“The Strobo Trip by itself is fascinating. I wouldn’t be a surprised to hear about some people taking LSD or something, while listening to “Found A Star On The Ground,” and playing with the Strobo Trip for hours and hours. We hope you’ll enjoy them anyway you like.”
-Wayne Coyne, in October 3rd press release
Every month of 2011 The Flaming Lips have released a new EP on limited edition colored vinyl or in a special object (well, almost every month). Since being unveiled on September 20th, much has been posted on the web about that month’s release: a Strobo Trip Toy with three new songs, one of which is a six hour long collab with Sean Lennon. Most of these posts copied the same information with two glaring omissions.
First, virtually every post leaves out the tremendous charity funds it raised. Collaborating with Sean Lennon, the band names 212 Flaming Lips fans that donated $100 each to Central Oklahoma Humane Society and The Academy of Contemporary Music at UCO in the second track, “Found a Star on the Ground.” Quick math suggested there were thus $21,200 of proceeds, though that was overlooked in the media frenzy to post a link to the hear the song as quickly as possible (that is afterall how web media prioritizes – not quality or quantity, but speed). That approximate amount was confirmed in the band’s October 3rd press release, in which Wayne Coyne explains their motives: “The homeless animal situation in Oklahoma City is at an all-time high – the worst I’ve ever seen. A lot of animals are suffering and need help. It’s all about being aware of this problem and just one way we can make an immediate impact now for The Central Oklahoma Humane Society. The Flaming Lips love all creatures – it’s always been part of our philosophy… When we were a young band starting out, we didn’t have any kind of outlet to help us make necessary connections. This school helps provide the students with a connection to all aspects of a supportive music community. As technology progresses, this is a way for us to help provide the students with upgraded computers and equipment which as you know becomes obsolete quickly. They need to up to date to keep up with that progression to fuel their ideas in all areas in the creation and knowledge of music and art of music making.”
The other key piece of information missing in most posts on the Strobo Toy and six hour song:
…where can fans buy it?
On September 20th – before playing Portland’s Keller Auditorium – Wayne Coyne personally sold The Flaming Lips’ “Strobo Trip Light Phase Illusion Toy” to a line of freaks (stretching two blocks) at Jackpot Records. Coyne arrived at the downtown record store circa 5 pm with 11 boxes of the special item, priced at $45 . The limited supply – shipped to The Flaming Lips on the road and assembled by the band en route to Portland – meant only some fans got to buy one, but Coyne assured that Jackpot crowd more are on the way. Coyne hung out with fans for almost two-and-a-half hours – until that night’s showtime was pressing – and told the rest where to meet him after the concert.
Jackpot Records’ manager Tony Gradischnig posted photos from the event on the store’s Facebook page and detailed the scenario to Paste: “They pretty much got ahold of us pretty late afternoon the day before and said ‘Hey, we love you guys, we’d like to do this thing’ and we started getting it together. People started lining up pretty early. (The Flaming Lips) were actually putting together the toy and uploading the USBs with the six-hour song that go in it on their way into Portland. It was actually being constructed as they were driving in to the last second when they were driving up.”
The Jackpot debut was filmed by DeLoCreative for a new film and Jackpot was breifly the only store in the world to stock the special item – but not for long…
On September 29th the song’s donaters were offered a chance to buy out the first batch of toys via mail (for $50 plus $10 shipping and handling, to be mailed the following week).
More toys were made available at two Oklahoma stores for $60: Tulsa’s Dwelling Spaces on September 30th, and OKC’s Guestroom Records on October 4th. According to the October 3rd press release, they will soon be available for general sale on flaminglips.com. Wayne has also mentioned selling the item at festivals (see full quote below), though no specific plans to do such have been revealed.
a) Steven Drozd’s new record with Alan Novey (collectively known as You in Me) – 7” vinyl “Hot Coffee” b/w “The Drifter” (for Neil “Diamond lovers everywhere”)
b) a bag of Hot Coffee from Joebot’s Coffee Shop
c) a Flaming Lips Lips Strobo Trip Toy!
d) a vintage Neil Diamond LP
The light device includes three new Flaming Lips songs (stream them in the videos below):
1 Butterfly, How Long Does It Take to Die
2 I Found a Star on the Ground (aka “The Six Hour Song”) feat. Sean Lennon
3 Evil Minds
Listen to the entire first 2 hours here.
