SXSW: The Black Lips Interview

This year, WRCT had the chance to sit down with The Black Lips for a short interview. Check it out below and find more info on the band at their website: black-lips.com.

How many times have you been to SXSW? How are you liking being here this year and is it different from other years that you’ve been here?

We’ve been here five or six times, probably. Maybe more. But I think around five or six. We do it about every other year. In 2007, The New York Times called us the hardest-working band at SXSW. We’re gonna play two shows today, two tomorrow, and then we’re out. Unfortunately we don’t have anything new to promote, but we’re always here to promote ourselves (laughs).

I understand that your most recent album release, Arabia Mountain, is the first album where you’ve collaborated with a producer. Has this changed the sound at all? Have you been happy with the result and would you continue to collaborate on future releases?

I’d say we’re all very happy with the results. I think Mark Ronson did a really great job producing. We probably will entertain the idea of working with producers in the future since it’s always good to get an outside perspective. It hasn’t really changed our sound, it just kind of put a little twist on it.

I know you also collaborated recently with Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox on the Ghetto Cross project. Could you talk more about it? Where do you think it will go?

Honestly we’ve been playing for five years and we’ve only put out, like, two songs on the internet so it’s really just been for fun. Maybe one day in the future we’ll put out a commercial release or something.

My personal favorite album of yours is Good Bad Not Evil – “Bad Kids” has been my ringtone since high school and, in my mind, an epitome of your music. It seems like your sound has departed from raw, lo-fi punk rock to a more polished and pop-y sound in your latest album. Can you characterize the way your sound has changed?

I wouldn’t actually say that it’s changed all that much – even if you go back to our first album, you’ll see pop songs, punk songs, country songs, a whole variety. Maybe we’ve gotten better. Maybe there were a bit more pop songs on Arabia Mountain than on Good Bad Not Evil. But overall I don’t think it’s changed all that much. Outside of the fact that it’s probably gotten tighter. We’ve been able to play our instruments better over the years (laughs). I don’t think we’ve ever made a conscious decision to do anything musically. We’ve never had a band meeting before and decided to sound a certain way or go in a certain direction. Song writing’s tough, so whatever song pops in there you want to work your hardest to make it good.

Does being from a southern state have an impact on your style? Songs like “Fad” from your first album seem to have some definite country influences.

Absolutely. Yeah, I think definitely being a Southern band kind of defines us, in a sense. Not completely, but that’s a big chunk of it. All modern music or pop music comes from the South, so, in a way, everyone’s influenced by it. Country, jazz, rock and roll, they all find their roots here in the South. And also just being around people talking with a Southern accent is nice. It’s tonal, and maybe the consonants aren’t all there, but the way people pronounce stuff – it’s very pleasant to the ear. I think growing up in a conservative culture also creates something else. It’s real easy to be bad (laughs). Kind of made you want to be.

Who do you plan on seeing while you’re here at the festival?

I want to see my friends The Spits. We saw Natural Child last night, they’re really good. They’re from Nashville. I figure making plans here is kind of pointless so I’ll just find myself seeing something, I’m not gonna try and make any arrangements because it’s too much of a letdown if you can’t make it.

How does touring in the U.S. compare to touring elsewhere? I know you’ve toured in the Middle East and Europe extensively in the past.

Europe isn’t that much different than the United States, there’s kind of a universal appeal. Maybe there’s more hospitality in Europe. Built into your agreement is definitely dinner and definitely a place to stay. In the U.S., the music market is a lot more difficult. You kind of have to fend for yourself. The main differences are amenities, I’d say. Touring in the U.S. is much more comfortable because everything is open 24 hours since it’s such a convenience culture. In Europe, you can forget about eating after 11 or doing laundry or doing anything on Sunday. America and Australia and especially Japan are more set up for touring.

Is there anything you’d like to add and let your fans know?

As a band, we’re strong enough for a man but definitely pH balanced for a woman. We’re working on a new record too, we’re kind of here trying to build up our presence. Dave Groll expressed some interest in coming to hear some of our new stuff so we’re gonna see what he thinks. And our Middle East tour documentary is almost finished, hopefully we’ll be able to see it soon. It should be good, it’s supposed to premiere about a week and a half from now. And our new album should hopefully be done by the Fall. We’ve been doing a lot of pre-production…like actually writing the songs before we get to the studio (laughs). So hopefully it’ll be good. Actually, there’s no hopefully. It will be.

Interview by Chloe Lula.


SXSW: Red Bull Party

At 3 a.m. in Pittsburgh, it’s tough to find something to do. When you’re hyped up after an awesome show, it’s usually a given that you will either find yourself drinking at your kitchen table or, more often, asleep on the couch. This was not the case at SXSW. On the night of March 14th, I discovered the Red Bull After-party, a post-midnight oasis at the end of a downtown alleyway.

