Your Indie Band Imploded the Other Day


I couldn't tell you what is happening with The Flaming Lips, other than to say that it looks a lot like what is happening with Pixies and with a few other once-indie bands that came to prominence in the 1990s. The sad thing is, none of these bands would be imploding if it wasn't for drugs or money, perhaps both.

The pressure to make a living when you're forty or fifty years old is tremendous--this is when you have at least three ex-wives, several kids who are getting expensive tastes in wanting to be normal teenagers, and when the greatness of what you're doing does not translate into massive amounts of cash in the form of royalties.

If you go and read the comments, the Flaming Lips have thousands of "insiders" who know exactly what's going on. Or a handful of people who post again and again, pretending to know what they're talking about. The general consensus is that Wayne Coyne has become an asshole. Creative people usually have all of the asshole features built in before they get famous. Coyne has done it backwards--at the apex of the band's success, he has become one in order to control the product. When Kim Deal left Pixies, that was the end of the only dynamic that mattered in that band, and Black Francis took over and that was that. The same consolidation has happened in the Flaming Lips.

They're an asshole band. They come up with tricks and hoaxes and reasons why people can hate on them. Getting rid of band members helps change the financial dynamic (a new drummer doesn't get paid the same as a road-tested guy who has been with you for years) and it consolidates power. This means that whichever asshole has all the power gets to dictate the way that the next few years are going to go.

I'm sure that the Flaming Lips and Pixies will make some money in the time they have left. I'm sure that people will leave and feelings will be hurt. I don't entirely blame them--it's impossible to make a comfortable living from playing independent music anymore unless you have no expenses, no family, and can live on whatever Spotify is paying you. Add chemicals and whatever else into that, and there isn't a stage in the world that is worth playing when you're handed these kinds of problems.