For the past 15 years or so, there's been nothing like a Flaming Lips concert. Singer Wayne Coyne surfing the crowd inside a clear orb, a stage filled with people in furry animal costumes, and more confetti and balloons than seem possible become the ultimate rock & roll circus.
"We were always drawn to doing stuff like that," remembers Coyne. "We had strobe lights and smoke machines. I think it's always been more than just the music. It's an experience. It probably got more original around 1999 or 2000 when we did The Soft Bulletin record. That got us thinking we weren't really a rock group, since we were trying to do things that were very un-rock, like having puppets and balloons."
One particularly memorable show happened at the Austin Music Hall several years back, when every audience member was given a laser pointer.
"That's the kind of insane shit that nobody else would do, but the other side is, we like it," affirms the Oklahoman, who founded the group in 1983 with his brother Mark and still-band-bassist Michael Ivins. "You have to be entertaining yourself. That's why it started getting more absurd. It got to the point that we figured out nobody cares what you do, so we try and please ourselves. That's what we do now."
A Lips collaboration with Miley Cyrus on their latest effort, a re-creation of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band titled With a Little Help From My Fwends, caught fans off guard. Coyne reports that the band and the pop star have formed a mutual appreciation society that's led to further exploration.
"We were just in Los Angeles working on what we believe will be a Flaming Lips record and a Miley Cyrus record. I have to tell you, that's been a complete mindfuck. Some of the songs I'm writing, I think they're for her. Then she gets involved and she thinks she's writing for me. These are the best songs I've ever done.
"It's like we're bringing out the best essence of each other. She's not like her image or what people think of her. If you were around her for five minutes, you'd be in love with her. She's a cool, powerful, generous, and deep-down freaky person."
9507 Sherman, Friday, May 8, through Sunday, May 10. Weekend ($165) and day ($65) passes are available online at www.austinpsychfest.com. Weekend camping passes are $75 per person.
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