Most people who claim to have good taste in music would pick Radiohead as their favourite experimental band. I don’t know if it’s Thom Yorke’s lyrical murmuring or the band’s dystopian music, but Radiohead sounds like a band for people who can’t see the brighter side of life (or, who just aren’t original enough). That’s why when someone asks me if I like them, I go, “They’re good, but have you heard of the Flaming Lips?’
Weirdos from Oklahoma City, this is a band that didn’t have a hit single until halfway through their 27-year career. And they got it with the novelty post-grunge alt spazz-out called ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’. You might remember this song if you have a fondness for 90s alternative…
Founding front man, all-round hard-worker (he worked 11 years in Long John Silver while the band was still struggling) Wayne Coyne allegedly stole a collection of musical instruments from an area church hall and enlisted his vocalist-brother Mark and bassist Michael Ivins to start a band. Giving themselves the nonsensical name the Flaming Lips (its origin variously attributed to a porn film, an obscure drug reference, or a dream in which a fiery Virgin Mary plants a kiss on Wayne in the back seat of his car), the band made its live debut at a local transvestite club.
Mark Coyne soon departed to get married leaving Wayne to assume full control of the group. He became lead guitarist, singer and songwriter. In 1990 the band caught the attention of Warner Bros Records and were signed after a label rep saw a show at which the band almost burned down the venue (American Legion Hall in Norman, OK) with the use of pyrotechnics. Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev was a Lip from 1989-92.
After hitting it big with ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’, the band grew bored with their slacker rock image. They countered MTV backlash with Zaireeka (1997) – a 4-disc album which is supposed to be played simultaneously on 4 separate CD players. The band conducted a series of “parking lot experiments” and then later, “boombox experiments”. In the parking lot experiments up to 40 volunteers were given cassettes created by the band to be played at a parking lot in their cars’ stereo systems simultaneously.
Zaireeka cast the Lips on their journey into the phenomenally weird where they achieved success with The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, At War With Mystics and later, Embryonic (album no. 12!). They’ve also made a feature film called Christmas On Mars; wrote a song for the Spongebob Squarepants movie; toured extensively with huge stage props including a giant UFO, human-hamster ball, hundreds of bright-coloured beach balls and tonnes of confetti as well as entourages of aliens, superheroes and santas; backed up and recorded with Beck for his tour; covered Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon; had their song ‘Do You Realise?’ become the official rock song of Oklahoma and picked up a couple of Grammys for Best Instrumental Rock Song.
So if you haven’t heard of The Flaming Lips yet, it’s high time you did. I know some people might consider them an old band and rightfully so but hey, so are Radiohead! At least the Lips sound young. See you in your animal suit at Singapore soon!
The Flaming Lips and The Raveonettes will be playing full sets on 11 November 2010 at 8pm, Sands Expo Hall E in Singapore. Tickets on sale at www.sistic.com.sg. To win passes for you and your friend, checkout our Flaming Lips contest here. Watch juiceonline.com for our interview with main Lip, Wayne Coyne, coming soon!