Q & A 10/21/16: Black Lips’ Co-founder and Bassist Jared Swilley One-On-One Interview with Atlanta Music Guide


Photo By: Rod Hamdallah
The Black Lips headlined the legendary Masquerade October 21st, playing not only to their diehard older fan base, but to a good mixture of young folk under 21! I’m confident in saying, that performance was unlike any show I’ve seen lately. Atlanta’s beloved sons Black Lips’ performance, transported us back to  a time when Atlanta’s indie scene thrived musically, between the years 99-12. Atlanta would bare witness to an amazing, emerging indie scene and the local venues that hosted them.

  Returning after so many years to the Masquerade didn’t lessen the venue’s lingering cologne that hauntingly filled every crevice and crack of that place, especially as you passed through the threshold separating Purgatory from Hell. You know?! That overwhelmingly repugnant smell of sweat, urine, cigarettes, and beer soaked wood, that would occasionally attack your senses in a fantastically nauseating way!  Well,  as the crowd began to to settle in, I followed suite with my PBR in hand to witness, the always awesome Rod Hamdallah’s soul stirring impromptu performance; alongside friends and fellow musicians Jared and Jonah Swilley. These guys, including band member John Kang,  make up the 4 piece ensemble Gartrells. I dare say, their sound is lo-fi Atlanta vanguard grit&guts needed to resuscitate the local music scene again. On this very evening, I was fortunate enough to have a light-hearted, yet intellectually stimulating interview with Black Lips’ co-founder and bassist, the always dapper Mr. Jared Swilley, for Atlanta Music Guides’ weekly concert blog. Jared, while gearing up to perform generously sat down to converse on what to expect from their next record, playing the Masquerade and the nausea inducing hysteria surrounding this year’s election. 

Jared and I would enter the backstage artist lounge to conduct the interview with our PBR’s in hand. As I settled in, Jared then asked if he could light a cigarette? I of course jokingly obliged. We soon became comfortable enough for the interview to began. This should definitely tickle your neurons!

Jasmine B: Question 1: I guess I’ll start it off with the Appreciation Night. What was the concept? Why do it?

JS: Ah, there’s no concept at all, um we actually never played it…we played here once. I think it was like the year 2000, um but they just asked us to play here because it was their “last night in town” I guess? But which…can I be real?

JB: (laughing) Yeah, go ahead.

JS: Their last show was supposed to be, my girlfriend [Meredith aka Minnie] plays in the Coathangers, their [Masquerade] last show was last year when they [Coathangers] did that festival [Wrecking Ball]. So, it’s like how many “last nights” do you have?

JB: No, that’s the same with Smith’s Olde Bar. It’s kinda like it’s an on-going thing.

JS: I kinda don’t like that concept. That’s like I always hate…to um, I’m gonna throw my boys, like under the wagon right now.

JB:  Ok

JS: But like Deerhunter, like sometimes they’ll have like ah six month “hiatus?” It’s not a “hiatus,” they’re just, you know life is busy. They announce to the world like, “we’re going on a hiatus!” That’s so dramatic. Why would you do that? Even if we ever broke up we wouldn’t say anything about it. We’ve had a lot of members leave, we don’t say anything about it. I guess I hate drama.

Jasmine B: Question 2: Well what are you doing now? Like Are you guys doing anything, because it’s been 2 years since Underneath the Rainbow?

JS: Yeah, we have a brand new lineup, we have a female in the band. We’re a 5 piece. The most unfashionable band…(pauses), it’s very unfashionable, a band of 4 white guys that are all heterosexual. It is these days, I think so, in the arts world. Now we have Zumi (plays sax) in the band and she’s awesome. She’s been with us for a while. But we have a new lineup change, we have a record that’s about to come out. Ah, next week is our last session, we’re doing it with Sean Lennon.

JB: Oh! Oh my gosh! Really?!

JS: Yoko Ono is on the record.

JB: You guys are crazy! How did that happen? Who even thought of that concept?

JS: Being in a band you just meet people. Playing shows and….

JB: But yeah, Sean Lennon and Black Lips?