Listen to the entire middle 2 hours here.
Listen to the final 2 hours here.
Wayne Coyne first revealed the toy in early May, saying to MTV “We have this little stroboscope device that you spin, and it makes these little animations. We’re going to release these little six-inch pieces of vinyl with that. Just another unique experience connected with this unique music.”
In June, Wayne tweeted the packaging graphic design (above), revealing the device is a “Light and Audio Phase Illusion Toy” (presumed to be manufactured by Eye Think inc – the company that trademarked the “Strobotop”). The strobe contains a USB stick containing 3 new songs (with a combined length nearly 6 hours and eleven minutes) and six-inch pieces of vinyl for the light effect (not the audio). Together, the toy and new tracks offer literally hours of fun. The spinning animations were drawn by David Bizarro, Daniel Huffman (aka New Fumes) and Michelle Coyne.
David explained on his blog, “I created 14 of the 24 disc designs included with the toy. I had a lot of fun working on this project. There were many challenges with this one. The animation had to be created in a short amount of frames. So to find a way to create multiple entertaining and trippy animations was very difficult. After doing a bit of geometry, and a lot of trial and error, I discovered some patterns within the small disc’s space that made the animation a lot easier. I am really happy with the designs we chose. We also invited three other very talented artists to create the remaining ten designs. The designs they came up with are very cool!”
In August Wayne reported to citypages the device “isn’t licensed, it’s this thing called the Strobe Trip Animation Toy, and it has these little round discs that you spin; you hit them with a strobe light and it spins. Some of it is kind of a psychedelic freak-out… They’re these weird things that we get to put Flaming Lips music in.”
On August 18th Wayne told Australian music site fasterlouder “we’re going to put some music next Tuesday – [widely assumed to be the strobo toy]– that we just got finished doing Sunday afternoon, the Sunday that just passed.” On the following Monday, Wayne tweeted (above) “Strobo-Trip box is ready to go!!!!!!!” – further supporting the assumption the toy was scheduled for release on Tuesday, August, 23rd. Come Tuesday however, previously released “I’m Working at NASA on Acid’s music video was uploaded, but no new music was issued…
…Although it is unconfirmed, it seems they held back the strobo release to include on it “I Found a Star on the Ground” – better known as their 6-hour charity collab track with Sean Lennon.
The band rushed to complete “I Found a Star on the Ground” in the wee hours of September 13th so that it would be finished before they headed back on the road (they played seven shows between September 13th and 21st). On September 16th, a technical error processing the 6-hour song (presumably) set back the release, but within a few days it was ready for retail.
Flaming Lip Steven Drozd described “I Found a Star on the Ground” as an “insane/ retarded/ wicked/ psychedelic/ fugged/ unbelieveable/ monstrous/ hilarious/ mind-numbing piece of music” reminiscent of Super Mario Brothers’ video game soundtrack, The Velvet Underground, John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Glen Buxton (Alice Cooper guitarist), Frank Zappa, The Shaggs, The Silver Apples, Caribou, Faust, Charles Ives and Paul Buckmaster (orchestral arranger best known for work with David Bowie, Elton John and collaborating on Miles Davis’ On The Corner). Wayne Coyne expanded on Steven’s impressions, telling Rolling Stone “The best way that we can describe the sound of it is, it’s like the Velvet Underground meets Super Mario Brothers. And if you’ve ever played the Mario Brothers game or it you’ve had it on in he background, you could listen to a Mario Brothers type video game forever because its kind of just “do do do do do la ta da ta da.” It’s not real intense, and it’s not going anywhere. Steven was already composing it to be kind of like a long John Coltrane thing…”
Additionally Wayne revealed Sean Lennon’s part is “meant to sound eerily like the ghost of John Lennon or something.”
