Edit: WUSSY reached out to The Black Lips for comment. We have not received a response.
Atlanta’s punk outfit The Black Lips routinely flirts with controversy. It’s their brand; they take their dicks out on stage, they vomit, they call other artists “faggot”—they are also extremely problematic people masquerading as passionate yet misguided Libertarian millennials. In particular, two of their members—Jared Swilley and Cole Alexander—have come under fire for homophobic and racist remarks in the press, as well as racially charged Twitter exchanges. Alexander made an attempt to clarify their notorious utterings, only to be lambasted by music blogs for what was considered a victim-blaming response. Swilley has for the most part been using his statements as a parlay of sorts, grabbing music blog headlines with outlandish acts of repentance, such as planting a kiss on another man to disprove his own homophobia.
When asked by Creative Loafing to comment on a scathing editorial drafted by Gravy Train!!! front person Brontez Purnell, Swilley was contrite, “I mean [...] There are legitimate problems with racism in the world. It sucks that he's calling out someone like me, who is the antithesis of a racist.” These are words we’ve heard before. For some reason a person who holds their beliefs close to their heart and out of the public eye, always goes for the assertion that they are the “furthest thing from” a racist. It’s a tired declarative statement that has little basis in the facts other than those held dear by the person who asserts it.
Recently, I encountered Jared Swilley in his own home, and I consider this interaction to be important enough to push to print because it speaks to the truth nestled in the heart of one of The Black Lips’ principle members. I, alongside my partner, and two friends, was invited to attend a birthday hosted in Swilley’s home. Upon entering, we were given the third degree, which was understandable, because folks should know the names of those who enter their homes. Further into the night, my partner and I were taking in Swilley’s decor. Several pieces stuck out. The first being a “Coexist” sticker pasted on his back door’s glass window. It was not the sticker many of us are used to seeing on the bumpers of hybrid vehicles. Since I didn’t exactly enter the Swilley’s home with malicious intent, I did not snap a photo of it. Fortunately, you can Google the damn thing:
The other pieces that caught my eye, were 4-5 portraits of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Now, as a Black Queer woman, I am not able to identify a Confederate General by face alone and neither is my white partner. Out of curiosity, he asked Swilley some questions regarding the portraits, earnestly wondering whether or not there was a relation, since this one man’s image was so prolific in Swilley’s home. Following this question, Swilley perceived it as a provocation and promptly asked us to leave. So we did.
This incident piqued my curiosity: was Jared Swilley acting on his own racism, or was this simply the result of a drunk man reacting to widely perpetuated gossip regarding his beliefs? Or did he just not want us there from the beginning. I assumed it was a mixture of all these things.
So naturally, I did some digging.
Vice (which currently has The Black Lips signed) co-founder Gavin McInnes made waves in the world of wacky politics with the formation of his “pro-West, pro-Chauvinist” (their words) Alt-Right subgroup dubbed “Proud Boys”. Proud Boys have a platform that is part men’s rights and part modern progressive. They consider their platform to be a subject of deep misunderstanding, in that they abhor any associations with racially charged politics, in fact they really, really, do not like being deemed an Alt-Right movement. I spoke to a local Proud Boy, who contributed to my story on the basis of anonymity and he described the platform of his chapter and others, as evidenced in their social media guidelines. The guidelines are scant, but the emphasis on their disdain for racially charged content is striking, so much so that its repeated in each of the two.
“The KKK hates us for not agreeing with their racism and [anti-semitism]. So don’t ever let someone tell you it’s about race - it’s about NON race,” says my source. That is a lot to unpack for another time, but it adds meat to the speculations surrounding Swilley. Contextually, this is important because Jared Swilley was alleged to be a card-carrying member of a local Proud Boy chapter here in Atlanta. It was in the search for the truth that I identified my source, who provided me with specific information regarding Swilley’s membership. It turns out, that while Swilley is affiliated with locally known Proud Boys, his membership was denied across several chapters. The reasons are unknown, but it’s telling that a group as fringe and closely tied to men’s rights movements declined him entry.
Also, have you ever heard of the band Skrewdriver?
Wikipedia describes them as the “most prominent neo-nazi rock band in the world”. Skrewdriver released ten albums total, their debut did not feature neo-nazi themes. Still, the other nine did, with song titles such as “White Power”, “White Warriors” anyone who would call themselves the “antithesis of a racist” would certainly never ever consider a band like Skrewdriver to be worthy of respect. They certainly wouldn't consider a band like Skrewdriver, who are—again—the most prominent neo-nazi rock band in the world to be deserving of praise.
Would a person who is the “antithesis of a racist” do something like...wear a Skrewdriver t-shirt? You tell me, because Jared Swilley owns and wears a Skrewdriver t-shirt. Peep these images forwarded to me by an anonymous source:
To end, I am not going to call Jared Swilley a racist because at the end of the day I have no clue what goes through his mind or what he was thinking that night. I do however have racks on racks of compelling evidence that something doesn’t quite smell right. We have receipts honey. What do you guys think?