Just ahead of the Flaming Lips’ Tuesday (May 10) concert in Los Angeles, frontman Wayne Coyne sat down with Billboard on their tour bus on Monday (May 9) to discuss everything from his “superpower” to his ongoing friendship with Miley Cyrus as she enters a new phase in her career.
When asked about Miley’s decision to quit smoking weed for three weeks to focus on her new music (which she discussed in her Billboard cover story), Coyne offered his take.
“A whole three weeks…. Well, I think Miley likes to be very, ‘This is who I am right now’ and I think it’s probably fair for her to be — what is she, 23, 24 years old — I think to her that probably does feel very much like, ‘I could have been something six months ago, and now I’m this,’ and that’s a forceful, creative thing that is not your music — it’s you, it’s your identity, you know? And I think that’s why we relate to each other a lot. It’s not just the music. She’s like that. She changes her hair. She changes her clothes. She changes — well, what she wants the world to think about…but I think, in time, all those things would become her. When you’re 24 years old, you probably would want to say ‘what I’m doing now is the only thing that matters, and what I did two years ago is over.’ And I think a lot of artists want to do that. They want to say ‘the thing I’m doing now totally negates the thing I did last year; the thing I did last year is nothing; now what I’m doing is the only thing that matters’ because you set it up in your mind that way.”
Even as Miley moves away from the more experimental music she made with the Lips on Dead Petz, Coyne and Cyrus keep in touch — in fact, Cyrus and fiancé Liam Hemsworth attended the Lips’ Tuesday night show, watching from the sidelines and hanging with Coyne afterward.
“I talk to her all the time,” Coyne said. “I’m going to see her tonight, but I’m not involved. When we’re doing Flaming Lips music the way we are now, we go on tour and do all this stuff, she’s still doing all her stuff, and we’re not doing stuff together as much. I’m sure we will again as soon as her stuff calms down.”
As for his creative career, Coyne finds strength and support from the band, who released their new album Oczy Mlody in January.
“I’m lucky because I think there’s some insulation of working in a group,” Coyne says. “I don’t have anybody in my group of people I’m working with that would benefit from just telling me what I want to hear. That’s the one thing that I think I have that’s really like a superpower. Just to keep working at things, and to work with the same people for a long, long time and they’re all great musicians, great producers and great friends and great love and their energy and all that. So I never am going at it as just being like, ‘Fuck you, we’re going to do this.’ I’m always going at it with everybody helping me.”
As fans have come to expect, the Flaming Lips’ L.A. show was a visually euphoric affair, with small lights going up and down like thousands of shooting stars throughout the show, and Coyne sending positive vibes into the crowd. “Never, ever underestimate the power of that love that you are giving out — it affects somebody, so never fucking hold back. Always scream your love,” he said before “Do you Realize??”. Coyne had the audience on their feet the entire time — a rarity for the Ace Theater.
Prior to the Lips’ set, the Dutch/Norwegian indie rock band Klangstof — who were discovered by L.A.-based label Mind of a Genius via SoundCloud and then signed to Warner Bros. — performed. The band’s Koen Van De Wardt told Billboard about his next album, which he will start working in December, after the tour is finished.
“It’s definitely going to be different because the first album was pretty much about the isolation — me being stuck in Norway and how I kind of felt like no one understood what I actually was doing because I was the only one around that felt that way,” Van De Wardt says. “And now I’m not that guy anymore. I left Amsterdam. I’ve got a band around me. The love of people. A lot of girls, obviously. So I think the next album will be about girls.
“Usually, I’m a really bad talker, about emotions and stuff like that. I always have a really hard time talking about everything, so for me, music was my way to talk. Everything I don’t want to talk about, it’s kind of stuck in here, and it gets more and more and more, and all of a sudden, you have enough stuff in your head that you can write an album about. And then it’s all empty again, and I can kind of move on.”
Van De Wardt says Klangstof’s Coachella 2017 set was especially meaningful to them. “It was our first U.S. festival. We’ve only done European festivals in cold places, usually wearing big sweaters on stage, so it was the first time I could actually show off my body. That was pretty exciting. Also Coachella was really the biggest festival to date for us — all of a sudden you’re in front of this big ass stage. After the show, it was a big relief for everyone. We also had wet eyes. Our sound guy came back and he was crying. He just started crying like, ‘Oh, my god, we did it.’ That was maybe the best feeling of the year.”