“Enthusiasm is contagious…” Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips (USA) talks to the AU ahead of their free Sydney Festival performance

Tomorrow night, US legends The Flaming Lips are set to unleash their incredible live performances in front of some 60,000 punters as they perform a free set for Sydney Festival’s annual “Summer Sounds in the Domain” series. Ahead of the performance, I caught up with the band’s iconic frontman Wayne Coyne just after he’d touched down in Melbourne to talk touring the Asian market and what we might expect from their show tomorrow night in the first part of our chat.

Welcome back to Australia! It’s been a while since we last saw you here.

It was about three years ago – we were talking about it this morning – it goes by quite fast though.

The last place I saw you perform was in Hong Kong about a year ago – what’s the Asian market like for you? There’s obviously a language barrier, but then there’s censorship in some territories too… 

Only a few places are like that – I think Singapore is the most strict that we’ve been through. I’m sure there are stricter places, but we haven’t been there just yet. I think we just embrace whatever the limits can be some nights and just go with the flow. It’s rare that anyone ever tells you to do anything. Sometimes we may have to go “oh great well just do this instead of that!”, but we never think about it that much. There are so many things that you can do.

The Asian audiences are so, so loving. So listening. I think they understand more of us than we do of them… but they’re very polite. And I love that. We might talk a bit less, but regardless of where we’re playing it’s very much a bunch of people who like music, having a good time *laughs*

The anthems of fun, the confetti and “fuck yeah!” balloons are pretty universal

For sure it is.

And Sydneysiders (as well as Melbourne and Mona audiences) are getting their chance to enjoy all that this week. What can fans expect from the shows?

I think sometimes we forget we have a series of semi-popular songs, and I think we’ve gotten a little better to remember to play them. As sometimes we play whatever we think of at the moment. And we’ve got a pretty unique light so going on that I think you’ll be able to see and experience no matter where you are (in The Domain). Which is what most good light shows are designed to do – get everyone involved no matter how good your view is.

You mentioned there are some shows where you wing the setlist – that seems a bit surprising given the level of production that goes into each show…

Well that’s true. I think we have 7 or 8 songs that can vary from night to night. And those are well rehearsed with their own version of the light show, depending on whether we get to play for two hours or not… some festival shows we only have an hour to play, and that can fly by pretty quick. So we try to remember not to go too extended. We have one song we’ve been playing off Clouds Taste Metallic which a lot of the audience probably doesn’t know, but it’s a great extended, dynamic freak out, and it can go on for 10 or even 15 minutes.

We’re not always aware… is this working is the setlist? So we might go “let’s not play that for 10 minutes tonight… let’s just do it for 5 minutes…” and try to judge things like that. But we don’t worry about it too much. I think any audience that’s there, we all embrace those things, we’ve done that for a while. Our show is really good in that way. You can feel like even if you don’t know all the songs, they are made in a way that they’ll be familiar to you. The enthusiasm of the audience that knows and loves every moment of your songs can bleed over onto the people who don’t know it. Enthusiasm is contagious.


For more details about The Flaming Lips Australian tour, head to their official website. You can read more about the free Sydney Festival show HERE. The set times are below. The festival recommends to arrive at 5pm to avoid disappointment. The grounds will close – as in past years – as soon as the venue reaches capacity.

5:00pm – 5:30pm: DJ Misbehaviour
5:45pm – 6:30pm: Hermigervill
6:45pm – 7:30pm: Royal Headache
8:00pm – 8:45pm: FM Belfast
9:00pm – 10:30pm: The Flaming Lips

Photos by Johnny Au – Taken at Clockenflap Hong Kong – December 2014


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.