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It's their name because that's what they sound like
Spinal Tap's amps went to 11. The Flaming Lips start at 11, with triple digits fast impending.
Guitarist and "lead throat" Wayne Coyne readily admits that the Lips' music is usually perceived as "a lot of noise or a bad acid trip."
"It isn't so much that we're trying to write about drug-related experiences; it just seems to come out that way," Coyne drawls laconically in an interview laden with "y'knows" and "dudes," the latter despite the clearly non-dude gender of the reporter. "We try to get past all the goofy things that most people write songs about -- y'know, your everyday bullshit experiences. We don't deal in trite sorts of things. It's all sort of love and death and, y'know, conquering humanity sorts of things.
"I guess in a lot of ways it comes across like we're on this big drug trip. But we're not saying, 'Go and get a bunch of drugs and stick them in your arm'; we're saying, 'The music -- it's the drug.'"
The Flaming Lips -- comprised of Coyne, Mike Ivins on bass and Nathan Roberts on drums (replacing Richard English) -- got together in mid-'84, when they recorded their first self-titled EP on their own Lovely Sorts of Death label.
"When we started the band, we really had, like, no clue. I mean we've only recently gotten clued in to the whole music business. When we started the band it was literally four guys just looking at each other. I mean, none of us knew how to play. Mike didn't even have an amplifier for his bass. He only had a bass because Sid Vicious played one. But we just figured, 'Dude, why don't we just be in a band, there's nothing else to do here.'"
The way the band decided on their name seems just as random: "We just call our music the Flaming Lips -- I mean, that's why we're called the Flaming Lips, because if you say, 'Well, what's it sound like?', you say, 'Uh, it sounds like the Flaming Lips.' That's what it sounds like. It doesn't sound like anything. I mean, that's what it is -- it's the noise that we make."
Coyne describes the essential theme of the Lips' latest LP, "Telepathic Surgery," as "acid, UFOs and the Godless Society." Sit between two large speakers when you play this album (loudly) if you're curious about what it feels like to have guitars play tug-of-war with your brain.
"We did that album because we wanted to make just a really weird record... a really loud, electric, weird record. We don't go out of our way to be weird... we don't even think our stuff is all that weird. I mean, I think Miles Davis and Laurie Anderson are kinda weird, but it doesn't rock, y'know.
"I think anybody could get into our music just because it's, like, loud, and it's guitars and stuff. It isn't like we're up there playing rakes and flutes and stuff."
Tuesday night at the Sun Club, don't be surprised if the Lips are indeed armed with garden implements and wind instruments -- it's the kind of thing they might do just to blow your mind.