bright. The 15 ft cinder block white walls are lit with florescent lights that give it an uneasy, sterile vibe. I imagine nothing could actually be sterile in this place though. And why would you want it to be. Nothing in rock n’ roll should be clean and orderly. Not gigs, not van rides, not meals, drugs, girls…. Leave that to sober Aerosmith, or Sugarland, or whoever.
There are guitars lying everywhere, outnumbering the band and the few friends that are hanging out. Guitar booths are sectioned off- There’s an Obama t-shirt draped over one. Pictures of morally challenged young ladies ripped out of gentleman’s magazines are tacked up on others- For inspiration, I suppose. We’re mostly around the bar talking about the new record. Drinking Evan William’s and Coke out of plastic Solo cups with no ice (ice is for phonies in Brooklyn) Jared Swilley tells me the name for the new record is "Ancient Egypt". I guess he reads my reaction and immediatley follows, "It’s a working title, though."
In a make-shift control room, Ian St. Pe’ and producer Mike Wright are listening to Ian’s "Moving on up". It’s like a charming, sweet double A-side sequel to Ian’s "Feels Alright" from "Good Bad". After Mike rolls back the reel and plays it for the 4th or 5th time, it still hasn’t lost it’s in your face charm.
"Taking life aspirations from dream to reality. Teachers. Grandparents always asking "When you gonna get a job?"…," Ian explains. "Well, I’m movin on up, don’t move it on down."
"When I go, "ha, ha, ha", he says of the background vocal in the hook. "I mean it- I’m moving on up." And I believe him.
They boys take a workman’s like approach. Basically working 40 hours a week the last couple months while taking weekends off to hop to Europe for festivals and free swag (Cole gave me some free sun glasses). This IS their job, and they know it. And it really seems to be a democratic process. Everyone contributes. And with as much success that has come their way (through talent and tireless work), it’s refreshing to see ego’s kept in check. But I guess therapeutic outlets contribute to that given all the side projects these boys have going.
On all the reels they have stacked up, they have about 25 songs in the can. And speaking of hard work, they prefer to record on reel tape other than go digital. It’s more expensive and takes longer to record. Actually, it’s a hassle. But it pays off. It helps give that magical, buried in a cave for 40 years sound that they own. "Hey, if it works, don’t fix it", Ian smiles.
As he’s fidgeting in and out of the room and conversation, Cole adds, "It’s worked for 250 years. Why not?"
And as for the 25 songs in the can, they’re due in the Vice office mid October right after 3 weeks of Europe and the west coast. Vice will have it’s say and then prep it for a February ’08 release. ‘Ancient Egypt’ or not, it’s just in time for punk flowers to bloom.
"Can we do a double album", Ian asks rhetorically, "Yes we can!" Always grinning.
Cole’s all over the place. I always wonder what’s going on in that head of his. I’m probably looking too deep into it. As he’s having conversations, I can just see a thought bubble out of his head like Garfield, It would probably just be a picture of Bart Sanchez playing a Gameboy, or something. He is sort of the antagonist of the group, not really always up to something, more just opportune moments. Like recently setting off a fire extinguisher ruining the Atlanta Magazine photo shoot for the ‘We Fun’ documentary. But it serves the magazine right, their demographic is Sandy Springs soccer mom’s, what do they want from Cole Alexander?
He seems too me like a weird, mischievous little brother you have. Except he’s more insecure. He’s intelligent enough to put his insecurities on as an act, but I don’t buy that. He really is a sweet heart. You want to hug him every time you see him.
But not too close. I’m sure the Colombian Bart Sanchez in him might see an opportune moment.
And as far as the new record goes, "Is it better than ‘Good Bad’?", Ian smirks and gives a nod, "I ain’t washin’ dishes anytime soon".
Movin’ on up. -J. Winter