On a hot July afternoon, Wayne Coyne — the eccentric frontman of The Flaming Lips — is parked in the driveway of his equally eccentric Oklahoma City home.
And on this particular day, Coyne is conducting interviews with the media from the air-conditioned confines of his 10-year-old Toyota Prius.
“It still runs great,” Coyne insists of his vehicle, “but some of the plastic bits around the outside have fallen off.”
Inside the house, it’s general chaos. There are dogs, and a new baby, and people coming and going, Coyne explains. But out in the driveway?
“My car is like my little office,” he says. “No one else comes in here, where they have to hear me talking to 10 reporters in a row before they finally scream, ‘Why doesn’t he just shut the f— up?’”
Ten reporters in a row. Sometimes, journalists forget that they’re just another in a string of interviewers who want to know what makes The Flaming Lips, well, flame.
But Coyne says he’d rather do interviews than not do interviews and insists that he’s completely open to discussing whatever the reporter chooses.
“Ask me anything you want,” Coyne encourages cheerfully — and by “anything” he’s including those questions that he’s already answered a million times before in interviews with the press.
Coyne understands the relationship.
“It would be like if you’re talking to a guy who has two heads, and he’s already done 100 interviews,” Coyne said. “But you’re still going to want to ask, ‘What’s it like to have two heads?’ So ask away.”
The single-headed Coyne and his bandmates set the Ogden Twilight Concert Series on fire with last year’s memorable performance in the Ogden Amphitheater. That concert, in addition to the Lips’ danceable music, featured giant eyeballs and hands, a rolling unicorn, copious amounts of confetti and glitter, a Wayne Coyne-sized human hamster ball, and a huge silver mylar balloon that spelled out the enthusiastic — and somewhat crass — message: “F— YEAH OGDEN.”
In other words, a fairly epic summer’s night concert in Ogden.
And now, The Flaming Lips return to the Ogden Amphitheater for a repeat performance on Thursday, July 18. So then, how does the colorful band top last year’s show? Coyne doesn’t even worry about it.
“I think it’s much better to have people thinking, ‘I’m going to something that I’m going to like,’” Coyne said. “It feels like it would be pressure, but that’s great.”
Indeed, Coyne says that, in a way, The Flaming Lips wouldn’t even need to show up to the Ogden concert — just the idea of an incredible evening is enough to get the party started.
“People don’t even need us to be there, in a way,” Coyne said. “I’ve seen the Rolling Stones a couple of times, and you already know at some point they’re going to come out on stage, so it’s just exciting to be where the Rolling Stones are.”
Just being in “one of the coolest places to be on the planet right now” — a venue where one of your favorite bands is about to play — is exciting enough, according to Coyne.
“If that’s happened, us coming out and playing these songs, that’s nothing,” he said.
Coyne predicts a good time will be had by all.
“The way The Flaming Lips’ music is — the way we put on a show — if you try to resist this excitement and this joy, you won’t win,” he said. “You’re going to be overwhelmed. That’s really what’s happening. We’re wanting people to come and show how excited they are, that’s what’s contagious.
“We’re professionals, and we know how to get there, but that energy with the audience is where the magic is.”
Coyne considers himself “very lucky” as a musician. He says The Flaming Lips have been successful enough that they’re able to continue pursuing their artistic vision, but they haven’t had “so much success that it scares you and messes up your life.”
And Coyne knows plenty of successful people who haven’t been so lucky.
“I know famous people, and I sometimes use the phrase, ‘They suffered a great success,’” he said. “And I mean that, describing their problem.”
Coyne believes the best thing for most people in general, and creative people specifically, is to have just enough stability and confidence to get to “do your own thing.”
And the worst thing? To be so successful that you don’t have any time for the important stuff.
“I think we’re not as happy being too overly in demand,” he said.
Coyne says he’s comfortable with the idea of being loved by the people who like The Flaming Lips’ music, but not to the point where band members are so busy that they don’t have time to be creative.
“I’d love the day when someone says ‘I’ll give you $10 million to do this,’” Coyne said. “Because I’d love to be able to do this once and then take the rest of the year off.”
The Flaming Lips are in the midst of releasing a new studio album — their 15th — titled “King’s Mouth.” It was initially released in April for Record Store Day, as a limited-run vinyl offering. The digital version is set to drop on Friday, July 19.
“We’re just now getting to make music videos for the new album, to give the songs some character and identity,” Coyne said. “We love that. Our songs are like little orphans out there, they really do need help getting around the world.”
Coyne says the music The Flaming Lips create — even though they write and record it — “feels like a gift from the great gods of the universe” and band members never take that gift lightly.
“We’re the ones who created it, but we still feel like it’s a gift,” he said. “When music works, it really is magic. You can make a lot of music that’s fine and great, but when it’s magic, it touches into some deep, unspeakable things, and that’s a pretty special moment. We’re always struggling and fighting for that.”
Coyne says he’s never understood artists who look at the recording process as a difficult one.
“The idea that I get to make music, it’s already, like, ‘How great is this world I get to be in,’” he said. “Sometimes I hear people talk about their music like it’s a chore creating it. I don’t understand that.”
It’s been a pretty eventful year, personally, for Coyne. In January, he married longtime partner Katy Weaver. (In Coyne-esque fashion, they were married inside a plastic bubble.) And just last month the couple celebrated the birth of their son, Bloom.
Coyne says he loves the way he and Katy are “just going for it.”
“Her and I think in a lot of the same ways — there’s no time like now, let’s do it,” he said. “All time is precious. It is wonderful. I never realized what a great humanistic connection normal people have.”
Coyne said he and Katy made a pact years ago that they would try to slow down time.
“Sometimes you’re doing things, you get into routines, and your life can go by,” he said. “But we fill up every day with more than we can handle."
Coyne said The Flaming Lips isn’t like Pearl Jam, "where there’s 365 days in a year, and they’ll play 400 shows." Rather, the Lips go after "specifically cool places" that they want to play.
Coyne said the band rarely does more than 100 shows in a year. Rather than going out for six months at a time, they’ll go out for a week and return home, then go out for 10 days, and return home.
“That’s been our way of working since 2006-07, and I think it works better,” he said.
Coyne says he’s highly protective of the band and its music, and this more relaxed approach to touring helps keep everything in perspective.
“I don’t do anything that would make our music suffer,” he said. “If we play too much and the guys get burned out — or it’s too much alcohol, drugs or attention — our music suffers. Our music is so magical when we’re in love with playing it, I wouldn’t ever want to ruin that. It only takes two weeks too long (on the road) to take the shine off.”
Coyne said the Ogden Amphitheater is an “improbably great place” for a concert and called last year’s Flaming Lips show in Ogden “spectacular.” He said that with the location and the energy of the crowd, the band actively pursued a return engagement to Ogden.
“As the Flaming Lips we’ve been around everywhere,” he said. “And virtually everywhere play, we’ve been seeking out places like that.”
And the result of this protective attitude toward the music — limiting the number of shows, choosing specific places to play — is what helps create the magic of The Flaming Lips, according to Coyne.
“Every night we play, it’s special. I’m glad we’re here,” he said.