The Flaming Lips


Members: Steven Drozd, Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins

Active: 1983-Present

The Flaming Lips (formed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1983) are an idiosyncratic and acclaimed American alternative rock band.

Although indie rock/post-punk approach to rock music, The Flaming Lips are known for their lush, multi-layered, psychedelic-ish arrangements and their spacey lyrics and bizarre song titles. They are also acclaimed for their elaborate live shows featuring fursuits, balloons, puppets, video projections and complex stage light configurations. In 2002, Q magazine named The Flaming Lips one of the "50 bands to see before you die".

The group recorded several albums and EPs on an indie label in the 1980s and early 1990s. After signing to Warner Brothers, they scored a top ten hit in 1995 with "She Don?t Use Jelly" (known in Australia as "Vaseline"). Although it has been their only hit single, the band has maintained critical respect and, to a lesser extent, commercial viability with sonically majestic albums such as 1999's The Soft Bulletin and 2002's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.


The Flaming Lips formed in Oklahoma City in 1983, reportedly after guitarist Wayne Coyne stole a collection of instruments from a local church hall. With Coyne?s brother Mark singing lead vocals and Michael Ivins on bass guitar, the band debuted at an R&B bar. Shortly afterwards, drummer Richard English joined the group, Mark Coyne left the band and Wayne assumed lead vocal and songwriting duties. This line-up recorded the debut album Hear It Is, released on the small label Restless Records in 1986. This line-up recorded two more albums for Restless; 1987's Oh My Gawd!!! and 1988's Telepathic Surgery

Nathan Roberts replaced English as drummer and Jonathan Donahue (also a member of the alternative rock band Mercury Rev) joined for 1989's In a Priest Driven Ambulance. During their Restless Records period, the band gained a significant cult audience, thanks in part to their bizarre concerts featuring bubble machines, confetti, balloons, hand puppets and strings of Christmas lights.


In 1990, the band was signed to Warner Bros. Records. In 1992, they released their major label debut Hit to Death in the Future Head after the recording of which Donahue and Roberts left the band, largely due to creative differences, and were replaced by Ronald Jones and Steven Drozd respectively.

In 1993, they released Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. The album gained widespread airplay on college radio stations. In early 1995, the Transmissions single ?She Don't Use Jelly? became a top ten Modern Rock hit and received frequent MTV airplay. The Lips were even featured on the popular teen television series Beverly Hills 90210 and performed "She Don't Use Jelly" live on Late Night with David Letterman in March of 1995. The success of this record led to long stints of touring, including a second-stage headlining position on the Lollapalooza tour and opening for both the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Candlebox.

Clouds Taste Metallic was released to much critical fanfare in late 1995, though it did not achieve the commercial success of its predecessor. This was the last record and tour in which the Lips were performing as a "standard", although highly idiosyncratic, 4-piece rock band. The strain of the year-long Clouds tour added to the stress from the three years touring in support of Transmissions was a major factor in the departure of Ronald Jones in late 1996. He was said to be suffering from a severe case of agoraphobia, although the documentary Fearless Freaks states that he left due to growing paranoia over Drozd's drug use.

In the meanwhile, a series of strange incidents (recounted in the 1999 song The Spiderbite Song) beset the band. Drozd's arm was almost amputated needlessly due to what he claimed was a spider bite (it turned out to be abscessed as a result of Drozd's heroin use) and Ivins was trapped in his car for several hours after the wheel spun off of another vehicle into his windshield.

The departure of Jones and a general dissatisfaction with standard "rock" music led to the three remaining members of the group to redefine the direction of the band with the experimental Zaireeka (1997), a four-CD album which is intended to be heard by playing all four CDs in four separate CD players simultaneously. The music incorporated both traditional musical elements and "found" sounds (as in musique concrete), often heavily manipulated with recording studio electronics. As part of the development of this project (and occasionally as part of the subsequent tour), the band conducted a series of "boombox experiments", where an orchestra comprising up to 40 volunteers with modified "boombox"-type tape players was "conducted" - directed to vary the volume, speed or tone of the tape they were playing (all of which were made by the band) - by the band's lead member, Wayne Coyne.


Though their experimental endeavors received some press, their real breakthrough came with the massively acclaimed 1999 release, The Soft Bulletin. Marrying more traditional catchy melodies with languid synthetic strings, hypnotic, carefully manipulated beats, booming cymbals and oddball, philosophical lyrics (sung much more strongly than on earlier releases), the album was one of the underground hits of the year, widely considered to be one of the best albums of the entire decade. Compared by many to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds due to the harmonies and orchestrated sounds, it also featured greater use of synthesizers, drum machines, sound effects and more studio manipulation. After this album was released, Wayne Coyne said that, "if someone was to ask me what instrument do I play, I would say the recording studio." Realizing that an attempt to recreate this complex album live solely with additional musicians would be prohibitively complex and expensive, the group decided to tour as a three-piece and make extensive use of pre-recorded music to fill out the parts not being performed live by the members of the band. Perhaps most notably, this led to the decision to have Steven Drozd (ostensibly the drummer, but a talented multi-instrumentalist) play primarily keyboards and guitar live instead of the drums. This, in turn, led to a decision to utilize video recordings and projections of Steven playing the drums for some of their older, more "standard rock" songs.

