Jared Swilley of the Black Lips Talks Churchill's and Recording Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart

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The Black Lips
Photo by Dani Pujalte
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Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart is an appropriate title for a record released at the beginning of 2020. While the Senate commences the impeachment trial the U.S. president, 17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg reminds world leaders at the World Economic Forum that “our house is still on fire,” and new fears stir around a contagious pneumonia-like virus. The truth is that the world has always been on fire; what's setting the tone for the day is that we're acutely aware of it all.

For all of their outrageous stage antics and penchant for goofiness, longtime Atlanta rockers the Black Lips are not alone in feeling trapped in a world they never made: hence, the reason for naming their newest album Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart. Jared Swilley, the band's singer and cofounder, discussed the resonance of the record's title during a recent phone conversation with New Times.

“I don’t think that the world is actually falling apart; I just thought that it sounded good," he divulges. "But actually, the world is always falling apart. Someone living in the 1940s could have said that. It’s up to interpretation. I don’t want to put it in a specific thing, but everyone can feel like that sometimes.”

That same level of laid-back irony has been a signature narrative of the band through the years. The Black Lips' previous album — which also boasted a cheeky name, Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art — took the group, along with the psychedelic Texas rock act the Black Angels, to South Florida in April 2018. The bands played to a packed house at Revolution Live, where the Black Lips stood out for their signature country-grunge-infused rock.

“We’ve been in Miami a lot over the years. We used to play a lot in this place called Churchill’s; we had a lot of really crazy times there. I’m sure many of you can relate," he says before adding the band is good friends with Miami's Jacuzzi Boys.

It's appropriate, then, that Danny Kokomo of Jacuzzi Boys will join the Black Lips for their gig celebrating the release of Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart this Friday, January 24, at the Ground. The performance, organized by local promoter Heroes Live Entertainment, will also include support from Plastic Pinks and Palomino Blond.

The new album marks something of a change of pace for the group's sound, with a heavier lean into country-indebted sounds than anything on their previous releases. "We’ve made a lot of garage rock and punk rock records and we’ve always talked about doing a more country record and it just seemed like the right time; it’s easy for us to write something like that and it’s fun,” shares Swilley. Even as their sound has changed, so too has the band's composition: they've been through a number of lineup alterations, which the singers says has helped to keep the Black Lips project interesting over the years.

“It keeps it fresh. We definitely have the lineup we needed for this one. We have a really good team right now,” he says.

Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart was recorded at the historic Valentine Recording Studios in California, a place that witnessed the birth of albums by the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa, Bing Crosby, and many others before it shuttered in 1979.

“It’s a beautiful building that has been frozen in time. When you walk in there, it's like walking into the 1960s," Swilley says. "It’s a very beautiful and preserved place. I don’t like modern things pretty much, and the nice thing is that everything is pretty old there. Mr. Valentine — the guy who owned it — died, and they just locked the doors for 40 years. A friend of ours found out about it and contacted the family, and they opened it. Everything was left untouched.” The Black Lips produced the new record with the help of Nic Jodoin, who recorded the songs directly on tape. The result is an unrepentantly dirty 12-track banger. Luckily for Miamians, they'll be able to catch it live sooner rather than later, and the show at the Ground will even offer a special vinyl collector's edition for sale.

Asked about his expectations for the album, Swilley opens up: “Well, I hope one day we get to play the Super Bowl and sell a million records," he says with a laugh. "I always have very high expectations, but I don’t get too bummed out if we don’t reach those. I would like to be the number one selling artist in the world. It probably won’t happen, but you can always dream.”

The Black Lips. With Plastic Pinks, Palomino Blond, and Danny Kokomo of Jacuzzi Boys (DJ set). 7 p.m. Friday, January 24, at the Ground, 34 NE 11th St., 305-375-0001; thegroundmiami.com. Tickets cost $18 to $20 via eventbrite.com.

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