In this article by Pitchfork, Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne talks about their upcoming album, working with Brain Bandits favorite Phantogram, along with Ke$ha, Bon Iver, Erykah Badu, and including their collaborators blood with special edition releases. Weird. Read the rest after the jump.
Heady Fwends is something of a conclusion to the Lips’ recent prolific, experimental stretch; Coyne says they’ll still continue to collaborate with other artists, but with less frequency. And they still have some extra collabs with folks like Death Cab for Cutie and Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Tobacco lying around. Some of those might make it onto the Lips’ forthcoming proper album follow-up to 2009′s Embryonic, tentatively set to come out this fall.
According to Coyne, one track that’s almost guaranteed to make it onto the new album features New York electro-pop outfit Phantogram. Coyne describes that one thusly: “It’s a real fuckin’ somber, strange song about lusting for success and the things that you want in your life.”
Read on for our interview about the forthcoming album, what the deal is with all that blood, e-mailing Chris Martin during the Grammys, and what it’s really like to work with Ke$ha.
Pitchfork: So, whose blood have you gotten so far?
Wayne Coyne: I’ve got blood from Ke$ha– she did it 20 minutes after I texted her. I said, “Hey I need your blood,” and she said, “Fuck, I’m there.” She sent me a little video and everything. It was awesome. And I’ve got blood from [Neon Indian's] Alan Palomo. Tame Impala’s blood is on the way. I think I’ll be getting Bon Iver’s blood today. Edward Sharpe has thirteen people in his band, so I’m not sure I’ll get blood from every one of them. I’ve got my blood and the Flaming Lips’ blood. Everybody says yes to this sort of thing, but when it comes down to getting poked with a needle, some people just cannot bear it.
We used to give blood a lot. If we didn’t have any money, we’d go to the blood bank. It’s a little bit scary, but it’s also awesome, so you gotta go for it. I’ve made posters with my own blood. They come to my house and poke me, it takes about 20 minutes, and I get about six big vials of my own shit there. I don’t like it, but I’ve gotten used to it. You can see why heroin addicts embrace it. It’s a strange sensation.
Pitchfork: How did you get hooked up with Ke$ha?
WC: She’s a Flaming Lips fan. When she played here in Oklahoma over the summer, she tweeted something like, “If anybody knows the Flaming Lips tell them to come up.” I kept telling her management, “Have her call me, because maybe we could do a song together.” Lo and behold, on my birthday, January 13, she fucking texts me and says, “Hey honey, let’s get together.” I was like, “Cool.” She called me that night, and three days later we were recording at a studio in her house in Nashville. She has a bunch of houses, but that’s the one she was living at then.
I like her so much because she’s just willing to be a freak. I’m around a lot of rock star people, and there’s just so much fucking pandering and drama. She’s not like that. It’s such a great relief to be around people that are so energetic, creative, funny, and into life.
Pitchfork: How did the song turn out?
WC: It’s exactly what people would think a Ke$ha/Flaming Lips track would sound like. It’s obnoxious and funny. That’s why we like it so much– she wasn’t precious about the whole thing. She was really into this idea of doing a song about the year 2012 and doomsday and what’s going to happen. She sent me the most primitive fucking shitty 40-second demo, and we took that and ran with it. Her section of the song is very optimistic– she’s singing about the end of the world, but she’s also on ten hits of acid, so she’s having a good time– and my section is completely fucked up.
Pitchfork: Did she actually take acid while recording?
WC: Well, when I got to her house, she said, “I’ve never taken acid, so I can’t sing about that stuff.” She’s done lots of other drugs, but not acid. So she was like, “Why don’t we do some acid, and then I can sing about it.” She told her assistant, “Go get us some acid.” Her assistant would’ve just ran out and got everybody a bunch of acid– how great is that? But we didn’t, because I was like, “Listen lady, I’m not going to do a bunch of acid with you tonight, because we have to record.” Plus, I didn’t really want her to. The way she is, it’s as though she’s on acid already. I thought, “Fuck, how crazy is that going to be [if she takes acid]?”
Pitchfork: I read that you might be contributing to Ke$ha’s new album, too.
WC: I’m trying to. I think we’re getting together right before Easter. We’ve already done three songs– they’re hers, I’m helping with some lyrics here and there. She’s really a great songwriter. She has an easy way with things. I’ve worked with a lot of people that are very uptight about how they do their music, but she’s very fun, so I don’t really have any reservations about whether I don’t like her music. I like her, and she likes us, so fuck it. I’m not too worried about it.
Pitchfork: Coldplay’s Chris Martin contributes to Heady Fwends as well, right?
WC: Yeah, we’ve known Chris Martin since “Yellow” went to number one in the UK. As the years have gone on, me and him have made an effort to stay in touch. When we were finishing up this compilation, I just texted him and said, “Hey man, we should try to do something.” I sent him a song that sounded like it could be a Chris Martin-type of song– you know, it had piano chords on it, and it was sweet and sad or whatever. Five hours later, he’d recorded this thing on his phone and sent it to me. You’d think someone like Chris Martin would be like, “We have to set up studio time,” but he just did it right on his fuckin’ phone and sent it to me.
When we were mixing Heady Fwends, all these people were at the Grammys– Chris Martin, Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket. But even on the night that Chris Martin was at the Grammys, during rehearsal with Rihanna, I was sending him mixes back and forth saying, “What do you think?” He’d make little comments and sent them back. I didn’t realize he was even at the Grammys until I started seeing tweets like, “Hey, you know Coldplay is going to win.” I’m like, “Win what?”
Pitchfork: How’s the new Lips record coming along?
WC: We have a lot of material that we’re trying to hone down to nine or ten songs. After doing the big double record with Embryonic, we’re looking to put out a good 45 minutes of music, songs that have interplay and possess an atmosphere. People have wrongly accused us of abandoning albums. They say, “You’re doing all these singles and stuff now.” We like the idea of doing both, and the minute you start doing one thing, it makes you want to do the other.
All this time after Embryonic, we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. We thought we were making new music, but being at the mercy of these collaborators means you don’t get to really say what your music is going to be. Not that we’d know anyway, but occasionally your mind makes music in a sort of subconscious way. You think, “This is just dumb music, we’re not writing a song, we’re not planning on using this for anything.” We’ve done that three or four different times. Sometimes, though, it really is something freaky and unique. We’ve taken a couple of these tracks that we didn’t even remember that we did– just us completely dicking around– and heard them out of context and were like, “What the fuck is that?” That’s the basis of where this album is going. It’s very strange: beat-less, synthesizer-like church hymns. Really triumphant, but very depressing at the same time. Lovely suicidal music.