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Getting to know the Flaming Lips -- The psychedelic popsters talk about their upcoming album, ''At War With the Mystics''

By Michael Endelman
Updated February 17, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
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Holed up in a studio outside Buffalo, psychedelic popsters the Flaming Lips are working on their 11th LP, At War With the Mystics (due in April), which singer Wayne Coyne describes as ”Black Sabbath getting together with Herbie Hancock, who then take LSD and go to a cowboy bar.” It’s a cozy setup: Coyne, bassist Michael Ivins, and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd share bedrooms upstairs. ”It’s kind of like a prison,” cracks Coyne. ”Well, maybe not a prison, but a halfway house.” After a day in the country, EW learned some curious facts about the band.

1. THEY CARE ABOUT THE GEEKS
The album’s basically completed, but the Lips have dedicated two weeks to creating 5.1 surround-sound mixes (made for six-speaker A/V systems) that only a few fans will notice. ”It’s part of the Lips creed that we do this stuff,” says Coyne. ”And for the hi-fi geeks who take acid and trip out, this is the s—!”

2. STEVEN DROZD IS ON A DIET
On a trip to the supermarket, Coyne picks up cheddar popcorn and ice cream, while Drozd selects veggies, fruit, and lo-cal frozen dinners. ”For a long time I had one angle that I still looked skinny from, and I’d always turn that way in the photos,” Drozd says mournfully. ”But now I just look fat from all viewpoints. So I’m on Weight Watchers.”

3. GO AHEAD, CALL THEM A JAM BAND
Though they began as a freaky punk act, the Lips are currently big on the crunchy-jam-band circuit. ”Ever since we played Bonnaroo, we’ve embraced it,” says Coyne. ”They love music, and they want some intense druggy music along with the Grateful Dead-type stuff. Cool with me.”

4. THEY GET A RUSH FROM RUSH
Taking a break, Drozd and co-producer Dave Fridmann agree that Rush’s sci-fi prog classic 2112 is a sweet candidate for a surround-sound remix. ”That track ‘Discovery,’ where he finds the guitar by the waterfall, would sound cool whizzing around your head,” says Drozd. Fridmann sends an IM to a friend at Rush’s label, Universal. ”My guy is looking into it,” reports Fridmann. You heard it here first.

5. EVERY NIGHT IS THEME NIGHT
Even dinner is a novel event when the Lips are involved. One night it’s an all-pie menu (pot pie, blueberry pie); another day, it’s three courses in orange (mac ‘n’ cheese, OJ, fish sticks). Why, Wayne, why? ”We get a little bored up here,” he shrugs.

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