Atlanta rockers talk "weird red tape" in Lebanon, the ease of playing in Iraq and silence felt in Dubai; Next: Antarctica.
The last known American rock band to perform in Egypt was The Grateful Dead in 1978… that is, until recently. Last fall, the Black Lips hit the road for a four-week tour across the Middle East. After kicking off the tour in Cairo, the Atlanta rockers performed for audiences in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.
Director Bill Cody chronicled the band’s voyage in a documentary titled Kids Like You and Me. The film recently premiered at L.A.'s Sonos Studio and, according to bassist Jared Swilley, it will air in additional cities before finding a DVD release.
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Swilley said performing in the Middle East was far from what he expected.
Egypt: "We were allowed to drink at all of the shows except for one in Cairo because it was a family community center."
Lebanon: "There is definitely a lot of weird red tape to get in and obtain your work visas, but that was just dealing with a lot of bureaucracy."
Iraq: "We had no problem."
UAE: "Dubai was a little weird because we weren't allowed to talk to the audience at all or interact with them. We had to play in a hotel so we were considered employees of the hotel and weren't allowed to speak to anyone unless we were spoken to."
Despite that, Swilley believes "people's perceptions of the Middle East -- at least from my short time there -- are kind of far off the mark." They booked the shows with the help of fans overseas.
After completing its Middle East run, the band has set its sights on another goal: To be the first band to perform on all seven continents.
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"We're working real hard to get to Antarctica right now," Swilley explained. "There is a research center there and it has a pub. There are 1,500 to 1,600 contractors and scientists working there, so we just have to get the money to get down there."
In addition to plotting their South Pole tour, the Black Lips are currently working on their next album, which Swilley revealed will feature a combination of "club bangers and southern rock anthems." After completing the album's first recording session in New York, the indie rockers will head to Nashville to meet up with Patrick Carney (The Black Keys), who will produce a portion of the record. "Bradford [Cox] from Deerhunter usually makes it on our albums in some capacity as well," the bassist added.