The Black Lips at Outland Live

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The first time I saw The Black Lips was November 2005 at The Union, the dankest rock 'n' roll bar in all of Athens, Ohio. I don't think that show featured any public urination, but otherwise the Atlanta kids' bouncy, flower-power garage rock delivered all the youthful rancor I'd been promised.

Since then they've become underground rock royalty due to consistently infectious albums and a legendary string of debauched exploits. (Kicked out of India for lewdness? Check. Bar fight with the dude from Wavves? Check.) And though they can afford a bus, they're still touring in the same van they started with.

That's why it was surprising to hear they hired Mark Ronson, known for his work with Amy Winehouse, for their upcoming LP "Arabia Mountain." Ronson tinkered with instrument tones and brought in world-class players on saxophone, theremin and singing saw, but mostly he stayed out of The Black Lips' way.

"He was very cool about not wanting to drastically change anything and just let us do our thing because that's what we do best," singer-bassist Jared Swilley said in a recent phone interview.

Between sessions with Ronson and work with Deerhunter's Lockett Pundt, the Lips recorded more than 35 songs for "Arabia Mountain" before whittling it to 16. Swilley said even the outtakes are quality, so look for B-sides and bonus tracks galore surrounding the album's June 7 release, and expect lots of new material when the band plays Outland on Tuesday with Vivian Girls and Guinea Worms.

Next up: more of the band's trademark globetrotting. Trips to Iraq, Turkey and Syria are in the works, pending regime change.

"I always wanted to be like a war correspondent when I was a kid, but instead of going to college we went on tour and this is like the closest I'll ever get to being that," Swilley said. "And playing the guitar is funner than taking pictures."

Outland Live

7 p.m. Tuesday, April 19

95 E. Liberty St., Brewery District