Wayne Coyne is more relevant now than he’s ever been. He’s on your TV during the Super Bowl. He’s best friends with your favorite indie band. He’s constantly in your news feed, announcing new projects, getting matching chest tattoos with Miley Cyrus, or pissing off other famous rock stars.
And for a band that’s been rocking for over 30 years, The Flaming Lips have done and seen more in the past two than some bands do in their entire careers.
In 2012, American Songwriter sat down with Coyne at the Hangout Festival to discuss his then upcoming release The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, and the band’s contract with Warner Bros Records.
“We said ‘Let’s fuck around for a year. Let us discover what we want, in our own way, to happen,’” Coyne said at the time. “So they said ‘Cool, let’s see what happens.’”
Since then The Flaming Lips have released their bleakest album yet, 2013’s The Terror. They’ve broken world records, formed side projects, scored films, and recorded a handful of covers albums by the likes of King Crimson, Stone Roses and, most recently, The Beatles.
With A Little Help From My Fwends, the band’s upcoming project, features the Lips teaming up with everyone from Miley Cyrus to My Morning Jacket and J. Mascis to take on The Beatles’ seminal, psychedelic, classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The record sounds surprisingly cohesive for a jumbled, psychedelic, mess. Coyne says the recording and production of such a massive collaboration varied depending on the artist.
“We weren’t necessarily there for all of them, but we were the producers so we had a hand in every track,” he says. “Like My Morning Jacket? I love those guys, but we weren’t there when they recorded.”
The track Coyne says he got most heavily involved with was the band’s take on “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” featuring Miley Cyrus and Moby.
“If I had to pick a favorite it would be the one we did with Miley,” he says.
Aside from a token of his budding friendship with Cyrus, the song has personal significance to Coyne for other reasons. It’s one of the first Beatles songs he remembers hearing from Sgt. Pepper’s.
“I heard a lot [of The Beatles] growing up from my older brothers and sisters, and a lot of it I didn’t necessarily hear as it was coming out but maybe a few years later in the early ’70s, and I didn’t know which album had what songs,” Coyne says. “But I had definitely heard “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.’”
Coyne says the most rewarding part of recording cover albums is the song deconstruction process.
“We just get to examine them and really enjoy the small details that you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t doing something like this,” he says. “I love those moments, where you find little things that you never noticed that have been there all along.”
Despite his love for the record, Coyne is still hesitant to call Sgt. Pepper’s his favorite Beatles album.
“Some years you ask me and it’s my favorite, and some years it’s the White Album or whatever; some years it’s my least favorite,” he says. “But that’s a long time of listening to music. I’m 53 now.”
It’s hard to predict what the Flaming Lips might do next, but it’s obvious that their relationship with Warner Bros. Records continues to push both the band and the label into new territory.
“What’s nice about it is that when they don’t know exactly what to do with us they will just sort of leave us alone and let us do what we want,” Coyne says.
With A Little Help from My Fwends is out October 28.