JS: It was just…I don’t know how that really happened, you just meet people. Oh! Cause we were…we did a record with Mark Ronson and Mark and Sean were best friends growing up and Sean came and played “Theremin” on our Arabia Mountain record, and then we just see him out all the time, he was building a studio in his house….

(Interruption) Man in background giving Jared a time check

JB: Oh, it’s time?

JS: (Answering the guy at the door) Yeah, I’m going to go there in a second.

(Guy at door) You be down in a second?

JS: Yeah

JB: (door closes) I don’t want to hold you.

JS: But ah, he was like yeah why don’t you come test my new studio. Oh! Actually we met, we all played with his band The Goastt and Fat White Family from England and us all together in Austin, and then we all became friends. One of the guys from Fat White Family is working on our record with Sean. That was like a big meeting of, like when you meet “like minded” people, that you’re like “ah! I wanna do stuff with you, you seem….(pauses)

JB: Yeah! Yeah! I get ya, I feel ya! So, is it [new album] going to be analog? Is it [new album] digital? Are you guys going to go back to your roots?

JS: No, it’s both. This one is actually like, I guess less poppy, a little weirder.

JB: Ok, I like weird. That’s good, yeah!

JS: Yeah, there’s no like straight up pop hits. It’s pretty dark…

JB: Good!

JS: But fun. Like “fun dark,” we always do “fun darkness.”

JB: Question 3: So, is it anything? Are you going through stuff in your life?

JS: Well everyone always is. Everyone is, all the time. Like one of my favorite songs, I wrote with one of the guys from Fat White Family, was about Wayne Williams. He was the Atlanta’s only serial killer.

JB: (laughing) Ok, interesting?! I’m from New York so…

JS: How old are you?

JB: I’m 30

JS: Ok, we’re the same age. So, when we were kids, ah, in Atlanta there was this guy Wayne Williams. He did not commit 33 murders but he committed at least 2 and the police were so lazy they pinned all of them on him. So for 2 summers, if you were a young black kid you would not want to go outside. Because, no, it was all black kids, young black kids that got murdered, all under 12. There’s this guy Wayne Williams and ah, he did at least 2 for sure….but he didn’t do all of them.

JB: Ok

JS: And it was…(pauses), we like to write about, like weird Atlanta stories. There’s a lot of elements to it that are weird…and I hate…it’s a very…it’s the kind of story you have to be very eloquent about because….Atlanta was a fucked up time…in 1980…that guy was a fucked up guy, everything surrounding the case was a fucked up thing. There’s allegations the KKK might have been involved. He! Actually fucked himself over cause he did this interview on CNN, where he claimed he was a “CIA Operative,” which I get, I don’t, I don’t know much legally is, but that’s really bad if you’re trying to get a re-trial.

JB: Yeah! Yeah!

JS: Oh yeah, you just blew it!

JS: Wayne Williams was a huge chapter in Atlanta history. But we also, to make it a little lighthearted, we have a song about killing the Wolfman Jack.

JB: OK, who’s that?

(Rod in background) Who’s the Wolfman?

JS: Did you grow up in ah…you didn’t.

JB: (laughing) No

JS: Wolfman, if you grew up in Atlanta there’s these like really budget furniture commercial-commercials from Gainesville, Gallery of Furniture. It’s like “Hey! Ask for The Wolfman!” And his daughter would be like, “No! Ask for Donna!” And they just did these really budget “redneck” commercials forever and everyone that grew up in Atlanta, or Alabama too, knew them. And so we…I made up my own story about how, you have to “ask for Donna, because otherwise The Wolfmans’ gonna kill her…” 

JB: (laughing)

JS: And I posited that ah, Donna actually killed her father…he’s dead now but he’s the Wolfman. But if you see there furniture store it says “Ask for the Wolfman,” I thought that was a cool name for a song. So, we just made up a story that said “Please, ask for the Wolfman, otherwise he’s going to kill his daughter.” (pauses)

JB: (laughing) No, you’re just really dark, really sick! A little bit, a little sociopathic, but it’s nice!

JB: Question 4: I think “western media” will use that [sports] as a distraction [from real issues]. Where do you get your news?

