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March 01, 2017

The evolution of The Flaming Lips

How the psychedelic rock band from Oklahoma City has stayed strong over three decades and befriended wild child Miley Cyrus

If being unique and creative was currency, The Flaming Lips would be printing money.

Recording artists who take chances stand out during this trend-chasing era. Few acts have taken as many risks as the Flaming Lips over its 35-year run.

The Wayne Coyne-led group has been both weird and brilliant, often in the same song. Coyne has nearly perfected crafting discordant but melodic rock.

“It’s about balance,” multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd said.

“It’s about doing what you want to do. The biggest mistake you can make is following what somebody else is doing. We don’t care what anyone else is doing.”

The Lips’ psychedelic garage rock and free-wheeling approach have earned the band “maverick” status and yet, the three-time Grammy winners has won over a loyal audience, which enables the Lips to pack theaters.

“We challenge ourselves, and due to that, provide something different,” Drozd said.

Coyne rolling over the crowd in his human hamster ball, the band’s association with former Disney sensation-turned-tongue-wagging provocateur Miley Cyrus, and its creative restlessness are some of the reasons the Lips have made headlines in recent years.

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“All of that stuff is fine, but it’s all about the music,” Drozd said.

“If the completed songs aren’t there, none of that stuff matters.”

The Flaming Lips, which will appear Saturday at the sold-out Fillmore, has been a remarkably consistent band since the release of 1993’s “Transmissions from the Satellite Heart,” which features the group’s first charting hit, the quirky but endlessly catchy, “She Don’t Use Jelly.”

“I was relatively new to the band then, and when I look back at that period, it really is incredible how much we changed since the early ‘90s,” Drozd said.

“A healthy band would metamorphosis since then but some bands from back then haven’t changed all that much.”

The Lips, which also include original member bassist-keyboardist Michael Ivins, guitarist Derek Brown, keyboardist Jake Ingalls, drummer Matt Duckworth and percussionist Nick Ley, have morphed quite a bit between the release of 2013’s “The Terror” and “Oczy Mlody,” which dropped in January.

“The Terror” is a sobering album with lust, loss and disaster at its core. The dreamy “Oczy Mlody,” which is Polish for “eyes of the young,” is a pretty – and at times – hypnotic slice of upbeat psychedelia. Coyne pines for unicorns and sings of witches and wizards throughout “Oczy Mlody.”

“We try not to repeat ourselves,” Drozd said.

“We try to move on. ‘The Terror’ might be the most bleak album we’ve ever made.”

Drozd laughed when describing “The Terror” as the group’s late career, self-realization, self-doubt freak-out record.

“But it was an album that we needed to make at the time,” he said. 

“It was something we had to get out of our system."

“Oczy Mlody,” which features a guest appearance from Coyne’s BFF Cyrus on the anthemic “We a Family,” is lighter and more fantastic than “The Terror.”

“We like to take a break between albums and do other things and we come back in a different space when we make the next album,” Drozd said. 

“We’re always moving on.”