Black Lips play Montreal with Warish this month

Black Lips. Photo by Dani Pujalte

Black Lips and Warish join forces for a rock tour for the ages

An interview with the Montreal-bound bands from Atlanta, GA and Oceanside, CA, respectively.

If the Black Lips is the band you’d play when you’re dropping acid at a honky tonk, Warish is the soundtrack for dropping acid and starting a riot in the catacombs. 

Following the release of a highly anticipated country-influenced album, garage-rock icons the Black Lips are joined by heavy rock trio Warish as they bring a fuzzed-out country twang eargasm to Montreal later this month. 

The Black Lips’ Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart, which was released on Jan. 24, is in a league of its own compared with their previous work, mainly due to its significant Southern twang. But as vocalist Cole Alexander explains, that twang has deep roots in punk and garage rock.

Black Lips interview

“We were really trying to highlight that there’s a lot of country that people really don’t know about. There was a time when country was a lot more experimental and a lot more politically open minded,” says Alexander. “The fuzz guitar, which is so pivotal in punk rock music, was invented by country artists.”

The band’s ninth full-length album was recorded at the legendary Valentine Recording Studio in Laurel Canyon, which hosted the likes of Bing Crosby, the Beach Boys (recording with Charles Manson) and Kenny Rogers & the First Edition.

“It was like working in a period piece film. I feel like Scorsese could have easily, and should have, shot in there,” says Alexander. “It felt like there were ghosts there. The people who were doing these things that all lined up in the past, and what we were doing there — it was great.”

While this tour showcases the Black Lips’ experiments and homage to country roots, they’ll be joined on the road with a band that veers in the opposite direction: Warish.

Warish interview

Warish play Montreal with Black Lips this month

The trio from Oceanside, CA, led by professional skateboarder Riley Hawk, are ready to throw down some heavy distortion, fuzzed-out hard rock sounds sure to get any crowd rowdy. Bottom line: they kick ass.

Their first full-length album Down in Flames was released in September, less than a year after they formed. The band formed through Hawk and drummer Bruce McDonnell, who had previously played together in the band Petyr.

Inspired by early Nirvana, Misfits, the Spits and Masters of Reality-era Sabbath, Warish was intended to be heavy and simple while allowing Hawk — vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter — to express a more personal side to his music.

“[Warish] wasn’t even really supposed to be a band. It was more just me trying to get a couple of songs out of my head and record them,” says Hawk. “When we put it out, we hadn’t even really talked about playing or doing a show or having a bass player, but the response was sort of better than we were anticipating, and that’s when we figured, ‘Why not?’ Fast forward and here we are now.”

Having spent the majority of his adult years in cramped vans on skateboarding trips, Hawk is used to the touring lifestyle. But the nocturnal living that comes with performing wasn’t what he was used to.

“Skating is all in the daytime and by the end of the night, you’re dead and ready to get in bed and wake up at 8 a.m. and do it again. Touring band stuff, you’ve gotta try and survive the days so you can try and stay up as late as you can cause it’s gonna be a late night every show,” he says. “I’ve done trips where it’s been both and it’s kind of almost impossible to maintain that level of activity, otherwise your body just shuts down.”

It’s important to note the Black Lips’ long-standing connection to the skateboarding world. Their music has been featured in countless skateboarding videos, and more recently their song “Raw Meat” was the opening theme for the Thrasher/Vice series King of the Road.

Alexander recalls seeing their album artwork for Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art? on a Baker Skateboards pro model.

“It feels like a bit of a validation from that world, at least with the music,” he says. “I found music through [skateboarding]. There’s people giving mixtapes as skaters. Like when I was a kid, they made a dub of certain skater punk songs on cassette. So it could lead the way when you’re young and trying to find your identity.”

The Black Lips and Warish have forged their paths through parallel worlds, but they expect their contrasting styles of music to make their gigs truly gratifying live experiences. 

“It’s cool to see different sounds when you go to a show. Otherwise, if it’s all the same, it can get a little bit redundant and a bit boring,” says Hawk. “I have a humongous taste in music and I like the Black Lips and I like stuff that’s completely in the opposite direction.”

“I always invite a band that kicks ass. I’d rather have a band that challenges us and makes us want to perform better,” says Alexander.

When asked what to expect from a Warish show, Hawk immediately responds with “a punk rock show.” “As long as people are up and moving and the beats are up-beat and everyone’s having fun, that’s kind of the goal,” he says.

Not only do Black Lips have a new country sound, they’re touring with new “first pick of the draft” guitarist Jeff Clarke. You may know him as a member of Montreal’s Demon’s Claws. Alexander’s enthusiasm was impossible to contain.

“I’m getting excited just thinking about it, ’cause I love Montreal. That’s one of my favourite cities in North America,” he says. “I honestly haven’t been this excited for a record in a while. The fact that in this moment, right now, people are really open to the sounds we happen to be doing. If you’re into us, it’s really the time to see us. The odds of it being a more spectacular show are up tenfold.” ■

Black Lips and Warish perform with Hood Rats at Foufounes Electriques (87 Ste-Catherine E.) on Friday, Feb. 28, 8:30 p.m., $29.25.

See more about Black Lips here, and Warish here.

See more Cult MTL music coverage here.

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