Catching Up With The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne
Just think: The Flaming Lips could see their name in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2013. That’s right, today the Oklahoma-based psychedelic rock group is trying to earn the title for most live concerts in 24 hours in multiple cities during the upcoming O Music Awards.
In a caravan from Memphis to New Orleans and enlisting the help of friends and bands including Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Gary Clark Jr., Hunter Hays, GIVERS, Neon Indian, Grimes and New Fumes, the Lips are setting out on their 24-hour adventure… right now, if you’re reading this at the time it published. Flaming Lips bandleader Wayne Coyne sat down and chatted with Paste about the challenges and payoffs associated with the band’s upcoming eight-show tour.
Paste: Why try to break this Guinness World Record title? It seems like it’s going to be much more difficult than Jay-Z with a full band and everything involved in creating the Flaming Lips experience.
Wayne Coyne: Well, I agree. To recreate the Flaming Lips Experience in eight different cities, I think that would be a tall order. But luckily, we do a big version of the show in Memphis and a big version of the show at the very end, which doesn’t have the same sort of time restrictions. The very end of the show in Memphis will be part of the world record and the very beginning of the show in New Orleans will be, but the ones in between, a lot of the times we’re playing really small places that really only hold a couple hundred people in them, so we don’t really need to have the gargantuan things out there. You gotta remember, we play festivals—we played a festival in Toronto over the weekend—and there were 25,000 people there, so you gotta have big things there so that people in the back can feel involved. But when you play a place that only has a couple hundred people, I’ve had a couple hundred people at my house sometimes! You don’t really need to have laser beams and things as much. I think with just music and personality, we’ll be fine.
Paste: So are you saying there will be no laser beams and confetti and giant hamster balls?
Coyne: There will be at the bigger shows, but the ones in between I think will mostly just be about these more intimate performances. We’re attempting to do songs that we’ve really never done before, so that the audiences traveling with us really get a once in a lifetime treat to say, “I saw the Flaming Lips play ‘Heroes’ with Neon Indian in Clarksdale, Miss. at four o’clock in the morning!” A very this song, at this time, in this place kind of thing, making the whole adventure more interesting. And of course, we don’t really know what’s going to happen. A tornado could come through or something and change the whole thing that we do. It’s all up for grabs, you know.
Paste: What are you most excited about and what do you think is going to be the biggest challenge?
Coyne: The biggest challenge is that we don’t break any of the rules that are set up by the Guinness Book committee. So you can’t do any drugs and you can’t drink and you can’t speed, which are dilemmas when you’re traveling as much as we are. So let’s say we’ve played seven of the shows and they’re going great and then we get pulled over by the highway patrol on the way to New Orleans and then bam, we don’t get the world record. But for me, I don’t really care that much about the world record as much as I care about these shows really going great for our fans. And I think our fans will love it. I want them to love it regardless of whether we actually make it into the book or not. I mean, I want to make it into the book. We’re going through a lot of effort. It’d be wonderful to pick up a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records when it’s printed next year and have the Flaming Lips be in it. I think it’d be wonderful.
Paste: So what’s up with this camera crew that will be following you guys around for the whole 24-hour adventure?
Coyne: The O Music Awards are all sort of embedded in this, as well. It’s sort of a telethon thing except it’s about music and performances. To me sometimes, there’s too many things involved in it, even for me to remember, so I just focus on the music and performances and things and then oh, I’ll have to give an award to Lady Gaga at four o’clock in the morning and they’ll probably try to call her up and she’ll say, “I’m not available” and it’ll be funny.
Paste: You’ve been talking to journalists about this 24-hour tour nonstop for the past couple days. What has no one asked you about yet that you think we should know about?
Coyne: I’m kind of curious about all the things that everybody else is, like why would you want to do it? I think the Flaming Lips are good at this sort of thing. It’s kind of ridiculous enough to be interesting to us. And it doesn’t mean that normal shows aren’t interesting to us, but we like this. It’s a strange reason to play different sorts of music and frankly, you sometimes have to have motivation. I think it’s very easy sometimes to go out and play this well thought out, well organized show where you do the same show 40 or 50 times and it becomes very much of a routine. Part of you likes that because you know what’s happening. You want the audience to get it and you don’t want it to be common for the audience. Part of that’s comforting, but part of it is taking risks and playing new music and not knowing exactly what’s going to happen is part of the appeal of being in the Flaming Lips, too. We’re living our lives at the same time. We’re not just the entertainers, we’re in these sorts of things, so I think it’s all pretty scary. It’s like a lot of things are pretty scary to think about, but once you sort of work on it, it’s not as scary as it appears in the beginning.
I think everyone should try to join us and do the whole trip with us. It’s going to be a great beginning to the way the Flaming Lips do shows from now on.