For their on-going 2011 releases The Flaming Lips are enlisting the help of everybody from Jimmy Page to Neon Indian. Most recently they released a bizarre concept EP with Lightning Bolt… about NASA, acid and self-abuse. Who’s next on their agenda?
Ben Kweller? Panda Bear? Lykke Li? Death Cab for Cutie… Ke$ha?!
UPDATE – On July 31st The Flaming Lips headlined the final night of Osheaga 2011 playing their classic album The Soft Bulletin and performing a mid-set marriage ceremony for two Calgary fans. The festival also featured Smith Westerns, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, White Lies, The Joy Formidable, The Low Anthem, Crystal Castles and Death Cab for Cutie earlier that day. Apparently, Wayne Coyne interrupted an interview Spinner was conducting with Death Cab backstage to propose an EP with the band. On August 16th Spinner posted a transcript of the interaction:
Coyne: I was given permission by the Warner [Music] guy that I could jump in.
[To Spinner] I have to talk to them about making some music.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but we’re doing these collaborations with a lot of different groups. We’ve done Neon Indian, do you know them?
Gibbard and Harmer: Yeah.
Coyne: Also Prefuse 73, he’s cool. I’ve got some Nick Cave tracks starting, I’ve got some Black Moth Super Rainbow; the one that’s just come out this week is Flaming Lips and Lightning Bolt.
Gibbard: Oh, killer.
Coyne: So we should find a way to do a Flaming Lips/Death Cab three or four song EP.
Gibbard: Let’s do it!
Coyne: OK, now how do we do it? Do you have any extra junk laying around that you could send to me and I could add stuff to? Even if it’s a song you already have out or a different version of it. Don’t make it a big deal. If you have something that you could send us…
Gibbard: I know we have a couple things we were working on when we made this record. But I don’t know what state they’re in.
Nick Harmer: We could ask Chris [Walla, Death Cab guitarist and producer]. I know there are two songs that were unfinished for the album that are still great. I wouldn’t even say they’re unfinished.
Gibbard: We do have ‘Aimless Intellectual.’
Coyne: I look at it more like, ‘The Flaming Lips featuring…’ so it doesn’t feel like another group. But I don’t really care, I just thought if I asked, you’d say maybe you had some instrumental thing.
Gibbard: You know what, we could even use that ‘American Waltz’ thing.
Harmer: That would be great — we’ve got stuff around.
Gibbard: You know what, lets pow-wow on it. I think I have a [phone] number for you.
Coyne: Let me get my phone, it’s charging on the bus.
Gibbard [to Spinner]: OK, well, you got the scoop.
“I ran into Ben (Gibbard) at a festival last night and we just started talking. That’s how it happens … We play so many shows with interesting people. This is how I get to know them. Like when Ke$ha was in Tulsa a couple of weeks ago. I want to do something with her. It doesn’t have to be great. It’s just something interesting to do, something we can listen to later.”
-Wayne Coyne to tulsaworld.com, August 1, 2011
“I was not aware of how much Ke$ha was liking our music… I will… call her, and I’ll suggest that we do something together.”
-Wayne Coyne, June 2011 (listen in video below)
“I think everybody would be up for doing something. But a lot of it comes down to us fitting into their schedules. I can always sneak in on their thing.”
-Wayne Coyne to spin.com announcing plans to collaborate with Deerhoof and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, January 2011
“The Flaming Lips and Weezer are playing a show together…where they are actually playing together.”
–Wayne Coyne, July 11, 2011 press release
“We’re gonna do something with Panda Bear, too.”
– Wayne Coyne to esquire.com May 8, 2011
The Flaming Lips started 2011 by announcing an “album” to be continually released over the course of the entire year as it was recorded, and by tweeting at Neon Indian for help in that effort. Next they announced plans to also work with Deerhoof and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (both of whom they’ve previously joined on stage – click here for the complete, intertwined backstory of Neon Indian, Ariel Pink, Deerhoof , The Flaming Lips and Sirius Radio).
