Taking a meditative stroll with The Black Lips

Waking meditation with the lost boys. There’s no Plan B!

Taking a meditative stroll with The Black Lips

By Phil Bridges

Meditative strolls might not be the first thing that pops in when you think of garage rockers The Black Lips. However, chatting with bassist Jared Swilley above Manchester’s Ritz on a cold Tuesday evening, we enter a world of wellbeing and Stand-By-Me-esque childhood tales. The amiable 32-year-old Atlanta native is sweaty and seated at the top of a stairwell, following a raucous set soundtracking the crowd’s sprung floor aided flailing. His band are in the midst of a mini UK tour and Jared’s open character makes for a good chat.

What are you working on at the moment?

We’re working on a country record, we love country music, and our style is kind of rooted in country. I hate modern country now and we kind of want to bring it back, like, David Allen Coe, Charley Feathers, Charley Pride. I mean, obviously Hank Williams, that kind of stuff, like just really traditional.

What kind of things are you into at the moment, like film or TV, are you watching anything at the moment?

I don’t watch TV at all really. I mean, I watch war documentaries. I watch YouTube and find Civil War or World War Two documentaries and military history. But right now I’m reading, Dr Allen Carr’s guide on helping to quit smoking. I hate smoking but I’m addicted. I have friends who have read that, even chain smokers, they’ve read that and have just quit. I’m about halfway through and I’ve already cut down a bit. What has been your biggest life challenge and what did you do to overcome it? I’m always going through that. I dunno, I guess one of my biggest was being unsure of if I was gonna do this forever. Growing up; teachers, parents, everyone said like, “Oh you can’t do that, that’s not a serious thing.” But we were so stubborn, me and Cole. We got kicked out of school and we were like, “Well let’s just fucking do it, why not?” And we did and it worked.

What did you do to help get rid of the doubt and to get where you wanted to be?

We kind of did like a blood pact. We decided, there’s no plan B, this is what we’re doing. We just went for it.

And I think you can only do that when you’re a certain age. Like I wouldn’t do that now, I’m in my thirties. But at seventeen it was like, well all of my other friends work in construction, doing landscaping or at a diner. We said, “No, let’s just go full on and do it!” And at that age, it felt like it didn’t matter if we were eating junk and living in a van.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Getting breakfast, like a full English. Seeing my family. Yeah actually, seeing my family would be perfect. And getting three meals. Breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and dinner like a Pauper.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

My family. I’m the oldest of nine siblings. And my Dad’s gay now so I have, three Dads, one Mom, one Stepmom that I still see all the time. We have a really strange family; a really blended family. And all my grandparents are still alive. So my youngest brother is in a bunch of successful bands, he’s a record producer. My sister and myself have a clothing and jewellery shop in Atlanta. My other brother is a preacher. I’m the only male in my family who’s not a preacher, we’re all preachers. I’m not super religious. But that’s what I’m thankful for every day, every morning, I am thankful that I have a family because I have a lot of friends who don’t have any family like, their parents have died and I couldn’t imagine feeling lonelier. My family’s so big we’ve kind of taken them in. At the end of the day, when all else fails, your family’s got your back, no matter what.

What three songs lift your spirits?

Dead Moon. I love listening to Dead Moon. They inspire me more than anyone. If I had to pick a song, it’d be Dead Moon Night. 54-46 Was My Number by Toots and The Maytals. And then, it’d have to be like a hardcore song. I like White Punks On Hope by Crass that one kicks ass. But my, like, “cup of Joe” in the morning, is actually watching funny videos. There’s this blooper reel of Orson Wells, the guy that did Citizen Kane. He’s doing a wine commercial in the 70s and it’s the out-takes and he was so drunk that he couldn’t get through his lines. And we watch that video before we play shows sometimes cos he’s like, (adopts a very good British accent) “Action please, action Orson” “Just do anything?” And Orson says, “Just do anything?” And that’s what we always say to each other like, “hey, just do anything?” It’s just hilarious.

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

Like my dad’s whole philosophy is ‘living in the now’. Be mindful, one step at a time, get over the little things. Life’s short and can be rough and tough, but you know, it’s not all that bad. Usually I’m just like, I choose to let this – I’m making this problem bigger than it actually is. You have to just confront it and be like, “I’m not going to let this beat me”.

Do you have anything that you do to help battle a bad period?

It’s different every time. I always feel like exercise helps. I play on a baseball team and I skateboard. That helps. Actually, I do this one thing, it’s called walking meditation, where you walk when you’re like getting things done, shopping or whatever, and you look at things like trees and flowers and think, I appreciate that. I appreciate why that’s here and that it exists. So you look for the good things. Like I can’t meditate cos I have really bad tinnitus. So when it’s quiet, it’s just like too loud. So just kind of appreciating things that are around you. Smiling, laughing, doing something nice for someone, or even being like, y’know what I’m thankful for today. And when you do feel sad, it’s kind of a good thing, because how would you know what happy was if you didn’t know what sad was. Just trying to stay positive y’know.

Have you got any childhood memories that you could share?

Oh, my childhood was amazing. We lived kind of in the city but we had like a forest and we built tree-houses. We were insane, we were kind of like the lost boys. And we just ran around with spears. Back then there was no health and safety stuff, like in the 80s and 90s we carried BB guns. I mean, it was very dangerous and I was always hurt. All of my legs was just tattoos of scabs and cuts. Falling out of trees, getting cuts from rusty nails. But it was fun! I had a very typical American upbringing. Like I’d say boys will be boys but there were a lot of girls in our gang too. It was very equal like the girls were just as rough as the boys. I played on a baseball team, went swimming all the time, had rope swings. It was very dangerous but no one got hurt that bad… Except for Cliff Berryman who lived across the street from me. He got shot in the hand by a BB, and it was stuck and you could see it. So for years he would never show his parents the inside of his hand because they’d take away our BB guns.

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