There are few bands who have enjoyed a career as delightfully strange and awesome as that of the Flaming Lips. After 28 years in the business and countless examples of musical genius—from the glorious meshing of noise and pop on their breakthrough release, The Soft Bulletin (1999), and their 2009 remake of Pink Floyd's epic Dark Side of the Moon to live shows bound only by the limits of their own eccentricity (including animal costumes and space bubbles) and releasing limited-edition Flaming Lips music on USBs inside life-sized gummy skulls—the Flaming Lips are now bringing their fearless insanity to the stage at SoundTown this weekend.
City Pages chatted with Wayne Coyne in a phone interview about what to expect.
City Pages: Are there any awesome stage antics that we can look forward to seeing at SoundTown?
Wayne Coyne: Well, yeah, I mean we have an entire Flaming Lips show... [chuckles]. I mean, we have all these songs, we have our big wall of video streams, we have the space bubble and the laser beams and the people from the audience.... I mean, I forget how much stuff we have. I think the main thing is the music, but the things that are happening while we're playing is the show.
CP: The Flaming Lips have been dominating festivals for the past couple of years. Do you prefer festivals to regular gigs?
Coyne: We like doing different things. I think it would be boring, for me anyway, to be doing the same thing all the time, so I like the idea that we're playing inside and there's air conditioning and whatnot, and other times I like the idea that we're playing outside and it's a hundred degrees. I like that it's unpredictable, and that we don't always know what's going to be happening. Also, I like the idea that it's essentially a festival, and we get to see so many other artists and there are so many other things going on. It's just really a whole social thing that we get to be part of, and the whole audience, too, not just Flaming Lips fans.
CP: Did you personally approve the flavors for the gummy skulls?
Coyne: We tried to! We released a separate gummy strobe for the show we did in L.A., and the skull—well, the brain that was inside the skull, it's pretty complicated—was supposed to be marijuana-flavored, and I know that the guy who was making it was pretty ambitious, but I think it tasted like green apple. Still pretty fucking delicious.
CP: Do you have any other cool projects coming up?
Coyne: Yeah, I mean, that's the thing that I'm working on today. We're collaborating with Lightning Bolt...the rest of them are going to be coming out this week, and I'm working on a second video today. We're working on the next release, too, that's gonna be a toy—it isn't licensed, it's this thing called the Strobe Trip Animation Ploy, and it has these little round discs that you spin; you hit them with a strobe light and it spins. Some of it is kind of a psychedelic freak-out. And then after that we have a Flaming Lips Salt Box, and it's already been in development for six months and I think by October it should be ready. They're these weird things that we get to put Flaming Lips music in.
CP: What's the most important thing to you about making music?
Coyne: For me, it's just that it's my thing. I would say that part of being in a successful rock group is that we play a lot and we get to have all kinds of crazy adventures, and those things I really like. For me, I don't have to think about it, I just get up and do it. I'm driven and kind of obsessed, and that doesn't mean that it turns out good. Even as we speak, I'm doing this pretty elaborate doodle. I've done four interviews, and I wouldn't sit here and draw for three hours if I wasn't talking.
CP: What does it look like?
Coyne: Well, at the moment, it's a woman in some strange water, and she's peeing on this group of skulls while these big machines are squirting some black stuff, but it's still being worked on, so I'm not sure what it's going to look like. The water turns into rainbows, and—hey, you know, I'll put it on Twitter as soon as I'm done!
CP: Yes! That's perfect. Okay, last question. It's a fan question. And the biggest one. What's in your fridge?
Coyne: Well...I have actually the very first prototype gummy skull. And a lot of drinks, soda and beer and food. So mostly that, but we have two giant fridges so one is full of stuff for guests, and one is full of stuff we eat on a normal basis. But yeah, the skull's there.
THE FLAMING LIPS headline the SOUNDTOWN MUSIC FESTIVAL along with over 30 other local and national bands on FRIDAY, AUGUST 19, and SATURDAY, AUGUST 20, at SOMERSET AMPHITHEATER; full lineup and info at soundtownfest.com