I'd have to think for a bit — scratch my temple down to the bloody bone — to come up with a band better suited than The Flaming Lips
to drop a needle on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
, let it sink in, pile into a studio, and come back with something that's not an immediate sabotage of something holy or cause for justified, public execution (metaphorically speaking, of course). Bands like Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr
, Tame Impala
, and Foxygen
fire through my brain - perhaps they could handle a song or two in an interesting way? - but then go poof! Gone. When it comes down to it, it's Wayne Coyne and only Wayne Coyne who should EVER attempt such a feat... and wouldn't you know it? The mad, peppery-haired, creative deviant at the helm of the Oklahoma City based, psych-pop luminaries has done just that.
With A Little Help From My Fwends
is the oh so appropriate title scratched across the cover of the band's spirited take on The Beatles' classic. Like most Lips' releases that have come before, Fwends
is a spazzy, industrial strength, psychedelic experience, worthy of a committed swan dive into its' disorienting, gelatinous core. Seriously swim around in there when you hear it... you won't know which way is up or down, left or right. You'll just be lost.
Last week, while zipping around OK City in a sweaty, caffeine fueled, post-yoga frenzy of errands, Coyne himself was kind enough to ring the Baeble line to oblige us with all kinds of scrumptious details on the upcoming release.
"If you've been around as long as we have it'd be hard to avoid thinking about other people's music." It's such a simple explanation of the origins of such an ambitious project. Like every band with any kind of shelf life, The Lips often get off on reimagining the possibilities of songs that have had an impact on the music they create. Youve probably experienced this if you've ever been to a Flaming Lips Show. If you haven't, there's always the wonders of YouTube. More than that, A Little Help
actually marks the 4th time the band has embarked on a track-by-track interpretation of a classic album; most recently when they paired up with fellow-Okie rockers (lead by Wayne Coyne's nephew), Stardeath and White Dwarfs
and Henry Rollins
on a tribute of The Dark Side of The Moon
While they've done this before, the band never actually intended to take on Sgt. Pepper's as a whole. The idea began to sprout on the cusp of 2014 in Colorado. "Last New Year's Eve we had done five or six of these John Lennon Beatles' songs. Not just Lennon but John Lennon Beatles, you know. So we were doing 'Happiness is a Warm Gun' and 'She's So Heavy' but the song that won was 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.' At some point after the show the band brought the song back to Coyne's recording/rehearsal studio, letting the tape run because hey, you never fucking know. Like that, the track stuck. "Basically, what you hear on the record is that thing we recorded in my studio that was kind of a rehearsal... but a pretty great sounding rehearsal".
It all might have ended there, had the patron saint of twerking
, Ms. Miley Cyrus herself, not intervened. "We had been doing some things with her and then she had a day free after her concert up in Tulsa," Coyne explained. "We spent the night sort of partying and having fun and then the next day we all went into the studio and did 'Lucy in the Sky' and 'A Day in the Life'." The results of those sessions were a couple of Beatle tracks that really got their friend's attention. "A lot of people were hearing it, saying 'What is this? I mean, this girl, she's a great singer.' And I'd be like, 'she really is, isn't she?' And a lot people here didn't know it was Miley Cyrus".
Later, after a successful performance of the song with Miley at The Billboard Awards Show, the band decided to record the whole record. "The rest of the summer has been pretty much a panic ever since!", admits Coyne. Other friends — err "fwends" — soon got involved, fellow freaks and kooks like Dr. Dog
, Foxygen, Grace Potter
, J. Mascis
, Maynard James Keenan, Moby
, and My Morning Jacket
... all obviously fitting the bill. But Miley Cyrus? She's different...
Sure, the Hannah Montana of old might seem like an odd fit to join the family... there's something about The Lips which still seems on the fringe of the hemisphere Ms. Cyrus inhabits. But as Coyne tells it, modern day Miley "is absolutely a fucking freak. And I know some freaks. It's hard to keep up with her. She's crazy! But she's absolutely full of love. I mean, if you were around her for five minutes you'd be like, "oh yeah, fuckin' A. This is fuckin' cool."
Fuckin' cool indeed... all of it. With such a surreal mix of musicians milling about, the creative electricity zipping through those sessions must have been intense. But Coyne plays it down, ever so slightly. "It's people trying things... great things happen and stupid things happen and boring things happen. A lot of it is based on the creative energy and that's a lot of fun to be around, for sure."
In addition to heaps of interesting people who came together to help record the album, The Lips are also using the opportunity of its' release to raise awareness and money for another group of local, OK City-based "fwends" in need. "I've been all around the world for a long, long time and there's no place in the world I've ever been to that has as severe of an overpopulation of homeless dogs and cats." To help curb OK City's epidemic, all of the artists involved offered a portion of their royalties to The Bella Foundation
, who go to animal shelters here every day and try to get every animal that's in the shelter adopted and into a home. It is an insane, insane amount of work."
Like any Flaming Lips release, expectations for A Little Help From My Fwends
are obviously sky high... especially considering the band is covering the mother-freakin' Beatles here. When asked about the album's reception, Coyne envisions a multitude of possibilities. "If you know who The Beatles are and you know who The Flaming Lips are you're gonna love this. We take the song, the essential elements of it that make it the song, and then we're kind of lucky that everybody has their own DNA imprinted unto it. So for those people I think it'll be absolutely wonderful."
"And then there's the very young audience that might only know Miley Cyrus and Phantogram
, and that's very exciting to me because I think this will just blow their minds. Because they don't have any judgment about what's right and what's wrong or what Beatles songs represent and all that. And that will just be amazing."
Unfortunately, there's the final category to worry about: Beatles freaks that might not be too enthusiastic about the sacrilegious reinterpretations of some of their idols' finest work. "They're gonna want to come to my house and kill me in the middle of the night, probably singing 'All You Need is Love.' Which isn't on Sgt. Pepper's, by the way. And they'll say, 'How dare you fuck with the Beatles music? You must die!" But Coyne has a simple reminder for those people. "The Beatles themselves I think are saying, 'Listen to this: it will inspire you. It will fuckin' blow your mind. It'll make you want draw pictures and take drugs and make music.' And that's what we do!"
Indeed they do. Pick up With A Little Help From My Fwends
when it is released on October 28th. If you pre-order through the band's Pledge Music Campaign
, there's all sorts of fun goodies to be had in addition to a stellar new album.