Wayne Coyne is a weird guy. Kicking back in his workshop/art gallery/recording studio/party palace in Oklahoma City, he is having a sip of bourbon and getting ready to host the opening of an art exhibit at the unofficial warehouse headquarters of his band, the Flaming Lips. He’s the kind of guy who is equally comfortable dressed as a bunny as he is extolling the merits of the Lips’ biggest and most unlikely fan, Miley Cyrus. The latest Flaming Lips joint, With a Little Help From My Fwends, is a track-for-track appreciation of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, recorded in collaboration with the likes of My Morning Jacket, J Mascis, Moby, and—wait for it—Miley Cyrus.
Love her or hate her (Coyne happens to love her), working with Miley is a gutsy move for this simple man from OK City.
As a longtime Flaming Lips fan, I have to admit I’m a little shocked you guys teamed up with Miley Cyrus. How’d that go down?
Well, I knew that she was a Flaming Lips fan a while back. I mean, back when she was Hannah Montana. Miley is a pop star, but fucking Hannah Montana is a big deal. I didn’t know that part—I’m not a 13-year-old girl. I didn’t know who the fuck Hannah Montana was. But Hannah loved the Lips, that’s for sure. We had that happen through the past 4 or 5 years. She put out this record about a year and half ago now that I really liked. She was in the news, she was, like, the most Googled person of 2013.
Representing basically the opposite of you guys kicking back in Oklahoma City.
Yes! Opposites attract. But she grew. I think this thing that happened to her—she became her own person, you know what I mean? - she wasn’t Hannah Montana anymore. And she was catching all this flack for the twerking and everything. But that is part of pop culture. I think she’s cool for doing that shit. I think she’s bad-ass: the tongue, the costumes, the shit she says in interviews. I just fucking love her. In the middle of all these people putting her down, she just kept her head up and did cool shit.
So how did the deal go down? How did you meet?
On my birthday, she tweeted at me, and I tweeted her back. And now we’re making records together. It seems weird. You’re old as fuck and she’s young as fuck. But she’s so pure and loving and open to ideas and I am also, in another way. I’ve done this shit for so long. She’s in that same zone. It’s more important to do things that make you happy than it is to be the most famous and richest person. She’s the first person who’d say she’s rich as fuck and famous as fuck, but she wants to do her thing. And I love that about her.
What is the scene like for you guys in Oklahoma City? What are you doing right now?
Like 50 things at once. I’m kicking back in our gallery having a beer. It’s Flaming Lips headquarters where I do my videos and graphics and stuff. We work out our light shows and art projects and build shit and basically do anything other than be in a band. We have a show going on tomorrow night, with a couple freaky art exhibits. We’re going to get drunk and have fun. That’s how we do things around here.
And that’s just constant? You have a pretty legendary work ethic.
No one’s ever accused me of that! But we play almost every weekend. We’re always playing. We tour but don’t really tour, you know what I mean? The things we try and do is usually around November through February. But this all started at end of March with Miley Cyrus–slash-Beatles record and like 20 other things.
They say if you want to get something done ask a busy person…
I’ve made the mistake of asking people who don’t do anything to do something for me, and the results have always been less than stellar.
How did this become a Beatles record? It seems a little random.
We toyed with ideas like doing 'Dark Side of the Moon,' 'King Crimson,' I don’t know. It just felt like something the Lips would do. We have a lot of side projects. This one started out that way and sort of blossomed from there. Once you get Miley Cyrus involved, suddenly everyone wants you to put this thing out.
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
I’m lucky. I’m a lucky guy. We haven’t had overwhelming mega success. We’ve done alright, but it’s never been successful enough that people wanted to kill each other over money. You get involved with Lips because you want to do it, not to make a million bucks. Little by little, as we’ve gone, we’ve gotten luckier.
There’s bad luck too.
Hell yes! You can be the most determined hardworking smartest motherfucker ever and have bad luck 20 times in a row. But, eventually - as Confucius says - their day will come. The person who’s determined and creative will have good luck. And that’s true of just about everybody. Look at the Beatles and how lucky they were. Those four guys, that particular moment in time. Luck is part of the magic that makes it really special. You’re there every day saying, 'Let’s see if there’s magic to be had today.'
Work your ass off and when you get lucky, it’ll happen. I think the secret is just fucking doing your thing and do it relentlessly and obsessed and with love.
Photos by Ethan Miller / Getty Images