Also known as
AboutThe Flaming Lips are an American rock band formed in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1983. The group recorded several albums and EPs on an indie label, Restless, in the 1980s and early 1990s. After signing to Warner Brothers, they released their first record with Warner with "She Don't Use Jelly" (1993). They then released The Soft Bulletin (1999), which was NME magazine's Album of the Year and later Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002). In February 2007, they were nominated for a 2007 BRIT Award for "Best International Act". The group has won three Grammy Awards, including two for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. They were placed on Q magazine 's list of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die" in 2002.
Of the innumerable one-hit wonders littering the cultural landscape, few, if any, were so brave, so frequently brilliant, and so deliciously weird as the Flaming Lips. To even classify the Lips as merely a one-hit wonder is to do the group a grave injustice: although their standing as a commercial entity proved little more than a blip on the radar screen, their moment of Top 40 success was simply another pit stop on one of the more surreal and haphazard career trajectories in pop music — an acid-bubblegum band with as much affinity for sweet melodies as blistering noise assaults, their off-kilter sound, uncommon emotional depth, and bizarre history (packed with tales of self-immolating fans and the like) firmly established them as one of the true originals of the post-punk era.
When Mark Coyne soon departed to get married, Wayne assumed full control of the group; in addition to remaining its lead guitarist, he also became the primary singer and songwriter. Continuing on as a trio, the Lips released 1986's Hear It Is, followed a year later by Oh My Gawd!!!...The Flaming Lips. While touring in support of the Butthole Surfers, they played Buffalo, NY, where they were befriended by concert promoter Jonathan Donahue; after a jam session with Donahue's nascent band Mercury Rev, he and Coyne became close friends, and Donahue eventually signed on as the group's sound technician.
After recording 1988's difficult Telepathic Surgery, English exited, reducing the Lips to the core duo of Coyne and Ivins; after adding drummer Nathan Roberts, Donahue adopted the name Dingus and became a full-time member in time to cut 1990's stellar In a Priest Driven Ambulance while simultaneously recording the brilliant Mercury Rev debut, Yerself Is Steam. Following a series of hopeful phone calls to Warner Bros., the company signed the band in 1991, and in 1992 their oft-delayed major-label debut, Hit to Death in the Future Head, appeared to little commercial notice; Donahue soon exited to focus his full energies on Mercury Rev, followed by the departure of Roberts.
With new guitarist Ronald Jones and drummer Steven Drozd, they cut 1993's sublime Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, which they supported by playing the second stage at Lollapalooza and touring the nation in a Ryder truck. Initially, the album stiffed; however, nearly a year after its initial release, the single "She Don't Use Jelly" became a grassroots hit, and against all odds the Flaming Lips found themselves on the Top 40 charts. They took full advantage of their requisite 15 minutes of fame, appearing everywhere from MTV's annual Spring Break broadcast to an arena tour in support of Candlebox to a memorably surreal lip-synched performance on the teen soap opera Beverly Hills 90210, where supporting character Steve Sanders (portrayed by actor Ian Ziering) uttered the immortal words, "You know, I've never been a big fan of alternative music, but these guys rocked the house!"
After the 1994 release of a limited-edition sampler of odds-and-ends titled Providing Needles for Your Balloons, the Lips returned in 1995 with Clouds Taste Metallic, a strikingly mature and diverse collection highlighted by the singles "Bad Days" (also heard in the film Batman Forever), "This Here Giraffe," and "Brainville." Despite the inclusion of the remarkably melodic "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles," "Christmas at the Zoo" (rumored to be under consideration for inclusion on an upcoming John Tesh holiday record), and the epic "Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World," the album nonetheless failed to live up to the commercial success of Transmissions, and the band was once again relegated to cult status.
In 1996, the Lips' world went haywire; first, Jones disappeared to undertake a spiritual odyssey from which he did not return, then Drozd's hand was almost needlessly amputated after he was bitten by a spider. At about the same time, Ivins was the victim of a bizarre hit-and-run accident after a wheel came off of another vehicle and slammed into his car, trapping him inside. Ironically, Coyne was having car problems of his own when rumors of his latest sonic foray — conducting an orchestra of 40 automobiles, all with their tape decks playing specially composed music at the same time — prompted fan discussion of his possible psychological collapse. "I would try to tell people what I was doing and found that I couldn't explain it very well," Coyne later remarked about the project, dubbed the Parking Lot Experiment. "Plus, I had a sore on the side of my tongue for a week and it made me talk kind of weird. I'm sure they thought I was retarded."
By the following year, the Flaming Lips (who continued as a trio, opting not to attempt to replace Jones) were back in the studio, recording an album that, according to Coyne, would be "so different and exciting it will either make us millionaires or break us" — in short, 1997's Zaireeka, a breathtaking and wildly experimental set of four discs designed to be played simultaneously. A previously unreleased track, "Hot Day," also appeared earlier that year on the soundtrack to Richard Linklater's film SubUrbia. A Collection of Songs Representing an Enthusiasm for Recording...by Amateurs, a retrospective of their Restless label material, followed in 1998, and a year later the Lips returned with a breathtaking new studio effort, The Soft Bulletin. After a three-year absence from the shelves, 2002 brought several new releases, including the new record Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and a two-volume retrospective of the Restless years. Yoshimi won the group even more popular and critical acclaim than The Soft Bulletin, which the group maximized by spending half of 2002 appearing with Beck on his Sea Change tour as both his opening act and backing band. 2003 continued the group's flurry of activity, with the release of the Fight Test EP, an appearance with Justin Timberlake on BBC's Radio 1, and the release of their first feature film (and its soundtrack), Christmas on Mars.