Wayne Coyne On The Secret To The Flaming Lips’ Success
Austin Psych Fest, this year rebranded as “Levitation,” had one hell of a lineup ranging from headliners like Tame Impala to the legendary Jesus And Mary Chain. But what better way to close out the transcendent festival than with the theatrics and unifying psychedelic music of The Flaming Lips? Wayne Coyne has been a mastermind of curating the spectacle for over 30 years; still finding ways to continually innovate and inspire. How? Love. While it’s not all you need; Wayne credits love as the foundation, bringing value to the years of hard work involved in creating art. In an inside look at Wayne and The Flaming Lips; he discusses the women who have inspired him over the years – including his partnership with Miley Cyrus – and the beauty of opening your mind.
“All You Need Is Love”: Is that a mantra you wholeheartedly believe in?
Well, when you’re doing art and things that are uncertain, you don’t know if people are going to like it or if you’re going to make any money. There’s always that scenario. If you do it because you love it, that usually takes care of everything. Maybe people will like it, and maybe it will be successful. To do these kinds of shows, you’re always having to work with people and it’s hard, uncertain and stressful. But if you do it with love, it’s probably going to work. You don’t have these hidden agendas. I don’t think it’s all you need, but if you don’t have love, I don’t think any of the rest of that would have much value.
There’s this amazing moment of connection and love in the audience when you play your hits. Do you feel that too?
Yeah, we try to make it happen as much as we can. We like being in a group like this because we feed off of that audience connection. When they’re energetic, we’re energetic. When they’re happy, we’re happy. But when they’re bored and bummed out, well, you know. We’ve played some shows with Coldplay in these giant stadiums and their audiences love them, but they just don’t respond. There’s no intensity. We try to purposefully make it more intense. We don’t live for that, but you want to get to that feeling. You want it to work and for people to understand it.
This year’s Psych Fest falls on Mother’s Day, so it seems appropriate to ask about the women in your life. Who have been some of your most powerful female influences?
I think The Flaming Lips have worked with more female artists than any rock-dude-group ever. It’s like, when I think of all the people we have purposefully collaborated with, from Karen O to Ke$ha, to doing stuff with Miley and Phantogram; I sometimes forget we have worked more together with women than dudes. I just never think about it. I like the way they sing and I just never think about the fact that there’s girl groups and guy groups. When we did this last Beatles record people thought it was so weird that we would have women doing Beatles songs. I was like, “what time are you living in?” It never occurred to me.
I think my mother when she was alive always played records around the house and encouraged me to do art and music. But, yeah I think that it’s more interesting to talk about how men and women are different. It’s definitely a lot more fun when there’s a lot of beautiful women around. It reminds you to make an effort to make the world more exciting, fun and more noticeable. I feel like what happens to dudes is they just get so concentrated on their work. That’s the beautiful thing about crazy women; they want to spend time on making themselves look interesting with their clothes, make-up and hair. It’s like shit, we all should! I was talking to Miley, who just inducted Joan Jett into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and there’s this long list of things that Joan Jett did. I just never thought of it. I always liked her but I never thought, “oh she’s a woman doing this.” Maybe that’s bad? I don’t know.
Speaking of Miley Cyrus, we’re big fans of her. What is it that attracts you so deeply to working with Miley? I know you just announced a collaborative record coming out.
We’re working on it as we speak. She’s absolutely so smart, she’s crazy driven, she’s going to do her shit and she’s a lot of fun. She has a lot, if not all control of what she does. She’s not a control freak, but I think she likes to say, “we’re going to do this”. A lot of people aren’t like that, but I think that’s why we like each other, because I’m like that in my group. If we talk about doing something, there’s no one else to ask. If she wants to do it, she’ll just do it. That’s cool. She’s just badass and if you were around her for five minutes you would see.
What will your lovechild record be like?
She loves Flaming Lips music. I just kind of write songs for me, but they’re kind of for her at the same time. She’ll write part of the song then too. She likes to have collaborators and other sparks. We just feed off each other. She doesn’t need any help, but I think she likes it. She doesn’t have an ego and is open to anything really.
What are your suggestions for opening your mind and living in the moment at Psych Fest? Should there be psychedelics involved?
There’s a tent, I think it’s called the Hex Tent, and it’s really just a group of friends who have all gotten together and made art. That’s the best way. You’re doing it with the group and it’s not just about what bands you’ve seen, but about having friends and having intense experiences together. Have a party. The bands unite everyone, but it’s really about friends coming from different places in the country and having this meeting place. That’s cool to be young and organize your life to spend your summers seeing the world like this and meeting new people. If being open to things means you should probably take drugs because you’re open to that too, then yeah!
Interview & Film Portraits by: Shannon Kurlander