The Gospel According to Jared Swilley of Black Lips

June 6, 2015

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS (OR DON’T) We got kicked out of school. For us, it was almost like we wanted to prove all them wrong. We were just like, “We have to do this now.” And our rule was not to have a fall-back plan. I wouldn’t want to give that advice to any kid that gets kicked out of school. I don’t want to say, “Don’t follow your dreams,” but sometimes following your dreams no matter what can be kind of dumb. I knew what I wanted to do when I was seventeen, but we were really reckless and stupid and it could have gone really wrong. But we were stubborn enough to stick through and work really hard, even after seven or eight years of just straight failure. I just knew that we had something special.

PARENTS CAN BE WRONG In the States, all middle class parents are like, “You must go to university and do four years, no matter what.” Well, maybe some kids shouldn’t do that. What’s wrong with having a blue-collar job? People still need to do those jobs and they’re well playing. I probably wasn’t cut out for university and a lot of kids aren’t. I think it’s baby boomer mentality, where it’s like, “You’re all special snowflakes and you’re the best at whatever you do.” No, not everyone’s the best at what they do. I’m really into writing, but I’m probably a shitty writer.

ROCK IS A BIT LIKE RELIGION I’m from a family of all preachers. For five generations they’ve been on stage, performing and speaking, so it’s kind of just like the family business. If I hadn’t done this, my family wanted to go into ministry. But rock n’ roll is a kind of ministry. There’s a lot of parallels with rock n’ roll because it creates a community. A lot of the people that go to church, especially to my dad’s church, are country people that are real poor. It gives people that are lonely fulfilment. Every Sunday, those people whose lives are rough have something that lifts them up and keeps them going. I don’t personally know where my beliefs stand, but I’ve always seen it as a positive thing.

SCREAMING HAS BENEFITS Rock n’ roll is nowhere near [the experience of] going to church. When I was a kid going to church, people were speaking in tongues, dancing like crazy, screaming and passing out. I could never recreate that, because we’re singing songs about partying and chicks, and those people are singing songs about what they think is the Trinity. You can’t replicate that kind of emotion, but I always thought, even if I could get a tenth of that emotion into one of my shows, then that’s like a good thing. I think [speaking in tongues] is a huge release. I’ve always looked at it like, if you’re seeing a comedy show and everybody’s laughing, the laughter is contagious. So if there’s this energy in the room and everyone shouting about Jesus, that’s real contagious and people get overcome with emotion. I think it is a kind of scream therapy.

LIFE IS A SERIES OF TRADE-OFFS When my dad came out, it was actually a real positive experience for my family. It brought everyone closer together. My dad got to be himself for the first time. His main concern was his family being weird about it, which obviously none of us were. He did lose the church, the vast majority of his congregation and his building, but that’s a good trade-off. He’s way happier now that he’s not having to run this huge building and lying to people about his sexuality.


This article first appeared in Frankie Magazine issue 63 (Jan/Feb 2015).

Frankie Magazine issue 63

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