Flaming Lips Frontman Wayne Coyne Discusses The SpongeBob Music Video

See the SpongeBob & Patrick Confront the Psychic Wall of Energy music video!

Wayne Coyne, the leader of The Flaming Lips, talks about expanding his role with the band by sharing directing duties last month with Bradley Beesley (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 2). The Flaming Lips’ new track SpongeBob & Patrick Confront the Psychic Wall of Energy was written and performed for the movie soundtrack to the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, which was released in November. It might seem an odd fit for an anarchic band like the Flaming Lips to participate in a kid’s movie, but the playful, positive quality of the track and the lighthearted, goofy images can be enjoyed by all ages.

Music Video Wire: I understand you directed the SpongeBob & Patrick Confront the Psychic Wall of Energy music video.

Wayne Coyne: Yeah, as much as directing these sorts of things has to fall to somebody, I’m the guy responsible for it. Luckily, I was able to work with Bradley, who has collaborated with us in the past. He knows tons of people in Austin so the group we worked with was competent and experienced, and could make all the crazy sets and props we needed. I think the producers actually wanted it to come from the mind of someone who was already viewed as being as absurd as possible. Who else could get the Flaming Lips to dress like giant pieces of food inside a Styrofoam mouth full of bad teeth? If a big time Hollywood director asked us to do it, we would have been humiliated. Of course, when we do it to ourselves, we’re just doing stupid things like we always do.

MVW: Could you talk about writing the treatment and the pre-production for a music video that was going to be attached to a kid’s movie.

WC: Since SpongeBob Square Pants is for little kids the audience is mostly kids with their parents, there could have been some hesitation on the part of the producers in calling the Flaming Lips to contribute to the movie. Even though I think what we do appeals to children, it is still pretty much weird adult stuff. It’s not disturbing but we do play by our own rules. When Stephen Hillenburg (creator of SpongeBob SquarePants) and I talked over some ideas, it was clear that what SpongeBob and the Flaming Lips could do together had some limitations.

Writing the treatment was easy, but then I thought, if they’re going to give us a bunch of money and I can use Bradley and all our people, we could do something truly absurd. But I wanted to do something that when you saw it on the page you would be able to picture it in your mind. A lot of times music videos have a style to them, like some special mood or lighting, that can’t be described in words. You can say we’ll put this light on the band and it will make them feel epic, but everybody has a different idea of how that will look. When we said we were going to dress the band as pieces of a giant krabby patty, with me as a piece of cheese, Michael as a tomato, Kliph as the bun and Steven as the mystery meat playing music inside a giant salivating mouth, there might have been some variations, but you pretty much get it. I wanted the producers to read it and think we were crazy to do it, but our philosophy is: do what you really want first instead of holding back. When you call on the Flaming Lips that is pretty much a given.

MVW: Incorporating the “behind the scenes” footage in the finished video was a nice effect.

WC: We wanted to document it so the audience could see how much fun we were having and that these things are not meant to be big, serious, artistic statements. There were times when we looked pretty miserable because you can only stand there getting that fake spit we concocted thrown at you for so many hours before it starts to show. But when you can see the crew having fun with it, it gives the whole video a perspective of sincerity, especially when you see the crew is genuinely smiling and laughing.

Life is just too short not to like what you do. The people we work with feel the same way. They’re into taking chances, having fun and working hard but not putting the work above the idea of enjoying ourselves while we do it. That said, I think it is serious and takes a lot of art and costs a lot of money and we have a responsibility to promote the movie.

MVW: When promotions sent me the SpongeBob CD I was surprised to see that there were several noted artists that played on the soundtrack.

WC: You never know how these things are going to go. We did Austin Powers, Batman and quite a few other movie soundtracks that were not actually played during the movie. Things change because these projects are developed so far in advance. You simply sign up for it. After talking to Stephen Hillenburg, it was clear that, for the most part, the soundtrack would be his taste in music. He gets to do whatever he wants because SpongeBob SquarePants has turned into a billion-dollar icon. We were getting ready to go up to Dave Friedman’s studio anyway to do some DVD 5.1 remixing of Soft Bulletin so we thought we’d see what we could come up with while we were there. We contoured the verse/chorus thing of a tune Stephen had been working on that SpongeBob could do. We sent it to them and they liked it. Next thing we knew we were in those giant bubbles, because we didn’t have any idea we were going to be making a video.

 


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