The Flaming Lips spaceship will land in Pomona Monday
“We’re going to blow up some balloons, and we’re gonna sing Happy Birthday, and I’m gonna pour some blood on my head, and we’re going to sing some songs about death and life and love and what it means to really be alive.”
Wayne Coyne, the Flaming Lips, 2005
Fearless freaks and purveyors of rapturous live shows, both visually and aurally, The Flaming Lips will land their rock ‘n’ roll spaceship in Pomona Monday, October 9 for an 8:30 p.m. performance at the Fox Theater.
And though the band has upped its game on the production end of things since 2005—fans can expect substantially more than balloons and blood at Monday’s show—The Lips’ 56-year-old singer, lyricist and co-songwriter Wayne Coyne’s mantra remains charmingly intact: let’s love one another for a while.
“We always tell people, ‘Don’t hold back: Life is too short,’” said Mr. Coyne. “If you’ve regretted that you didn’t tell someone you loved them, the idea of being at a Flaming Lips show is to say, ‘Don’t do that again.’ It’s better to be embarrassed than to regret that you didn’t say something.”
The Lips, at it 34 years now, have become one of the world’s most beloved and innovative live acts. Their shows are a collective celebration of over the top, ecstatic visual candy and grippingly emotional music. And the refreshingly unjaded Mr. Coyne says he’s still astounded to be the guy that gets to stand center stage and direct the circus.
“We feel like the music we get to play is just this magic fucking thing from outer space, and we happen to be the ones that get to play it,” Mr. Coyne said. “We can’t believe sometimes that we get to be the band that plays ‘Do You Realize?’ and ‘Race for the Prize.’ I know that we wrote them and recorded them, but those things are just happening in a moment; Then you get to live and breathe and be the people that get to play those songs, and still it’s amazing.”
The Lips formed in 1983 in Oklahoma City, inspired by American punk rock bands such as Husker Dü, the Replacements and the Minutemen. “But before too long we knew that we couldn’t really play. I mean, we could write our own songs and play our own songs, but we couldn’t really figure out anybody else’s songs.”
The stakes were low in a pre-Nirvana world. “Punk rocker” wasn’t yet a career option, so underground bands really had nothing to lose by following their muse down a weird rabbit hole. So, down the hole the Lips went. They released their debut single on the first day of 1984. By the end of the decade they’d released three full-length albums.
On countless low-budget US tours, they met older, more experienced musicians. “They’d be like, ‘That way you’re playing that chord, that’s not right. Let me help you,’” Mr. Coyne said. “So, little by little, we’d run into dudes that helped us to just not be so barbaric. We could do barbaric music and jump around, but we couldn’t quite do something that was satisfying on an emotional level. So, I think we just kept striving for that.”
The Lips made a big leap in 1990 when they signed with Warner Bros. Records. On their second major label release, 1993’s “Transmissions from the Satellite Heart,” the Lips scored a radio hit with “She Don’t Use Jelly,” and even hit number one on Billboard Magazine’s Heatseekers Chart.
After some personnel changes in the mid-1990s, the band made some of its most ambitiously experimental music, culminating in 1997’s “Zaireeka,” a four-CD album which was intended to be heard by playing all four CDs in four separate players simultaneously.
The Lips hit their creative and commercial stride in 1999 with their fifth Warner Bros. release, “The Soft Bulletin.” The set was lauded by critics, compared to the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” and included lush orchestration and the increased prominence of synthesizers, signaling a new, more accessible, even grand direction. “Bulletin” hit number 12 on the Heatseekers Chart, and eventually went gold, selling more than half-a-million copies
But it was the 2002 follow-up, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” which included the stunning “Do You Realize?” that cemented the band as a worldwide force. The album went gold in the US and Australia and hit platinum in the UK. The closing track, “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia)," earned the Lips their first of what would be three Grammy Awards, this one for best rock instrumental performance.
The Lips have released seven records since the watershed “Yoshimi,” including this year’s “Oczy Mlody.”
The band has collaborated with Nick Cave, Yoko Ono and Kesha, among many others. In 2015 The Lips and Miley Cyrus joined forces on the pop singer’ album, “Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Prez.” The unlikely pairing can also be heard on “We a Family,” a track from “Oczy Mlody.”
After all the success, awards and acclaim, the band remains grateful, Mr. Coyne said.
“Steve [Drozd, Lips multi-instrumentalist and co-songwriter] and I, in the early 2000s we kind of made a pact that we would not allow the music to suffer, that we wouldn’t get out there and just beat it ‘til we hated it. We wanted to always love it. This is why we’re here. We love this music and we hope you love it.”
The Flaming Lips and Mac DeMarco perform Monday, October 9 at 8:30 p.m. at the Fox Theater, 301 Garey Ave., Pomona. Tickets are $44.50 to $54.50 and are still available at foxpomona.com or at the box office.