BRAIN SCANNING

With the success and the resulting benefits — "We made a lot of money," says Coyne — they spent a lot of money, got audited and harnessed the power of increased leverage within the label to experiment: parking-lot experiments, boom-box experiments, Zaireeka.

The Flaming Lips' sparkling new album (one CD), The Soft Bulletin, seems to have harnessed the energy of all the experiments, concentrating them into a kind of gooey pop. "When we had a song that didn't work in the four-CD format," Coyne explains, "even a couple years ago we had the foresight to go, "Yeah, but that still works in the normal realm, or the way most people are going to listen to CDs. And as we got finished with the stuff that ended up being on Zaireeka, we had acquired this sort of superhuman strength at arranging and playing. We could spend weeks on songs and still feel energized by it, as opposed to in the past where we would spend — and it's normal — to spend a week on a song is boring and tedious and you feel as though you've drained the life out of whatever energy and fun you were having with the music. But after working on something like Zaireeka, we could really go weeks and weeks and still feel this purpose and energy to keep giving the song some momentum."

The band seems to be growing more and more fond of sound for sound's sake, mixing the organic with the synthetic, cramming live drums alongside studio slop and drum machines. And on Soft Bulletin, they've added more computer-generated sounds; the band seems especially excited by the new technology invading music. Says Coyne: "I think it's about time that there be some movement or moment in music that you can say, gee, I was there, and it was specific and it was of that time and if you were alive before then it wasn't there, and now — I do think that these are times where people are going to be using new sounds that have never been heard before. I think that's a delight, to hear something and think, "What the fuck was that?'

Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips
Flaming Lips

Predictably, at least for the Flaming Lips, the band will be harnessing technology for their upcoming St. Louis show: They'll be issuing headphones to every member of the audience. Says Coyne: "I like the way our stuff sounds best when I hear it in headphones. I can hear everything that's going on in there, and I can turn it up as loud as I want and it doesn't bother anyone else. So I thought, why don't I try and do this at our concerts? So what I've devised — and we still have the speaker systems per se, and most clubs, if it's a big club, we'll have them in the front of the room and the back of the room and what we do is we run a stereo signal through an FM transmitter, and we give everyone a little FM receiver and a pair of headphones, and they tune into this frequency that we're using that night. We'll use a band on the FM dial that isn't used by a big rock station in town, and we just transmit our own little frequency right inside the room. It probably goes for a quarter of a mile, but anywhere in the room there you'll be able to hear it. The biggest advantage by doing this is you can listen to the concert and go use the bathroom and not miss a single note."

The 1999 International Music Against Brain Degeneration Revue, featuring the Flaming Lips, Robyn Hitchcock, Sebadoh, Khan and Sonic Boom's E.A.R., arrives at Karma on Tuesday, July 13.

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