The Flaming Lips are celebrating 30 years in the music business this year, and in the last three decades the psych-cult pop band have built up a reputation as one of the most outlandish bands of all time. Here’s some weird facts, odd trivia and strange tales…
The band were signed by Warners after setting a venue on fire. Wayne Coyne explains: “We were doing shows with the Butthole Surfers where they would light a cymbal on fire with lighter fluid, and we would do that as well. We’d play really loud and just light shit on fire and play with it. When Warners came to sign us in Oklahoma, we thought ‘Fuck, man, let’s just burn the place down’. ”
After having a 1994 hit with ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’, the band appeared on Beverly Hills 90210.
Their 1997 album ‘Zaireeka’ – a record made up of four CDs that had to be played simultaneously – grew out of parking lot experiments where they wouldd get dozens of car stereos to play tapes all at once.
The band have always been concerned with stage-craft. Wayne says that before their first shows at Oklahoma transvestite clubs in 1983, they went out and bought “smoke machines, strobe lights and echoplexes for a couple hundred bucks. In the early ‘80s those were the things nobody wanted anymore, everybody was buying the latest digital keyboards.”
Recently, the band have been known to release music inside marijuana-flavoured gummy skulls and fetuses.
They also released a Valentine’s Day album inside an anatomically correct chocolate heart. However, Wayne told NME: “I’m pegged as a Willy Wonka dude because we did the gummy skull too, but I’m not really into candy.”
Wayne now often performs while wearing giant hands, which eventually began to fire lasers. Wayne says: “The hands I had made, I don’t even remember why. I just liked the idea that I could have these giant hands, then it occurred to me later I could put lasers in them.” They were once stolen at Australia’s Southbound Festival, but later returned.
During their tour for ‘Embryonic’, the band would arrive onstage through a gigantic psychedelic vagina. Wayne admits he was initially unsure about the idea: “I didn’t think people would like it, but now we’re starting to play more of these fucking fun hippy festivals, it just seemed perfect. ‘Yeah man! You’re born and you play music!’”
In December 2009, the band released a track-by-track cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. The album also featured Stardeath and White Dwarfs, Henry Rollins And Peaches.
Wayne Coyne recently confirmed that the band are also working on a cover of The Stone Roses’ debut album in full. Wayne said: “The project is for my own stupid enjoyment. I just love, love, love that Stone Roses record.”
Oklahoma City airport once had to be closed down for an hour because Wayne had a golden hand grenade in his carry-on bag.
After the airport incident, Wayne offered a special treat to a fan who missed their flight as a result: the opportunity to take acid with him and Yoko Ono.
Wayne Coyne overcame stage nerves by pretending that a rubber nun hand-puppet was doing the singing. He says: ”In the beginning I felt a little self conscious about standing there singing. We were only playing to a couple hundred people so I can do this little thing where the nun is singing, and everyone could see it.”
If you visit Wayne’s house on Google Street View, he’s in the garden in a metal bathtub below a sign reading ‘Blob in the bath’. This wasn’t planned, that’s just a normal Wayne Coyne day.
Wayne married a couple onstage at Osheaga Festival in Montreal, blessing them with “the power of The Flaming Lips, the power of the universe, the power of Montreal, and the power of LSD.”
After falling out over an explicit music video they’d made together, Erykah Badu told Wayne to “kiss my glittery ass.”
Their album ‘In A Priest Driven Ambulance’ was recorded in a studio at the State University of New York that charged $5 per hour. The total budget for the album was $10,000.
In March 2009, ‘Do You Realize???’ was named the official rock song of Oklahoma, following a public vote.
While touring ‘The Soft Bulletin’, the band experimented with handing out headphones which picked up an FM transmission of the live show. They aimed to combine the clarity of the radio broadcast with the power of the live PA.
In February 2011, the band released ‘Two Blobs Fucking’. The song exists as 12 separate youtube videos, which must all be played simultaneously to fully experience the song.
While collaborating on ‘The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends’, Ke$ha gave Wayne his first tattoo. Wayne told NME: “She’s fun and crazy. When we arrived at her house for our session she brought out her tattoo gun and insisted we all got tattoos. I just got this dumb little face on my toe. The kind of tattoos she has are the mark of someone who truly does enjoy life, and I’m happy to have one.”
In 2004, the band contributed the song ‘SpongeBob And Patrick Confront The Psychic Wall Of Energy’ to the soundtrack of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
Over June 27th and 28th 2012, the band broke the Guinness World Record for most live concerts in 24 hours. They played eight shows, starting in Memphis and ending in New Orleans. Each had to be at least 15 minutes long to meet Guinness Word Records rules.
There have been ongoing rumours that ‘West Wing’ creator and ‘The Social Network’ screenwriter Aaron Sorkin could be involved in adapting the band’s album ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ as a Broadway musical.
At the centre of Oklahoma City’s entertainment district, Bricktown, is Flaming Lips Alley, which was named in 2006.
In 1999, NME named ‘The Soft Bulletin’ our album of the year.
The Flaming Lips’ low-budget indie film ‘Christmas On Mars’ took seven years to complete, with filming starting in 2001 before the movie finally premiered in 2008.
The band played their first show in 1983 at Oklahoma City’s Blue Note Lounge.
For Mark Beaumont’s interview with Wayne Coyne, looking back over the last three decades as the leader of The Flaming Lips’ psych-pop cult, pick up this week’s NME.