Women in Music 2019

The Flaming Lips Share Live 'What Is the Light' at Red Rocks: Video Premiere

George Salisbury
Flaming Lips

More than three years after the fact, Wayne Coyne can appreciate how "wonderful" Flaming Lips' performance of The Soft Bulletin with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra was.

The group is preparing for the Record Store Black Friday release of The Soft Bulletin Recorded Live at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, whose video of "What Is the Light" is premiering exclusively below. The concert itself and this release, the first-ever official live album for Flaming Lips, are both monumental. But Coyne flashes back to the chaos of putting the May 26, 2016 show together and feelings counter the warm fuzzies he has about it now.

"Like a lot of things in life as soon as it's over it's wonderful but when you're in the middle of it, it's...a disaster," Coyne tells Billboard with a laugh. "There's just too many things going on to enjoy it when it's happening -- the rehearsals and the planning and then everything that comes along with recording it. And when you're working with an orchestra there are rules and you have to take these breaks, and I’m used to going all day and all night 'til we work something out. So it's bit of a panic.

"And then we are really playing a show. There's 10,000 people showing up, and they're not there to watch you sound check and place microphones. It's a tall order, but I guess that's just a typical Flaming Lips scenario -- we just think we can do it and we should do it, so we do. And in the end it did turn out great."

The album features the entire performance of The Soft Bulletin, the Lips' critically acclaimed 1999 release, accompanied by the orchestra and a full vocal choir. "We didn't want it to sound just like The Soft Bulletin," Coyne explains. "We like those little extra touches (the orchestra and choir) were doing. I feel like it made it sometimes more dense, sometimes even adding harmonies and melodies." The lengthy wait for the show's commercial release, however, was due to the Lips' own busy schedule as well as the intricacies of mixing the many inputs that were part of the show that night.

As for not releasing a live album before this, Coyne notes that the group has put out live DVDs but has always been skittish about releasing an audio performance souvenir. "We always sort of felt like, 'Do people really want to hear live recordings or is it really about seeing a show?' and stuff like that," he says. "I don't think we thought it would ever seem very exciting. For me a lot of times it doesn't sound that much radically different than the way it sounds on the (studio) album, or it sounds worse. But we thought this was an opportunity, a new take on this music, and it really came out that way, I think."

The Lips -- who also contributed a track to the recently released Hanukkah+ compilation -- have a full slate of upcoming projects on tap. The group recorded a collaboration with the Los Angeles duo Deap Vally which began as one song and turned into a full album, Deap Lips, due out early next year. The Lips also have a new band album they hope to release by the middle of the year, while it's also lining up festival and concert performances and its King's Head installation continues to make its way around the world and "is probably going to be around forever," according to Coyne.

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