Sure enough, Neon Indian and The Flaming Lips were in the studio together by the end of January (pictured above left – the full story is here, watch Wayne Coyne’s demos for Neon Indian and behind the scenes footage at the recording sessions here). Those tracks – including one about David Bowie dying – were released as a limited edition 12″ color vinyl (at these locations) in March (listen to the entire EP at youtube/psychexfutureheart, subscribe for more related videos coming soon).
Then, in early March, they went to New York City for the Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall – where they played a mini-set with Philip Glass – and announced yet more collaborations: LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo (“We were texting… ‘Hey if you have a weird track that you don’t know what to do with send it to me.””)… even Jimmy Page. Most amusing of all, Wayne noted to Dusty Wright, “We were considering working with Karlheinz Stockhausen… but he’s dead!”
In April they finished mixing and unofficially released an EP with Prefuse 73; the proper issue following in May (hear it here, watch behind the scenes “making of” here). The 12″ Prefuse 73 record is the most colorful Flaming Lip release so far, in every way – check out the story behind its psych-up opening track, “The Super Moon Made Me Want to Pee” here.
In addition to releasing special multi-colored 12″ studio collaboration every other month, The Flaming Lips have also teamed up with a variety of artists on stage – from Philip Glass to MGMT (watch the latter below). For their “Two Nights, One Morning” run at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in June they performed a sunrise belltower mini-set with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (watch a bit of this performance 7:00 minutes into the Hollywood Forever overview video above, watch the official video and check out pictures and more here). That night they had Peaches guest on the premiere performance of Dark Side of the Moon arranged with Wizard of Oz. Peaches’ part – the wordless wailing in “Great Gig in the Sky” – is being sung by Lizzie Allen of the band Vitamins the three other times they perform Dark Side of Oz this summer (two of which already happened at Dave Matthews’ Caravans, the final time is with Primus at Red Rocks).
Lizzie explained to heyreverb “…they needed someone to fill in for Peaches, who sang on their “Dark Side Of The Moon” cover album. I got a text last Saturday asking if I could sing “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd. I responded “YYEESS.” So they flew me out to Philly, the band picked me up, we drove to Atlantic City, I got on a green wig, gold suit, some fairy wings and ruby red slippers and sang my heart out.”
A July 11th presss release announced “LipsWeezer/ WeezerLips Extravaganzas”: “Weezer and the Flaming Lips will trade off songs back and forth for the entire length of each concert, allowing them to take turns playing a few songs each in one big exciting set… This will be a first for both bands as they will take the stage together and trade off songs. Naturally, these will be very special events and most likely will never happen again. The only thing that can be predicted is to expect the unpredictable. Yeasayer will provide support… Needless to say don’t miss these unprecedented, monumental happenings.”
The two bands played two well-received shows late July – including both Wayne Coyne and Rivers Cuomo walking over the crowd in space bubbles. For pictures galore and full details click here.
Wayne elaborated on his interest in collaborations in early April to Spinner, “You know, you come in with this half-baked, caffeinated idea, and, if you’re lucky, there are some other people around that are making records at the same time. So for our last record, we got a hold of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and MGMT. You just never know … the serendipity that’s going to come.
“I’ve talked to James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem, I’ve talked to Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth. So as long as I’m pursing it then I don’t feel like it wouldn’t work.”
“I was talking about Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin to do one of these tracks with us, and, you know, if he’s not available next month then we’ll keep trying, maybe the next month or maybe six months. Because I have this lax timetable I’m working with, I feel like anybody that’s interested in doing something, we should be able to do it with them.”
On May 8th Wayne updated to esquire.com, “I talked to James [Murphy] a couple times last summer as we toured around about doing a collaboration, and I knew that he had planned on doing this breakup of LCD Soundsystem because I think he just wants to go do his thing without worry about some legacy. And I don’t know what will happen with Jimmy Page. I hope that he’s amicable and freaky enough to say, ‘Yeah! Fuck! I’ll do something with those guys!’ What we’re gonna ask him to do is these soundtracks…. But I think Jimmy Page will be like these other people who are just interested in interesting things and say, ‘Sure. Let’s see what happens.'” He added in June, “It’s a long chain of people you have to go through. Our new president at Warner Bros. used to work for Atlantic, so she has these connects with Jimmy Page and his people. So, I hope so. I mean, a lot of these things you can do over the computer.”