JS: We have degenerated into a place I don’t wanna be at.

JS: This election has me questioning my life everyday that I wake up. Every morning I just don’t know what to even think.

JB: No, it’s bad!

JS: It’s messing with my brain.

JB: I was old enough to vote for the Gore/Bush election, so for me like, yeah this is very important and it’s sad

JS: You know what’s sad? It’s not important. It doesn’t matter who you vote for. That’s what’s sad, that’s what really bums me out. I think our best hope is that Americans are such good people,(in a whisper) I think we can all, most of us for the most part..and I hate how the media try’s to tell us everyone’s like mean and sad all the time. My daily interactions are with pretty good people and with people that I find agreeable and, people that I disagree with politically, people that have nothing to do with me or my life at all, when I go outside my door, most people are pretty good. That gives me hope.

JS: I’m a libertarian

JB: Ok, ok fair enough.

JS: I like the idea that everyone should be able to do, whatever they want to do, if they’re not hurting anyone else. That’s basically it.

JB: Ok, I agree

JS: I don’t like rules, I’ve always hated rules. I grew up as an anarchist and a punk rocker when I was a teenager and now that I pay bills I’m like “well, I guess I’m a libertarian.”

JB: (laughing) But yeah, you evolved, I get it.

JS: I don’t like the government, I don’t like cops, I know we need them unfortunately, ah, do whatever you want to do as long as you’re not fucking with someone else’s shit.


JS: I think that should be a good way for people to live.

JB: Question 5: Are you thinking of collaborating with DIY venues like Punk Black? Like the Cleaners, um the Sewing Room, places like that?

JS: Well we-we haven’t really been part of the local scene for so long. I’m the only one in the Black Lips that lives in Atlanta anymore

JB: Oh, gosh. Really?

JS: Well Cole kinda lives here, but he’s mostly in L.A. with Zumi. Oakley lives Upstate New York and Jack lives in South Carolina. But I don’t even know about those places, cause well…I don’t get invited to them.

JB: Awww Jared

JS: Yeah but I never heard of them but…actually one of…can I be frank?

JB: Uh huh

JS: I fucking hate this place.

JB: (laughing)

JS: We never wanted to play here ever and I was vocal about not wanting to play this show.

JB: Really? Ok

JS: The last time I went here was when I was 15 and they called the police and my parents had to come bail me out.

JB: (laughing) Ok Jared, Thank you!

JS: This is the worst club in Atlanta.

As Jared, Rod and I walked out of the lounge, I was still discussing with Jared how crazy Atlanta was during 80’s-90’s. We discussed the Skinhead plague of the 80’s and 90’s and how they hated the Black Lips. Jared described an encounter while at the Masquerade alone, he was approached by some Skinheads and had his cheekbone broken. I totally respect Jared’s view on the Masquerade, not for nothing but I think the reader would come to the same conclusion if you had the same experiences. Love it or hate it, pioneers like Masquerade, Cleaners and Thunderbox Rehearsal Studios, just to name few, are but sad representations of a stifling cultural shift encapsulating our beloved city. When viewing the current state of Atlanta’s counter-culture, we may be witnessing the ending of an era. An era when local musicians could affordably share recording/practicing spaces and stages with nationally known bands, where they could collaborate and expand ideas to reach new audiences; is now becoming a fading memory. I would be one to admit that, Atlanta’s counter-culture seems to be “under attack?” Most would associate this widespread pandemic under the moniker “eat/work/play developing.”  To keep the fire alive I love sharing and experiencing new artist suggestions! I will use this as a platform to help expose a lot of well deserved local and national that come to our “peachy” city. This is just a short list of shows that you should definitely see, 2 being local bands (Dot.s & Gartrells). Comment if you want to spread the word about a rad local show! Go out and show these bands some Georgia love!


I love concerts so! Check these out!

  • Fidlar November 7th @The Masquerade (new location)
  • Dot.s November 4th @529 Bar
  • The Gartrells November 18th @The Earl
  • Muuy Biien w/ Bambara November 5th @Drunken Unicorn


Until next time kids! Keep your headphones on!


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