Besides Lennon, Oklahoma’s Fox 25 reporter Marisa Mendelson is also apparently on the track, contributing “barnyard animal noises“. The recording of the track was featured by Ali Meyer on both Oklahoma’s KFOR channel 4 morning and evening news shows (watch uncut interview below, towards bottom of page or here).
Wayne Coyne commented to Rolling Stone on the toy’s relation to the six hour song, “This song is being released in conjunction with this weird little strobe light toy that we’re putting out. Part of my reasoning is that I wanted there to be some type of music that you could play while you played with this toy – you spin this little disc, and it has these little animations on it that kind of come to life when you put this strobe light on it. And you could play with it for hours. I mean, I don’t know if you could play with it for six hours, but it’s kind of meant so that kids can like, take LSD and play with it. You know, that’s kind of our intention, so that people buy it at like a festival, and then go back to their parents’ and take some acid and play with it all night… I think a lot of people would probably do what I would do: They might go through it and listen to it a couple of minutes at a time and think, “Okay, that sounds cool.” You could take a certain section of it every night if you wanted to, and you know, just listen to it. I don’t think you would find it easy to just have six hours where you’re completely listening to music, unless you were kind of doing it the way that it’s intended. It’s not intended for intense listening. It’s intended to be, while you’re fucking your girlfriend, this on in the background. I mean, you’re supposed to be doing something cool while this plays.”
Wayne Coyne: “We would break it down in to like half-hour sections just so we would have some kind of gauge of what we were gonna work on. So, you know, for me and Steven, this became 12 different sections. Steven [Drozd] had made a song that he had called “I Found This Star on the Ground” that on its own went on for 25 minutes. We were already listening to this track, and he was like, “Oh man, that could have gone on for a couple of hours.”
Although the two shorter songs on the strobo toy are more likely to get repeated listens than “Found a Star on the Ground,” it’s the latter that is – as of now – getting all the attention (apparently more for the novelty of its length than for its musical content). Though the world of the web is too wide to definitively track, the concept of the 6 hour song and novelty of hearing it (or at least sampling over a few bits on soundcloud) have made it the Flaming Lips’ most buzzed about story of the year… even Perez Hilton
wrote (cut and pasted) a post on it. The song has taken on a life of its own since August 22nd as fans and commentators (i.e. youaintnopicasso, paste and spin) followed the development of the track in real time, via numerous twitter updates from the band, and then linked to its upload on soundcloud. Since then, it’s been a subject for live-blogging (like this, and this) and listening parties (including at least one twitter listening party – see bottom of post).
Here’s how it all unfolded, tweet by tweet:
tinymixtapes “MTV darlings The Flaming Lips are at it again with another of their trademark surefire-hit music experiments. Known for a series of top-40 successes over the past two decades, including the hit songs “Jesus Shootin’ Heroin,” “Talkin’ Bout The Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues,” and “The sixth track on the fourth disc of Zaireeka,” the Lips are reportedly at least 4.5 hours into the process of recording a six-hour song called “I Found a Star on the Ground,” which is sure to keep you tapping your feet from breakfast until a little after lunch.”
The Strobo Light Toy follows July’s limited edition, colored 12″ vinyl collaboration with Lightning Bolt (each copy is a unique colored pattern designed – as with all Lips’ 2011 vinyl releases – by New Fumes); and June’s The Soft Bulletin Live La Fantastique de Institution 2011 and Gummy Fetus (all three releases – and every other 2011 Flaming Lips item – is streaming in full at youtube/psychexfutureheart …subscribe for the latest music and videos here).