The Flaming Lips have begun work on their next Warner Bros. studio album with longtime producer Dave Fridmann. However, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne admits to Billboard.com, “It isn’t as though we have an album’s worth of songs ready to go. We have maybe five or six things that have some shape to them, but we’re not in any real hurry to say, ‘Let’s get these in shape and put them out.'”
The reason? The group is busy with any number of other projects, including shooting a video in Austin, Texas, this week for “SpongeBob & Patrick Confront the Psychic Wall of Energy,” which has been tapped as the first single from Warner Bros.’ “SpongeBob SquarePants” movie soundtrack. Work is also resuming on the Lips’ long-in-the-works feature film, “Christmas on Mars.”
But Coyne says the songs committed to tape so far, including “Time Travel??,” “Mr. Ambulance Driver” and “Space Bible,” point at exciting new directions for the ever-evolving Lips. “Some of this new stuff hints at more of a collage of classical, jazz, rock and folk, all sometimes happening within in the framework of the same song, but not a collection of cliched sounds,” he says. “We just want to get a strange collection of moods.”
“Have you seen those ads in the back of Reader’s Digest where you can send in a poem and have it set to music? They are so strange and unique,” Coyne continues. “Sometimes, I kick myself that we haven’t done something of this ilk, where there’s no limits or embarrassment. Are we being retarded or super-geniuses? You just don’t really care. I don’t know if [“Time Travel??”] will make the album, but it was a lot of fun to do when you’re reaching for new stuff. It’s about time travel, but not something that will be invented by scientists. It’s something we already have within the power of our own minds — we can transcend living and breathing and travel through our own memories.”
The new album, tentatively titled “At War With the Mystics,” will be the follow-up to 2002’s “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” That set has sold a career-best 398,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Meanwhile, during a recent session at Fridmann’s Tarbox Road Studio in upstate New York, the Lips also began work on a 5.1 Surround Sound mix of their acclaimed 1999 release “The Soft Bulletin,” tentatively due next spring.
“That, of all the records we’ve done, is really the only one that had seven or eight other songs we didn’t release,” Coyne says. “For fans of that record, this is going to be a very cool item. I can talk about the songs and the making of them, and it will have these little psychedelic cartoons in the spirit of the album. ‘The Soft Bulletin’ gave us such a different perspective and a new life — there’s a richness there that will be fun to go back and revisit.”
As for “Christmas on Mars,” Coyne says “about half” of the film is still left to be shot. “I’m building the sets myself and I write everything out that people say,” he adds. “It’s not all my ideas, but as much of the Flaming Lips are in this as can be.”
“At the moment, we’re thinking of releasing a DVD of the movie and a bunch of extras with behind-the-scenes footage, along with a CD that is basically the soundtrack, but also some pieces that go beyond what’s in the movie,” Coyne says. “Bands limit themselves to thinking, ‘This is what I do. I’m just in a band.’ But I figured, let’s do movies! Let’s do soundtracks! Let’s do it all ourselves!”
“In the best of both worlds, we’d have a new Flaming Lips album by the summer of 2005 and a Flaming Lips movie in the fall of 2005,” he concludes. “You can only be one person in one place at one time, but if you make a movie, you can be a lot of places at the same time!”