SAN DIEGO — The Flaming Lips, a band that has experimented with everything from boom boxes to furry animal costumes, have a new prop at the center of their next record: guitars.
"Without any true intention, I think we've found some guitar-rock things that we're freaked out about," frontman Wayne Coyne revealed recently. "People will see that some of it has gone more weird rock."
The album, At War With the Mystics, will also stray lyrically from the Lips' usual avant-garde style and address current issues, if rather obliquely.
"I don't think you could be making any art in the atmosphere that we're in now — with the war and the different ways people feel about the Bush administration and all that — without having some things that sort of, not address that specifically, but address this whole idea of what you do with power," Coyne said. "When is the time to have mercy? And when is the time to be aggressive? I think we have some things on the record that I hope will stand the test of time long after this war is over and all these young guys have come home."
The Lips have been recording the album on and off for three years and are eyeing an early 2006 release. Also due next year, or at least that's what Coyne is saying, is his long-in-the-works movie, "Christmas on Mars" (see "Flaming Lips DVD Documents A Career Of Falling Upward"). As the writer, director and star, Coyne is keeping a lot of the details under wraps, but he will say that the plot has changed over the years he's been shooting it.
"The way that I work is [not] that much different from the way I would do a painting or even the way that we record our music a lot of the time," he said. "We go in and we have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for things that we want to happen and sort of try to shape them up. But if we're lucky, something emerges that's really better than what we intended and we'll go with that. If we're lucky, 'Christmas on Mars' will continue to do that. We'll have built the sets and have actors there, and of course there'll be things for them to say and all that, but something marvelous will happen and we'll be able to incorporate that into the idea of what we wanted to do and it will be better and more expressive and more communicative and more emotional — all those things that I think all artists intend to do."
In the meantime, the Lips are tiding fans over with the just-released retrospective video collection "V.O.I.D. (Video Overview in Deceleration)." The DVD features 18 videos, including "Mr. Ambulance Driver" from the upcoming Mystics.
"We remixed them in 5.1, which doesn't sound like much, but let me tell you — it's really a crazy, complicated thing to take these things that you did almost 15 years ago and revisit 'em in this format that only became available a couple years ago," Coyne said. "A lot of bands can't do that because they don't have their own recordings. But we've always recorded ourselves, so it's a matter of me just going to the back room and grabbing the tapes and sort of putting them back on the reel. It's a weird treat."
The Flaming Lips will also take a few days in October to hit the road — er, the water — on the Xingolati Groove Cruise, which will sail from Long Beach, California, to Ensenada, Mexico, with G. Love & Special Sauce, the John Popper Project, Particle, Medeski Martin and Wood and others.
As with the band's recent performances at Coachella, the San Diego Street Scene and other festivals, where Coyne entered in a giant bubble, the singer is planning a grand entrance on the cruise ship.
"Sometimes I kind of feel like Evel Knievel, seeing where the wind is blowing and how fast he's gonna have to go and what the hazards of the day are gonna bring," he said. "But I think people have come to expect it or want to be part of it, so I'm glad."