Flaming Lips Discuss Super Bowl Commercial, Call It a ‘Really Painless Experience’
The Oklahoma City rockers wrote a classic-sounding new song, ‘Sun Blows Up Today,’ for the spot, which includes footage of the band performing in unusual places, and their confetti-spewing tour bus.
“It was a really painless experience,” Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd tells Diffuser.fm.
The timing of the Super Bowl commercial works out perfectly for the band: It will put them before 100 million or so viewers as the group — Drozd, Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins, Kliph Scurlock and Derek Brown — gets ready to release a new album, ‘The Terror,’ on April 2.
Here, Drozd explains why the band didn’t hesitate to say yes to the car commercial and talks about impressing his in-laws.
How did the band connect with Hyundai?
They approached us. We found out later, after we agreed to do it, that the two main creative guys are big Flaming Lips fans, which always makes things easier and more fun, as opposed to the ad agency hiring somebody, like, “Looking for a hip band” and they troll around until they find us. They kind of wanted us from the get-go, the guys that put this whole thing together. That was a big plus.
How long did you spend shooting it?
I don’t know how much we’ll actually be in the commercial, but it was a couple of days of shooting in L.A. They had us performing on a rooftop with the family pulling out of the driveway, they had us on a pontoon boat on the lake playing while the family is doing yoga in the park, whatever. But they approached us, we made sure the timeframe would work and we did it. That was it. It was generally a pleasant experience.
You guys are actually in the ad a fair bit.
There you go! Wayne said he had seen it, but he didn’t say how much we’re in it. They shoot a lot of stuff, and you don’t know how much they’re going to use. We’ve worked on so many music videos, our own and then other people directing us, with different types of budgets and stuff, I would say that we really should get into this acting business, because you get there, and there’s catered food, good coffee at a moment’s notice. They had this nice trailer for us. They said the shoot was going to be from 7AM to 9AM, and it was exactly 7-9. Everything was very professional and slick, and I was like, "Man, the music business is just Mickey Mouse compared to the acting world."
So the ‘Christmas on Mars’ set did not have the same caliber of catering as the Hyundai commercial?
[Laughs] Wayne tried, but we didn’t have a) the money or b) the muscle that they had. These were all pros who have been working in Hollywood for 20 years or whatever. The other thing that you walk away with at the end is that everyone is really nice, and not nice in a don’t-upset-the-artist way. It wasn’t like that. There was a just a genuine laid-backness to the whole thing. Everyone was just really cool.
What did you guys think when you heard this car company wanted to do an ad with you?
Some people may assume still, who don’t know that much about us, that we would struggle with doing something as publicity-seeking as a car commercial, but we do that kind of stuff all the time. It’s not like we’re struggling with what it all means. We’ve been on ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’ you know? We were on ‘Charmed.’ We’ve done all these ridiculous, ludicrous things. It wasn’t really a struggle at all. Our first question was: What do they want from us? Do they want a new song, or are they going to use an existing song? So it instantly became that kind of conversation, and not like, “Should we do this, or should we not do this?” It was nothing like that. As soon as we heard about the offer, we asked the real practical questions. I don’t know if this surprises you, but it wasn’t really a big decision at all. It was just a matter of whether we had the time, and what do we have to do and where do we have to go?
What were the parameters they gave you for the song?
This is kind of a funny story. Just based on the first information they told us, we sent a piece of music and they wrote back and said, “We love the song, but we’d like to change the tempo, the key, the melody and the feel of the song.” [Laughs] And my thought was, “Well, that’s everything about the song.” But once they explained better what they wanted from us, it made sense to us, and it was really easy to do. They wanted a mid-’90s ‘Clouds Taste Metallic’ more psychedelic, upbeat rock vibe meets ‘Race for the Prize’ triumphant sort of sound combined. Something absurd, but not too absurd — something that could work for a commercial selling cars. They wanted the rock Flaming Lips, but also the strings and some of the orchestration that we do mixed in.
What do you think appearing in a Super Bowl ad will mean in terms of exposure?
If you can tell that it’s us in the commercial, I would think there would be some people and they would see it and they would say, “Oh, what was that, I’m curious about that,” and then they might go buy our new record, which comes out in a couple months, and our new record sounds nothing like that.
Yeah, I was just about to get to that.
They’ll hear the record and go, “That doesn’t sound like that commercial.” [Laughs] But if nothing else, this is going to be great for my relationship with my in-laws, and I have a good relationship with my in-laws, but if they see me in a Super Bowl halftime commercial, even though they’ve known me for 20 years, and they’ve seen all the successes of the group and the things we’ve done, when they see that, they’ll be like, “Oh, I guess Steven’s kind of in a big band.” So I’m kind of just looking at it that way: Hey, my brother-in-law is going to see it with his family and they’re going to think we’re hot stuff now.
Watch the Flaming Lips Super Bowl Commercial