The Flaming Lips will be loading frontman Wayne Coyne’s signature giant bubble and the rest of their eccentricities onto a tricked-out tour bus in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the Most Live Concerts in 24 hours (Multiple Cities) for the third O Music Awards – which will unfold via a live stream. And we are psyched about it.
Legendary for their elaborate shows and musical experimentation, the Lips taped a Steve Jobs tribute entirely on iPads, and just this weekend performed a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” as the solar eclipse took place at Alabama’s Hangout Fest. They’re also at the forefront of embracing digital’s impact on music despite their nearly 30-year musical foothold.
We talked to Coyne, who will be driving – nay, commandeering – the bus that will take the Lips through the Mississippi Delta – to hear more about what we can expect from his upcoming trip and world record attempt. Among other things, he told us we can expect collaboration and love, and that he does NOT have beef with Jay-Z, who currently holds the Guinness World Record title.
Two more elaborate shows will bookend the 24-hour tour, with six shorter shows in the middle. Each will be at least 15 minutes, per Guinness World Record guidelines. The shorter shows will have an element of “Hello! We’re here!” as Coyne puts it – but he sees this as an opportunity for a different kind of performance art.
“I don’t worry – those will be fun because they’re so outrageous,” he said. “The audience will love it even more that it’s not just a show. It’s an event. They’re involved in it – the audience and us – we’re all doing it together. That sort of makes it more special, more charged.”
Without letting on to specifics, Coyne alluded to cameos from artist(s) off Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, their recent collaborative album which featured artists from across the musical spectrum – from Ke$ha and Bon Iver to Chris Martin and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes.
Coyne attributes the iconic status of Lips shows to more than the ‘lights, lasers and all that’ that often accompany their performances.
“When you’re there, there is this love – we have the greatest audience,” Coyne said. “I would say, of any group, our audience loves-loves music; they love art; they love this communal thing that happens. And so they make it happen. So to me even though it looks like it’s about explosions and all this stuff, it really is about that love. If we’re playing in a venue of only 200 people, then that love is even more, because we’re right there with each other, even though we might not have laser beams everywhere we go.”
Unlike many of today’s artists, who have soared to stardom through or because of the tools of the digital era and who know of no other way, Coyne remembers the pre-digital days and has experienced the impact of digital on their creative process more palpably – praising its merits toward community and immediacy.
“We’ve realized you can release music almost instantaneously,” he said. “You can record it – before you know it, it can be out there. And so for us, sometimes we like our music being very immediate.”
Coyne describes digital as an extension of the communal experience he describes taking place at his famed shows: “Everyone’s in on it with us.”
And he makes sure of this, using platforms like SoundCloud and Twitter to take his fans through the genesis of his music, from recording to release.
“I show people on my Twitter even the recording process,” he said. “Whether it’s interesting or boring, I show you what’s happening – and then really, sometimes that night, we can post [the track].”
Music has always been able to carry a message, according to Coyne, who pointed to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio.”
“There’s a song by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young about when the students at Kent State were killed by the National Guard… they recorded it and a couple days later it was out,” Coyne said. “And it was an event happening in real time with music going with it.”
But digital expedites the delivery of and enhances the musical dialogue on historical moments. It’s a far cry from when the Lips started making records in the late 80s, early 90s – when it would sometimes take a year to organize and market before it would come out.
“Oftentimes by the time music would come out, weirdos like us kind of moved on to the next thing. That doesn’t mean you don’t like it. But there’s elements now that let you be creative, let you be crazy, and it’s still relative. It’s like, we made this music yesterday, we’re hearing it today. Bam. That’s as cool as it can be.”
Of course, not all music is pushed out so quickly. With other music, you want to have a longer process and hear it later, he said. “I like that it’s everything: if we want it to be out today, we can put it out today, if we don’t want to, we don’t have to.”
To reiterate, Wayne Coyne is in no way against Jay-Z.
“I’m worried that some people may think I’m against him. I’m not. I love him.”
In fact, it’s more about the music than the competition for Coyne, who sees breaking the world record as a “byproduct” of the tour.
“If we got to hour 22 and our bus was involved in an accident and we could get out and help some people – whatever the moment is happening supercedes the importance of being in the Guinness World Book of Records,” Coyne said. “We’re going to try to make that happen, but we want to live for that day and for the music and the people that are there. I would never sacrifice one moment for some other abstract moment.”
Cast your votes for the OMAs here, and hear Coyne talk about the upcoming trip below.
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