In 2016, Fort Wayne crossed a threshold from “almost cool” to “indisputably cool” when it was announced that The Flaming Lips would perform at the inaugural Middle Waves music festival.
A band the caliber of The Flaming Lips had never deigned to come here before. For some residents, the band’s performance (and the festival as a whole) was a culmination of and justification for all the downtown revitalization that had occurred up to that point.
Now The Flaming Lips are set to return to commemorate the nascent revitalization of the city’s south side. The Flaming Lips will perform at the revamped Clyde Theatre on August 16.
The band, which formed in 1983, recently released a boxed set and a greatest hits package. The latter is interesting, given that the band’s success has largely been unconventionally achieved and is largely unconventionally defined.
“We don’t really think of ourselves as having any hits,” Wayne Coyne, the band’s lead singer, told Rolling Stone. “But some of our favorite albums that people have ever done are greatest hits. When people ask me what my favorite Donovan album is, I say, Donovan’s Greatest Hits. It’s this idea of saying, ‘Let’s decide which ones would be easily the most popular, and if you like those popular songs, what would be a bunch of songs you’d dig that you weren’t aware of?’”
Coyne said “greatest hits” albums used to be how many kids discovered bands.
“Our manager [Scott Booker] is like the biggest Flaming Lips fan that could ever be,” he said. “He’s always like, ‘Let’s do a greatest hits!’ He points to Echo & the Bunnymen and the Cure having a greatest hits. And as we were growing up, those records really did turn us onto these bands because we didn’t really know about their other albums.”
The Flaming Lips have never followed any of the standard blueprints for achieving success in the music business.
For example, the band once released new music on USB drives encased in gummy candies that were crafted to resemble fetuses and skulls. Also, Coyne has rolled around in a giant hamster ball in concert.
He told the Baltimore Sun that he believes in acting on creative impulse.
“You just feel like, ‘This is what I want to say right now,’ and you have to absolutely say it before you can be rational again,” he said.
The band wants every recording and project to be an adventure, Coyne said.
“You really do want to get lost in this (expletive) that’s coming out of your subconscious and let it overtake you,” he told Newsweek. “I’ve said it, but it’s not my quote, it’s [filmmaker] John Cocteau’s: ‘I don’t have ideas. Ideas have me.’ And it’s like you’re just a slave to them.”
Coyne said he likes not knowing how things will turn out when he embarks on them.
“I think the worst thing anybody can say about an artist is that they’re clever. Like, ‘They knew that was going to work!’ I don’t feel good about thinking and contriving and coming up with ideas. Like, I don’t (expletive) know if it’s going to work.”
Coyne expresses gratitude for the band’s slow and eccentric success.
“I see now how success ruins people and it pushes you off your trajectory of being creative and evolving,” he told the Huffington Post. “The success that happened to us early on was just enough to keep us confident and to keep us doing it, and it didn’t give us any superpower over other people. It allowed us to see so much. ... We were lucky. We got to make our records, and people left us to ourselves because we weren’t trying to sell 100 million records. People weren’t giving us billions of dollars to make our records. ... If you had to do all that in two years when you’re 19 years old, you’re probably going to be crazy.”
Coyne hopes the band serves as a creative role model for people who defy convention and might not be totally comfortable with that.
“By being yourself, you attract other people that want to be themselves,” he said. “I think that’s the greatest lesson that we’ve learned. People will say to us, ‘Man, I saw you standing there doing your thing and it made me want to do my thing.’... I really do love being a creative weirdo.
“If you asked me what would be the perfect day? If you could do whatever you wanted to do? It would be filled up with making music and doing some art in my kitchen. I’m never longing to be free of that,” Coyne said. “The Flaming Lips gives me this endless vehicle in which I can make another chapter.”
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June 27 • The Clyde