Most musicians don’t dream of being famous for peeing and puking while onstage.
Sadly, due to riotous early shows, the Atlanta-based Black Lips, who play the Great American Music Hall on Monday, have become saddled with that notoriety. It’s a shame, since the band deserves merit for its unique interpretation of swaggering garage-rock psychedelia.
“Some of that stuff did happen in our early days, but it really got blown out of proportion,” says bassist Jared Swilley. “We like to get a little crazy and it’s great to have the crowd go nuts. But we’re not really doing any of that performance-art kind of thing anymore.”
After releasing a string of defiantly lo-fi albums early in their career, the Lips surprised many by teaming up with Mark Ronson — best known for producing glossy Amy Winehouse recordings — on their last release, 2011’s “Arabia Mountain.”
The unlikely marriage worked. Catchy tunes such as “Modern Art” and “Spidey’s Curse” captured a clarity and pop sensibility previously absent from the group’s catalog.
Ronson also managed to get equal billing for each member: Swilley, guitarists Cole Alexander and Ian St. Pe, and drummer Joe Bradley. All sing and bring their own skewed and irreverent interpretation of flower-punk — a genre coined by the group.
“We’ve always been very democratic,” Swilley says. “Even though we all write songs, I can’t ever remember a major conflict coming up about what should or shouldn’t be on the record.”
The musicians liked the Ronson arrangement so much, they’re planning on working with the producer again on their upcoming album, currently in its preproduction stage.
“He’s super-busy and we’re pretty busy,” Swilley says. “But we both want to work together. It was pretty hectic last time. I think we’re looking forward to taking our time and working with him throughout this new album.”
Even though the recording won’t be released until the end of the year, the band couldn’t resist squeezing in a minitour this spring. It has captured headlines for traveling to exotic locales, including the Middle East and an ill-fated trip to India; they essentially fled the country after Alexander and St. Pe irked the authorities when they kissed onstage.
Unlike some bands, the Black Lips look at the road as a place of refuge rather than a moneymaking obligation.
“We definitely get a little stir-crazy when we’re back at home,” Swilley says. “It’s been about three months without touring, and that’s a long time for us. I think we’re always ready to get back to playing shows. That’s what we do best.”