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Flaming Lips Discuss ‘Bleak and Hopeless’ New Album ‘The Terror’

Flaming Lips
J. Michelle Martin Coyne

In the first installment of our interview with Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips, the multi-instrumentalist spoke at length about the band’s 2013 Super Bowl commercial, explaining that it was a “painless experience” destined to endear him to his in-laws. Toward the end, he hinted that the song in the Hyundai spot, ‘Sun Blows Up Today,’ sounds little like the material on the band’s forthcoming album ‘The Terror,’ due out April 7.

In part two of our Q&A, Drozd elaborates on the Lips’ new music — a “bleak and hopeless” collection of “minor-key single-note drone things” he hopes will strike listeners as “something different.”

Singer Wayne Coyne has described ‘The Terror’ as a “bleak, disturbing, hopeless record.”

All of those things. In the best way.

So what happened?

When you’ve been making records as long as we have — and I think a lot of artists would agree with me — you get to a point where you’ve tried everything you wanted to do. When we started on the new record, we’d done ‘Embryonic,’ which is more of the free-form crazy jam stuff that we kind of turned into songs. We’d done that, and it was a rewarding experience for us. When we got to the new record, we didn’t really have an idea or a plot or anything. We kind of stumbled upon this thing. Actually, it was a piece of new music I had done that Wayne seemed really taken with. He really liked the vibe of this piece of music, and he wrote some lyrics and did some singing on it, and that became the song called ‘You Are Alone.’ That sort of was our jumping-off point.

It’s much more minimalist than some of your other albums. How did you keep it stripped back?

That’s hard for us to do, because we get easily distracted. There’s so many different styles of music; there’s tons of different things we’re always trying. But once we agreed that we were going to try to stay on this path of the sounds and the mood and the vibe, it seemed like it was going to work. We really liked the ideas, and it was very bleak. Most of the songs don’t really even have chord structures, per se, like a lot of our stuff does. A lot of those songs were just built on a sound, like a lo-fi synth or some distorted drum machine or something. We did a few of those things and we just decided that we’re going to make a whole record that will exist in this one sound world. For me, it was great to work that way, to try to stay within those boundaries, and I think it really worked: The whole record has a uniform feel, and the fact that it’s bleak and hopeless and depressing — some of my favorite records of all time are bleak and hopeless and depressing, and when I’m depressed, I’ll go and listen to those records, and they’ll make me feel better.

How does ‘The Terror’ fit into the progression of Flaming Lips records?

It seems like it can be the next logical step after ‘Embryonic.’ It’s not crazy jams, but it’s not pop songs again. Most of them, they drift along in these weird, minor-key single-note drone things. I hope people hear it and it sounds like something different.

It’s very hypnotic.

You’re getting the hypnotic out of it? That’s great. The thing is, in this day and age, how can you get anyone except for the hardcore music fans to listen to a whole record? You can’t, really, but that’s our hope, is that people will listen to the whole thing, instead of just downloading a song or whatever. You can just get caught up in the whole vibe of the record. It’s a great listening experience all the way through. It’s the first record that we’ve done, for me, in many years where there’s nothing I would like like to change on the record.

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