The Black Angels are Stephanie Bailey (drums, percussion, Philicorda), Christian Bland (guitar, Mellotron, bass, vocals, Vox Continental), Jake Garcia (guitar, bass, vocals), Kyle Hunt (bass, guitar, organ, Moog, Rheem MK VII) and Alex Maas (lead vocals, bass, harmonium)
“If you’re going to sing something, it might as well be something important,” reflects The Black Angels’, Alex Maas. That ethos is the pulsing heartbeat of Death Song, the Austin neo-psych rockers’ first new album in four years and they’re most fully realized work to date. Written well before the vitriolic election cycle and the uncertainty left in its wake, these songs now form an uncanny soundtrack to our modern American climate of division and anxiety, wrapping up the personal and the political into dense layers of provocative insight. Part protest, part emotional catharsis, this is a troubled record for troubled times, and in that sense, it’s classic Black Angels.
“Our music has always been driven by the fear of the unknown and what’s to come,” explains Maas. “Growing up in Texas, in the Bible Belt, you’d have this feeling as a kid in church on Sundays that your whole entire world was just hanging by a string.” On Death Song, the band explores what happens when that string snaps. Volatile, fuzzed-out guitars and crashing percussion meet swirling, reverberating vocals in a cinematic tempest of distrust and disgust. Attraction and self-loathing, greed and desire, faith and brutality are all intertwined, as the lyrics explore the kind of timeless questions that have dogged mankind for eternity. How much ugliness are we willing to perpetuate in the quest for beauty? Can we ever truly share what’s inside of our hearts? How long can we subject ourselves to the same self-destructive cycles before everything comes collapsing down around us?
The story of The Black Lips began in Dunwoody, Georgia, a quiet, conservative suburb of Atlanta, in the year 1999. Born of a mutual love of Link Wray, The Stooges, and The Ramones, and sealed through a shared dedication to defiance, the band formed after childhood friends Jared Swilley and Cole Alexander were kicked out of Dunwoody High for separate, yet equally bad, behavior. The former classmates took their love of music and restless energy and channeled it into their newly found free time, and joined by friends Ben Eberbaugh and Joe Bradley, the Black Lips started playing shows around Atlanta, at house parties and bars. They spent this time honing their sound – garage rock infused with blues, psychedelia, and punk, plus a healthy dose of reckless abandon – and released their first 7-inch, “Ain’t Coming Back,” in 2002 on Die Slaughterhouse records. Shortly before the band was set to head out on their first-ever national tour, Eberbaugh was tragically killed by a drunk driver. Devastated but determined to carry on in Eberbaugh’s honor, the Black Lips hit the road as a trio just a few days later. It’s been 15 years, but that passionate dedication to touring has never left the band. The Black Lips have released eight full-length albums since that first tour, and have traveled the country and the world extensively, making a name for themselves as an electrifying, must-see live act. The band’s energy and unique “flower punk” sound helped them build a rabid fan base, and after releasing their first two albums through Bomp!, they put out the critically celebrated Let It Bloom on In The Red records. This record garnered the Black Lips features in Spin and Rolling Stone, and they were soon signed to Vice Records, subsequently releasing Los Valientos Del Mundo Nuevo, an ambitious album recorded live at a bar in Tijuana, Mexico, in February of 2007.
In their decade-long tenure with Vice, the Black Lips have evolved from wildly crooning over fuzzy, raucous music at house shows full of kids to wildly crooning over fuzzy, raucous music at international festivals in front of thousands of fans. They have toured consistently, with their zeal for travel taking them all over the world, and not without some international adventure.