It’s been a long year for The Flaming Lips, who, in addition to a grueling tour schedule, made good on Wayne Coyne’s 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, we’re not doing that. We’re going to try to do something every month and put it out.’”

This manufactured inertia propelled Oklahoma City’s 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.

“It’s 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 you’re lucky, you sober up the next day and think, ‘Oh, my God, what the fuck have we done?’” Coyne said. “What I’m 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, that’s 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 we’re playing big festivals, but as far as what we’re going to sound like or do, we’re just going to be fucking going for it.”

On 2012’s 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 Year’s Freakout concert. This year’s event is a two-day affair, with shows on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s 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 Lennon’s 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 Year’s and spend it with the Flaming Lips in OKC,” Coyne said, “but we thought, ‘Fuck it. We’ll ask them, and maybe they’ll want to do it.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ It’s 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 year’s topped out at $25, this year’s 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 don’t even think about it. I know that some of our fans will not be able to afford to go,” Coyne said.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re excluding you. I don’t want anybody to think we’re saying it’s 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 it’ll 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. That’s such a great experience, anyway. It’s special. Then there is this fantastic fucking party we’re throwing at the Womb,” he said. “We could have Yoko Ono taking acid at 3 o’clock in the morning in Oklahoma City. That’s just fucking insane. It should just be a fantastic experience.”

Photo by J. Michelle Martin-Coyne


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