Beck's backing band for his October tour will look familiar, but not because they're the guys who've played behind him on past tours.
"Everyone I usually play with was busy," Beck explained the day before an intimate New York acoustic show (see "Beck Gets The Giggles, White Stripes' Jack At Michigan Gig"). "I thought instead of trying to form a new band I'd just try to find a band that already existed."
So he called on quirky Oklahoma rockers the Flaming Lips.
"I like their sense of humor and their creativity," Beck said. "I think it's good for this record, and it's something I wanted to do on this tour."
He'll be touring to support his new album, Sea Change, due September 24. Like 1998's Mutations, the new record is filled with confessional, acoustic songs that are more personally revealing than Beck's more sardonic, production-heavy material (see "Beck Living After Midnite Vultures, Rocking With New Album").
In addition to playing alongside Beck, the Lips will open the show with their own set. The band recently released Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (see "Flaming Lips Battle Pink Robots, Convention On Yoshimi") and is currently in Japan promoting the disc. On August 20, the Lips return to the States for a show in Pontiac, Michigan, and will continue to tour through the end of the month before hooking up with Beck to prepare for their road trip.
The shows will feature songs from most of Beck's albums, but many will be reinterpreted and presented in a previously unheard form. "We re-created the albums perfectly for years, so I'm not really interested in doing that," Beck said. "Some of the songs are due for reinventing, and the Flaming Lips will probably bring ideas to it. We'll do whatever works."
Beck said he likes to shake things up and surprise his audiences because he gets frustrated by predictability. Even on his current acoustic tour he's varying the set list and experimenting with song structure.
"I change the arrangements every night. Sometimes I play things on a harmonium, sometimes we do it on a banjo as a string band. The next tour will be with the Flaming Lips, and on the one after that we'll do something totally different. I love coming off and having done something unique. It keeps everyone awake."
A longtime fan of the Flaming Lips, Beck met the band in 1996 when he played a show at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since then, the two artists have corresponded with some regularity. Even so, the Flaming Lips thought Beck was joking when he asked them to be his house band.
"They were really surprised," he said. "They kept questioning me going, 'What are you thinking? Do you know what you're doing?' "
Beck's regular backing band had consisted of guitarist Smokey Hormel, keyboardist Roger Manning, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen and drummer Joey Waronker.