In a further attempt to enhance the live experience for the audience and to more accurately reproduce the sound of The Soft Bulletin live, the Lips devised the concept of the "Headphone Concert." A low-powered FM transmitter was set up at shows, and the concert was simultaneously broadcast to small Walkman-style receivers and headphones available for free to audience members. This would, in theory, allow the audiences greater sonic clarity while still feeling the power of a full live P.A.. This concept was debuted in Dallas, Texas and at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas in March of 1999, and was subsequently used on the International Music Against Brain Degeneration Revue tour.

In the summer of 2002, The Flaming Lips joined bands Cake and Modest Mouse on the Unlimited Sunshine Tour. They also released the full-length Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots to much critical acclaim. Considered much more accessible than any of their previous albums, Yoshimi is widely considered to be The Flaming Lips' first critical and commercial success after nearly twenty years of existing as a band.

Both The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots have been released on DVD-Audio for an enhanced listening experience.


After Yoshimi, The Flaming Lips released two EPs in the same vein of their previous album's robotic theme and containing remixed songs from Yoshimi, Fight Test EP and Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell EP. They also appeared on the track 'Marching The Hate Machines (Into the Sun)' on the Thievery Corporation album The Cosmic Game. In addition to their EPs, The Lips have been working for several years on a feature film entitled Christmas on Mars. There will possibly be showings of it in the summer of 2006, with a predicted release date of Christmas 2006. Filming for the movie ended in late September 2005 and it is now in post-production.

Recently, they performed as the backup band for singer Beck on his Sea Change tour. In the summer of 2004, it was announced that The Flaming Lips would appear among the headliners on the 2004 Lollapalooza tour, alongside such legendary artists as Sonic Youth and Morrissey; however, the tour was canceled due to lack of revenue. Following the concerts' cancellation, the band entered Tarbox Road Studio with producer Dave Fridmann and began work on their eleventh album, At War with the Mystics. Also in 2004, the band recorded the song "SpongeBob & Patrick Confront the Psychic Wall of Energy" for the soundtrack to The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.

In 2005 the band was the subject of a documentary called Fearless Freaks, featuring appearances by other artists and celebrities such as the White Stripes, Beck, Christina Ricci, Liz Phair and Juliette Lewis. In that same year, The Flaming Lips contributed a version of Bohemian Rhapsody to the album Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen. Also in this year, The Flaming Lips released the DVD VOID (Video Overview in Deceleration), which chronicles all of their ventures into Music Video that have been produced since they signed with Warner Brothers in 1991. In October of 2005 The Flaming Lips recorded a cover of "If I Only Had a Brain" for the soundtrack of the video game Stubbs the Zombie, which features modern rock bands covering songs from the 1950s and 1960s. Additionally, the band released one new song, Mr. Ambulance Driver, for the movie soundtrack of The Wedding Crashers.

In October of 2005, the band performed a concert with several other acts, including Medeski Martin & Wood, Particle, and G Love & Special Sauce onboard a Carnival cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean in a music festival called Xingolati.

The digital single The W.A.N.D was released January 10th. It is the second single from At War with the Mystics, the first being Mr. Ambulance Driver. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song was released in the UK on March 27th.

On March 14th, 2006, Broadway Publishing issued the book Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips, authored by Chicago Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis. Soon after it's release the Viking Youth Power Hour interviewed DeRogatis about his book, the Flaming Lips, the death of the music industry and much more.

Following the April 4, 2006 release of At War with the Mystics, the band plans a tour beginning in the United Kingdom. A tour of the US with Sonic Youth, Ween, and other artists is set to follow. They will also play at Wakarusa Festival in Kansas in June 2006.


1986 - Hear It Is
1987 - Oh My Gawd!!!
1989 - Telepathic Surgery
1990 - In a Priest Driven Ambulance
1992 - Hit to Death in the Future Head
1993 - Transmissions from the Satellite Heart
1995 - Clouds Taste Metallic
1997 - Zaireeka
1999 -The Soft Bulletin
2002 - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
2006 - At War with the Mystics


1984 - "The Flaming Lips"
1994 - "Due to high expectations... The Flaming Lips are Providing Needles For Your Balloons.."
2003 - "Fight Test"
2003 - "Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell EP"


1998 - A Collection of Songs Representing An Enthusiasm For Recording...By Amateurs
2002 - Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid
2002 - The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg
2002 - Shambolic Birth and Early Life Of
2002 - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
2005 - Late Night Tales: Flaming Lips
2006 - The Soft Bulletin
2006 - 20 Years of Weird: Flaming Lips 1986-2006


2005 - Fearless Freaks
2005 - VOID
2006? - Christmas on Mars

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Submitted by OptimusPrime at Tue 23 May, 2006 7:47 am


Last updated by OptimusPrime at Tue 23 May, 2006 7:47 am

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