Though the festivities occurred every night last week, I only discovered it at the close of the Fool’s Gold record label showcase at Emo’s (featuring artists such as Classixx, Oliver, and A-Trak). The open-air space was well-suited to the 70 degree Austin evening, featuring a bar adorned with Christmas lights (and free Red Bull), candlelit outdoor fire pits, and a number of silver trailers renovated to resemble small lounges. My friends and I immediately ventured towards the trailers, sitting atop plush red pillows and surrounding ourselves in richly-colored curtains. In addition to the free Red Bull and the welcoming ambiance, the people were generally friendly and social. The laid-back tenor of the gathering was the perfect chill out after a night of concert-going, and I left at 5:30 a.m. with a phone full of new numbers and a head full of caffeine.

My point is this: while there were certainly a plethora of amazing concerts to see at the festival, this party may have been one of the best functions that I attended all week. So, if you are fortunate enough to take part next year, don’t forget to consider some of the more interesting – and less obvious – events that will be right under your nose.

Post by Chloe Lula.


SXSW: Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus – a.k.a. Steven Ellison – has been at the forefront of the electronic music scene for nearly a decade; his recent March 12 show at the Amoa Arthouse on Tuesday was one of my most anticipated performances and an unmistakable representation of his unique musical intersection of hip-hop, trip-hop, jazz, blues, and psychadelia. The performance, though true to Ellison’s unique style, was a further departure from his hip-hop roots, instead adopting more jazz sensibilities and heavy instrumentation. Fly Lo founded Brainfeeder, an L.A.-based record label that focuses on electronic music and has signed artists such as Daedelus, Thundercat, Martyn, and Mr. Oizo (you can see a complete list of their producers here: http://www.brainfeedersite.com/); Tuesday’s showcase featured three openers from the label that I am personally unfamiliar with: B. Lewis, Teebs, and Tokimonsta.

Teebs (the stage name of Mtendere Mandowa) played a set that involved recording, layering, and altering soundscapes built on harps, shakers, and drum taps. The shrouded, dewy beats perfectly complemented Amoa’s artspace, the filters and clipped loops like the smudged watercolor paintings on the surrounding walls. In totality, his set was a pleasant deviation from the more upbeat DJs that followed him. His album Collections 01 is a good starting point for new listeners; not too daydreamy, it is structured, confident, and accessible.

Tokimonsta (Jennifer Lee) is another L.A. native and Brainfeeder producer known for her indie electronic, R&B, and dance music. Her music selection was notably more upbeat than Teebs,’ incorporating aspects of experimental and trap-inspired tropes. Lee is no newcomer to the world of experimental electronica and has enjoyed limited overseas exposure – she toured the UK back in 2009, and has released through London-based label Ramp Recordings. Her album Creature Dreams is the latest evolution of an artist steadily developing a very singular voice; indeed, Lee seemed to appear at almost every other electronic showcase that I went to over the course of the week. While I wasn’t as inspired by her performance at AM Only on Friday, her set was a perfect transition between Teebs and Fly Lo. Her ability to navigate organically between electronic subgenres was a highlight of the night, and I recommend checking out more of her beats here: https://soundcloud.com/tokimonsta.

Finally, Fly Lo: Flanked by sheer monitors, the artist decided to experiment with the idea of his presence being just one part of the spectacle by projecting trippy images onto overlapping screens. The next hour and a half was filled with transitions and layer blending that would enthrall any EDM fan, and I suspect that most individuals in the audience will remember his choice of curative audio and choice samples (including Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” and his own “Astral Plane”). The driving force of psychedelic emotion that Ellison evoked in his performance was largely due to his sample choice and manipulation. Like Amon Tobin, Fly Lo is capable of re-contextualizing samples in creative and distinctive ways, often producing entirely new instrumentals by rearranging existing musical parts. “All the Secrets” from Until the Quiet Comes, for example, does an excellent job of subtly altering piano melodies to bring about more dream-like, abstract themes that are echoed in Thundercat’s vocals in “DMT Song” (with a nod to the psychedelic drug of the same name). Though numerous overlapping patterns saturate his songs, he has a penchant for using a number of samples and vocals without cluttering his arrangements.

Graceful, humble, and enthused, Flying Lotus finished his set in a way that many did not expect: calmly. There was no final drop, no loud explosions of confetti or laser lights, and no gratuitous into-the-mic shouting matches. If anyone understands the flow and energy of a show, it was he, and he knew that we had just danced ourselves into exhaustion for two hours. Lulling us back into a relaxed state (as he is known for with his Adult Swim produced beats and bumps), Ellison left the stage to the chants of “One more song!” and faded into the background – letting the audience reflect back on what they had just experienced.

Tuesday’s Brainfeeder showcase was by far one of the best that I saw at SXSW. For any who have the opportunity to see any of these artists live, I would not pass up the opportunity: Brainfeeder has consistently released flawless and well-produced albums, and I look forward to delving deeper into their cache of artists and DJs.

Post by Chloe Lula.


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