The Flaming Lips
In the first half of this year Oklahoma's favourite sons have written a fight song (based on Race For The Prize) for NBA finalists the Oklahoma City Thunder, broken a Guinness World Record for most gigs played in different cities in 24 hours, released a 24 hour song encased in a gummy foetus, released a split single with metal titans Mastodon, and collaborated with Coldplay main man Chris Martin, pop skank Ke$ha, soul queen Erykah Badu (which resulted in a music video featuring Badu's nude sister amid much controversy), and Perth's own Tame Impala, among others. The collaborations resulted in The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends, originally a Record Store Day vinyl release. After all those copies sold out, along with the super limited edition which featured the featured artists' blood encased in the vinyl, a CD version was released earlier this month.
At the time of our chat last week, head Lip Wayne Coyne was still recovering from playing shows in Memphis, Clarksdale, Oxford, Jackson, Hattiesburg, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans all in a 24 hour period. "When you think about something like that and you're three months away from it, you think 'On that day I'll sleep 'til four in the afternoon and I'll just get up and we'll start," Coyne says. "But does not happen, you don't really sleep for five days before then because it's so much work. So even when we got done with it, we finished and it was probably about 7.30 at night when we actually finished. I was still very wired up until about one o'clock in the morning. Delusional, but wired up. Delusional because I was thinking I was going to sleep for an hour and then go out and party. That was the dumbest thing because I lay down and then I didn't want to get up for a couple of days!"
While the likes of Jackson Browne and Neon Indian joined them on stage throughout the 24 hour tour, Coyne says it wasn't about the celebrity or even getting into the record books, it was about the fans. "I think that was the main reason we set it up the way that we did," he says. "We were in a bus with the TV crew, and there was a bus full of all of crew, and there was a bus with all the other band members, and there was giant bus full of about 50 of our greatest craziest fans that would be at every show, having breakfast with us, and stopping at places to get gas. Doing everything together, we'd see each other in the middle of the night. That was the real reason I wanted to do it. The world record is fine, I'm not dismissing that at all, but I really like the idea of these really special moments that we get with our fans."
While it might be a while before the Lips do another 24 hour tour, their appetite for day-long activities is still there. "This idea of doing 24 hour things started when we did this song that was six hours long," he says referring to the track I Found This Star On The Ground. "That made us think we could do a song [7 Skies H3] that was 24 hours long, and so I think this idea of 24 hours had sort of become a thing. I know we're going to release two movies next year, and a revamped version of our classic documentary Fearless Freaks, and I think we're going to try to have thing a theatres, where you go in and spend 24 hours in a theatre watching Flaming Lips movies and documentaries and concerts, and then there will be a quiet time about six hours in starting at about three in the morning where we'll all be sleeping in sleeping bags in the theatre. I think more and more we're thinking of events like that. Just really great special once in a lifetime events that we can do with our fans."
Early last year, Coyne and his cronies set out to record new material every month and release to their fans. This morphed into a project where they collaborated with an artist on a release every other month, and eventually it turned into Heady Fwends, a full-length features a massive list of collaborators. "When this year began, I really just pushed full force and ended up doing most of the Bon Iver, Ke$ha, Erykah Badu, My Morning Jacket, and Chris Martin collaborations," he recalls. "That was all done in January, so you could imagine what those days were like with one day you're recording with Ke$ha and then two days later you're recording with Erykah Badu, and then a couple of days later you're recording with you know... These are all big songs. There's a lot going on. It's not nothing. I think by then we'd worked our way into a pretty good way of working very intensely, but efficiently, and getting the most bang out of our buck, or the most out of our time together."
BY MATTHEW HOGAN
The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends is out now on Warner. THE FLAMING LIPS play the Falls Music & Arts Festival taking place in Marion Bay from December 29 - January 1, and in Lorne from December 28 - January 1.