Its been a long year for The Flaming Lips, who, in addition to a grueling tour schedule, made good on Wayne Coynes public promise early last year to release new music each month.
A lot of people thought we already had 10 songs, the front man said, but I said, No, were not doing that. Were going to try to do something every month and put it out.
This manufactured inertia propelled Oklahoma Citys larger-than-life act into a whole other level of weirdness, manifested in increasingly crazy release formats, like gummy skulls and fetuses that required listeners to eat their way to the encased USB devices, and then the Strobo Trip light illusion toy that birthed the six-hour song, I Found This Star on the Ground.
I was remarking to people that you could just take some acid with your friends and play with it all night, Coyne said.
Multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd had a 25-minute drum pattern already in the works, so the band used that as a starting point for what had then seemed ridiculously ambitious.
Its fucking too long, Coyne said. Once you get into it, your mind changes. It frees you up. We thought we could do a much longer song that lasts for a month or a week.
Technological restrictions limited the Lips to 24 hours, and the result, 7 Skies H3, was housed in a chrome-laden actual human skull for a limited physical release. The cost? A mere $5,000.
We get drunk on our own ideas. If youre lucky, you sober up the next day and think, Oh, my God, what the fuck have we done? Coyne said. What Im doing is not just creating music, but creating a concept and a scenario and a time and an atmosphere that all these things are allowed to be in. When artists start to think that everything they do must be a masterpiece, thats usually when they start to really suck.
Looking forward, he is hesitant to define the Lips plans in strict terms.
Years go by pretty quickly for us. Fuck, I can see the end of my life already, Coyne said. Of course we have a plan, because were playing big festivals, but as far as what were going to sound like or do, were just going to be fucking going for it.
On 2012s agenda includes work on another movie and the long-awaited Broadway musical version of their 2002 album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Before that, however, the Lips will hold their fifth annual New Years Freakout concert. This years event is a two-day affair, with shows on both New Years Eve and New Years Day, and a party in between at the Lips-curated Womb gallery.
It also marks the first time the group has brought another large act to the bill: Yoko Ono. John Lennons widow and her Plastic Ono Band will join the Lips both nights, with Phantogram and Neon Indian filling the opening slots.
It was really a long shot to think that the Lennon family would forgo doing something on New Years and spend it with the Flaming Lips in OKC, Coyne said, but we thought, Fuck it. Well ask them, and maybe theyll want to do it. And they said, Yeah, sure. Its just an amazing thing to have in your mind: Yoko Ono is just down the road.
The change of venue and talent also forces another difference: higher admission prices. While last years topped out at $25, this years tickets are $100 per night or $150 for both nights, with included after-party admission.
I know that compared to some things, [$100] may seem excessive, but people buy tickets to basketball games all the time that cost $300 and $400, and dont even think about it. I know that some of our fans will not be able to afford to go, Coyne said.
It doesnt mean that were excluding you. I dont want anybody to think were saying its time for Flaming Lips fans to give us their money. They give us their money all the time, and I still feel like this is a fantastic deal. We will do other shows that you can afford, and itll be fine.
Apprehensions about cost aside, Coyne knows his audience, and what fans can expect from the pair of shows.
You get to be in the loving arms and minds of other Flaming Lips fans. Thats such a great experience, anyway. Its special. Then there is this fantastic fucking party were throwing at the Womb, he said. We could have Yoko Ono taking acid at 3 oclock in the morning in Oklahoma City. Thats just fucking insane. It should just be a fantastic experience.
Photo by J. Michelle Martin-Coyne