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Black Lips' Jared Swilley talks growing up in Atlanta, sold-out Variety show

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Black Lips bassist Jared Swilley remembers the band’s first show, at the now-defunct 513 Club on Edgewood, like it was yesterday. He had has mom drop him off a block away because he didn’t want the spot’s punk clientele to see him getting dropped off by his mother.

“It’s so different when you look at Edgewood now compared to how it was,” Swilley says. “It was terrifying. As a 15 year old, it was really scary.”

Years later, Swilley and his bandmates – lead vocalist Cole Alexander, drummer Joe Bradley and guitarist Ian Saint Pe Brown – have certainly moved on up. The group is headlining, along with fellow Georgians and musical bretheren Deerhunter, a sold-out show at Variety Playhouse March 7. Proceeds from the show will go toward helping to pay for the burial of , Swilley’s musical mentor and ‘60s soul stalwart James “The Mighty Hannibal” Shaw, who died on Jan. 30.

Plus, their seventh studio album, “Underneath the Rainbow,” their first since 2011’s “Arabia Mountain,” and produced by Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, is due out March 18.

The self-described “flower punk” band has deep roots in Atlanta – they still consider the city their home base while on break from their extensive touring schedule, which included several stops in the Middle East in 2012, documented in the 2013 Vice Records film, “Kids Like You & Me.”

Swilley spoke from his home in Cabbagetown about his favorite Atlanta spots, what it’s like to play for a hometown crowd and sneaking into Music Midtown.


How does playing in your hometown compare to shows in other places?

Our guest list is a lot bigger – our family and friends are all there. It’s nice, because Atlanta’s a huge city, but at the same time, it seems like a small town. We know a good chunk of the people there—it feels like home. We're own our turf -- we're more comfortable here.

What’s your favorite memory of growing up in Atlanta?

Our dad was big on exposing us to history. I remember going to the King Center, the Atlanta History Center, Stone Mountain and Candler Park, where he grew up.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re actually in town?

Sit on my porch and hang out with my friends. If I’ve been overseas for awhile, I’ll get BBQ and soul food. Carver’s was my favorite place but it closed, so now it’s Daddy D’z BBQ.

Bradford Cox (lead singer of Deerhunter, the Georgia band the Black Lips are playing with on tour) shows up at a lot of your shows, and you’ve played with Deerhunter. What makes your bond unique?

Deehunter started in (our) basements. They were God awful at first, and then almost out of nowhere, they blew up real fast. We came of age together. Nothing’s changed at all –we’re all like brothers.

What are you favorite places to get a beer and some food in town?

97 Estoria, because it’s in my neighborhood, and Argosy. Mary Mac’s is decent. When I was growing up, that’s where we went after church, so it’s more nostalgic for me. Kimball House has a great happy hour.

Any promising Atlanta bands that you have your eye on?

I’m so out of the loop with traveling and not being here – the hip hop scene seems like there’s more going on with that. Everything comes in waves –maybe because I’m older now, I don’t hear about stuff. There is one band, Shantih Shantih, they’re doo wop-y shoe gaze. 

You guys played Music Midtown in September. What was it like playing to such a big hometown crowd, especially in the pouring rain?

It was really cool and surreal. Looking out at the crowd, we were surprised to see so many people.  We actually wanted to sneak in like when we were younger, hop the fence, but our manager wouldn’t let us. The year Outkast played and it got rained out, we grabbed ice off an ice truck and just walked in. People assumed we worked there.

What’s your favorite venue to play in Atlanta?

I like playing The Earl, the people really nice. The Variety Playhouse is cool, too, if you’re able to fill it up.

What are your hopes for Friday’s show?

I just hope everyone has a really, really great time. I hope a couple of people get engaged or meet their future loved ones for the first time.

A retro rainbow Atlanta logo is featured on the back of your new album. Why is it important to you to shout out Atlanta so prominently?

The place you’re from is really special. Atlanta nurtured us and raised us. I’ve been to most cities in the world, and Atlanta’s really the best. It has a special history.


Concert preview

The Black Lips and Deerhunter with The Coathangers. Sold out. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta.

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