Human hamster balls? The Flaming Lips create performance art with their shows.

The Flaming Lips in concert at Hopscotch 2018 in Raleigh, NC Thursday night, Sept. 6, 2018.
The Flaming Lips in concert at Hopscotch 2018 in Raleigh, NC Thursday night, Sept. 6, 2018. ssharpe@newsobserver.com

The arty but commercially successful Flaming Lips are a rarity.

The Oklahoma City band, led by Wayne Coyne, formed in 1983. There’s no other group quite like them, thanks to their inventive shows — think human hamster balls — and their imaginative songs. Their new album, “King’s Mouth,” was released July 19, and complements the visually stimulating shows Flaming Lips is known for.

The Flaming Lips, who performed at Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival last fall, return to Raleigh for an Aug. 7 concert at Red Hat Amphitheater.

Coyne spoke to The News & Observer before the show in a phone interview from his Oklahoma City home. He talked about reviews, working with collaborator Miley Cyrus and whether he has issues with Sugarland for appropriating his Human Hamster Ball concept.

Q: How did you hook up with Mick Jones, who is the narrator on the Lips’ latest album, “King’s Mouth?”

We’re big fans of most of the Clash stuff. We’re fans of Big Audio Dynamite. Mick Jones has always been ahead of the curve with songwriting and samples. Luckily one of the guys from Big Audio Dynamite, Don Letts, is a big Flaming Lips fan.

Once I mentioned to him, “Do you think you can get Mick to do some narration for our album?” Don said, “Mick won’t do it. Mick doesn’t do anything, but I’ll get him to do it for you, Wayne.” I didn’t think of anything of it more than a fun backstage conversation. A month later it came back recorded and it was Mick Jones. It made the songs more emotional and pure.

Q: After Sonic Youth’s “Dirty” was released I informed Thurston Moore that I read a bad review of the album and he said, “Finally, a bad review. I’m sick of all of the good reviews.”

(Laughs). He really said that. That’s funny. I love Thurston, but I love all of the good reviews we have received. I like it when writers are into what we do. About an hour ago I got a text from David Fricke, who used to write for Rolling Stone but hosts a show on SiriusXM. He’s an amazing writer, and to get a text from him that read that our show was a life affirming, uplifting experience for him, it made my day. I was walking on air.

Q: The Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth represent art rock. Each band was primarily part of a major label and enjoyed commercial success.

I don’t think we’re art rock like Sonic Youth. Sonic Youth is on another level. They had some easy stuff to listen to and some hard stuff to listen to. You don’t put Sonic Youth on at a Christmas party.

Flaming Lips 2019.jpg
The Flaming Lips have a new album, “King’s Mouth.” George Salisbury

Q: What’s it like working with Miley Cyrus?

Miley is crazy. She’s fun and she has so much energy. Part of her is very normal, but she was Hannah Montana. No matter what anyone says, Miley has an amazing voice. She has a great tone to her voice and she can nail just about anything in one take. I remember she would come down to the studio and nail something in one take and go back to the party at her house while we would be in the studio all day and night.

Q: Will you ever make another Dead Petz album with her?

I don’t know if we’ll ever make another record with her again. She’s always looking for a new trip. We talk with her almost every day. We text and send pictures.

Q: Were you upset when Sugarland stole your human hamster ball concept?

No. It’s a great idea. They had fun with it. They were very gracious and nice. I talked with them. If you like a concept, have fun with it.


Who: The Flaming Lips with The Claypool Lennon Delirium

When: Aug. 7, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Red Hat Amphitheater, 500 S. McDowell St., Raleigh

Tickets: Start at $28

Info: 919-996-8800 or redhatamphitheater.com

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun