If you’ve never seen The Flaming Lips perform live – and many South Floridians haven’t had the chance – you’re in for an otherworldly experience this weekend at the House of Creatives Music Festival, an alt-rock blowout with dozens of acts that lands at the North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach on Friday and Saturday.
The Grammy-winning, psychedelic space-rock band – affectionately called The Lips by its millions of rabid fans, who are likely to show up wearing an astonishing array of brightly colored costumes – turned its hometown Oklahoma City on its head in the early ’80s with its deliciously bizarre sound and even more bizarre view of the world.
Led by charismatic and helium-voiced frontman Wayne Coyne, who is fond of traversing overtop the crowd in his man-sized plastic bubble, the group will take the stage Saturday night to show why Q magazine named it one of the “50 Bands to See Before You Die.”
The Lips are sure to perform elaborate, orchestral and highly melodic works including “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “Do You Realize,” “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton,” “Race For the Prize” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” (Headlining Friday night is Cold War Kids, whose hit “First” is all over 104.3 The Shark; Toronto experimental electronic band Crystal Castles is also on Saturday‘s lineup).
Miami.com caught up with Coyne, who explained the correct way to pronounce the band’s upcoming album, “Oczy Mlody,” and why on earth they named it that; what it’s like inside his bubble; why he’s fascinated by space, UFOs and robots; and how he almost lost an eye during a concert in Spain.
What attracted you to this festival?
There have been several festivals in and around Miami that we’ve been attached that I think had gone bankrupt or for some reason didn’t happen. And I think we just kept trying. This one hasn’t happened yet, so we’ll see. But it seems like the people who were putting it on, it seems like a cool show and a cool idea.
Is it rare for you to perform in Miami?
Well, we play everywhere all the time, all around the world, and there’s only been a few times that we’ve ever played Miami. In 1994, I think we played Chicago 12 times, and we’ve only played Miami once or twice in our whole 35 years of being The Lips. Maybe they just don’t like us [laughs], but we’ll keep trying.
Will we hear anything from the new album? I’m not sure how to pronounce it – “Oczy Mlody.”
If you know anyone or take yourself the Oxycontin drug – we look at the first part like “oxy,” and the rest like “melody,” but with no E. We don’t really know – it’s something that caught Stephen’s eye from this little Polish novel I have in the studio. I think it just hit us on the right day at the right time, and we were drawn to the kind of nonsensical-ness of it, but then it’s not really nonsense, because it’s Polish. We liked the vibe of the word, but I don’t think we’ll play any of it – we’ve got so much back catalog stuff that people always want to hear.
Your live show is legendary and always a big event. What would you tell someone who has never seen it to expect?
I always try to gauge how old they are and how much you think they’ve seen other things. It used to not be that bizarre to see something like a Walt Disney cartoon meets Led Zeppelin. But a lot of people nowadays wouldn’t really know what that means [laughs]. Part of it is very much like a heavy, laser-show rock group. And other parts are almost like Day Glo cartoon stuff, because we have big inflatable costumes and we build a giant rainbow, and there’s this constant psychedelic, LED aurora borealis light show stuff raining down on us every song. And we get pretty used to it. We forget that all this stuff is happening. So something like a fantastical cartoon and something like kind of a not violent, but intense punk-rock group. And other times I think we’re like children’s theater, singing these songs about robots and Superman. There’s a childlike atmosphere that we create, like a futuristic puppet show.
Will you venture out into the crowd inside your bubble this time?
I do that almost every night, so yeah, we’ll probably do that in Miami. I’ve been doing that to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” as a tribute to him since February. And that’s really been wonderful, the idea that I’m in this space bubble and we’re doing “Space Oddity.” Most of our crowd would know every moment of that Bowie song.
What does it feel like to crawl around on top of the crowd inside that bubble?
Well, the first couple of times I did it, you have a fear that it’s gonna get popped, or you’re gonna get killed. But after doing it a couple thousand times, I mostly worry about the unsuspecting, smaller – I sort of refer to them as the Olsen Twins-size girls in the audience. The taller guys, they can see everything that’s going on, and they’re enthusiastically grabbing me. But if you can’t see what’s going on, you might not know what a crush of people you’re getting involved with, so I watch for that. I’m doing my thing, but I’m aware that this could get out of hand. But most nights it goes pretty great.
Have you ever been injured during a show?
There was one time at this festival in Spain – we have these little hand-held confetti launchers that I’ll run around and shoot like 100 of them off. And I went to grab one right at the beginning of the show, and it shot me right in the eye, and it hit me with such velocity that I couldn’t tell if my eye was completely blown out, or if nothing had happened. It was that initial shock, you know. It was literally when I first walked onto the stage – I just grabbed it wrong. But I went out there and I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to see out of my eye or not. And a few minutes later it was fine.
There’s a theme of space and extraterrestrials running through your work. Where do you think that comes from?
I never think that we’re really talking about that, but it becomes a metaphor for our version of the Great Unknown, or the great cosmos out there – what does it mean, and all that. And I think it’s fun to talk about UFOs and the expanse of space. People who talk about outer space are inherently optimistic, I think, and it’s not a black, horrible, bad void that’s out there. You look at it, and you’re like, ‘Wow, what would it be like to be in there?’ So it’s just part of that. I was born in 1961, so I grew up in all that stuff, people walking on the moon and all that. So when you say that, I’m like, ‘No, we don’t! Do we really?’ But I’ll admit it – yeah.
You seem to be forever searching artistically, more than most other artists. Where do you think that comes from?
I take that as a great compliment. I think it’s just part of the joy of doing art and music. I don’t think of it as searching – I think of it as, ‘Oh, I get to do my thing. I get to make another song.’ I think we’re slightly different from a lot of groups in that we really do love recording. And I know that when we were putting out “The Soft Bulletin” in 1999, way back then, Stephen and I would lament sometimes, like ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to play?’ But because we play all the time, it’s really made us and our records. It really gave us a great freedom. In the very beginning we were very much a weird rock group. And then we went through this period where that just didn’t interest us, and when we came out the other side of that, we thought, ‘Why don’t we just do whatever?’ And that’s when I started wearing raincoats, and I would have puppets, and throw confetti – I would just do whatever. And that’s where the true freedom is. I’m just gonna do the things that I like – I’m not trying to be the next Ted Nugent.