These comments echo Wayne’s early-March interviews, such as his discussion on Jimmy Page with Pitchfork: “I know he likes our music. It doesn’t always mean we get to sit in the same room as someone, and lot of times you’re just sending tracks back and forth, but I’m hoping he’s open to it. We always have a lot of stuff that someone like Jimmy Page could play over and we have a whole year to try and work this out.”
In fact, Wayne was told by Jimmy’s daughter in 2006 that while spending time with her pop on Father’s Day, The Flaming Lips’ “The W.A.N.D.” came on the radio and Jimmy praised the riff. Yep. Classic rock’s professor of riffology approved of the “The W.A.N.D.” Not bad for a band that released a song in their early days named “Hari-Krishna Stomp Wagon (Fuck Led Zeppelin)”. Hear Wayne discuss Jimmy (and his daughter) towards the end of this video.
The ongoing story of Lips’ collaborations continued in April and – as with Neon Indian and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Sirius XMU appears to be the inspiration (yet another reason to listen to the station). Steven tweeted at two of the channel’s DJs to help him get in contact with Lykke Li (whom he presumably heard on XMU). Here are their replies (note, Jake Fogelnest gets Peter, Bjorn and John involved):
The next day, Friday, April 8th, Steven heard Lykke Li on XMU immediately after The Flaming Lips. Is it fate?
At Primavera Sound Festival in May, The Flaming Lips met up with Nick Cave – whom they know from touring and dueting with during Lollapalooza 1994. Shortly afterwards, Wayne revealed to Consequence of Sound, “I talked to Nick Cave last week, I talked to the guys in No Age last week, I talked to Reggie Watts about doing some tracks…. ” (more info and pics from this meeting, here: Smells Like a Nick Cave/ Flaming Lips Collaboration)…
Wayne also admitted in the Consequence of Sound interview, “It’s really a joy to be in such a panic all the time. To be forced, and to be always urged to make music, and to think, “Fuck. Who are we gonna do this with? Who’s available, and who can do it?” I mean, I’m talking still with the guy from Lightning Bolt who are making a record themselves, and we’re still fucking with this collaboration. So it’s interesting.”
Most recently, The Flaming Lips tweeted short video clips of them editing Grinderman’s “Bellringer Blues” – perhaps part of their Nick Cave collab, or maybe for Grinderman’s remix series.
Also in July, The Flaming Lips Lightning Bolt collab yielded first a music video and then a 12″ EP (that seems to loosely be some sort-of “concept release” about NASA, acid and self-abuse). Elsewhere – as can be heard in the video at the top of this page – Wayne was asked about Ke$ha listing The Flaming Lips “as a major influence in her music” and responded, “I was not aware of how much Ke$ha was liking our music. But since you brought that to my attention, I will get someone to give me her number and call her, and I’ll suggest that we do something together.”
Soon after Ke$ha came a’ tweetin’ for the Lips (see top of this page), and they responded:
Collaboration plans with Stars (Broken Social Scene’s brother band) and Death Cab for Cutie were revealed in Tulsa World on August 1st. Both bands are long-time Lips fans and Death Cab’s frontman Ben Gibbard released a cover of the Lips’ “Suddenly Everything Has Changed” (as a 2003 b-side to his “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” Postal Service single) and remixed “Do You Realize???” (also with the Postal Service, for the Lips’ 2003 Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell EP – in other words, Ben’s technically collaborated with the Lips before). Wayne confirmed in the same article he’s been in contact with Jimmy Page and Sonic Youth and – most significantly – revealed “four tracks he’s working on with Black Moth Super Rainbow. Those will be out soon… he promises.” On August 10, a phony copy of the Black Moth/ Flaming Lips EP “leaked” (contents unknown):
There’s also talk of a surprise release featuring the Lips with several different unannounced collaborators. At this point, anybody could be on it: Panda Bear, Ke$ha, Lee Ranaldo, Jimmy Page, Lykke Li, Reggie Watts, No Age, James Murphy, Deerhoof … now that’s what I call musical diversity…
….And who would like to see? Sound off in the comment section below…