The rednecks of rock

The 1972 film classic Deliverance has never been much of a tourism advert for Georgia but Atlanta garage rockers Black Lips have no issues delving into their home State's reputation for rednecks and moonshine.

Boys in the Wood, the lead single for the band's seventh album Under the Rainbow, is accompanied by a video featuring a colourful cast of weirdoes getting up to no good in the forests of Georgia.

"It's pretty common," drummer Joe Bradley explains during a chat at this month's South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. "If you're a redneck and you live out in the country you're going to do bad stuff in the woods and that's the inspiration for that song. These songs are all based in truth.

"There are members of our collective families that are like that," bassist Jared Swilley chimes in, causing the entire band to chuckle knowingly.

As each offer examples - a grandmother who smokes strong cigarettes while hooked up to a ventilator, cousins who share a trailer in the forest - my eyes scan the hotel lobby for any freaky kids plucking banjos.

While Black Lips garnered attention for their bad behaviour on-stage (vomiting, nudity, chickens) as much as their early albums, they are a band boasting their best album yet after 15 years in the business.

Underneath the Rainbow saw the foursome team with Dap-Kings music director Thomas Brenneck in New York before combining with the Black Keys' Patrick Carney in the famed Blackbird Studio in Nashville.

Baby-faced singer/guitarist Cole Alexander says working with that dream team was another big step up after recording 2011 album Arabia Mountain with uber-producer Mark Ronson.

All four members of Black Lips contribute songs, so it was handy to have someone outside the band help pick the wheat from the chaff.

"I look at it like the music equivalent of having a football coach," Swilley says. "You can have the '95 Dallas Cowboys, you're all good individual players but if you have them running the season without a coach, they wouldn't make the Super Bowl."

Black Lips took recording seriously, pulling long hours and avoiding distractions.

"We wouldn't even take lunch breaks, we would order food in," Swilley explains. "In New York, we never left the studio, except to go to the hotel to sleep."

While they hail from the south, Black Lips balk at being described as Southern rock. They claim all rock can be described as Southern - that's where it came from.

"The New York Dolls listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd a lot," says sunglass-wearing guitarist Ian Saint Pe, who joined the band in 2004 and at 36 is half a decade older than his mates.

For all their lyrical references to Georgia, Black Lips are a surprisingly international band.

In 2012 they completed a two-month tour of the Middle East, playing Egypt, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Cyprus. The highlight was a last-minute gig at a community centre in Iraq after their pre-arranged show was pulled by the Ministry of Culture, who'd spied some unsavoury Black Lips antics via YouTube.

"It was kind of cool, because for those kids it was the first punk or rock show they had ever seen," Swilley says of the show arranged by a British teacher. "They had nothing to base it on. They were trying to dance around but you could tell they didn't really know how to mosh."

'In New

York, we never left the studio, except to go to the hotel to sleep.'


The West Australian

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