A Lesson from the Flaming Lips
Hear, Hear
Published 9am on 08/01/06 by Shawn | Discuss this article

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips at Webster Hall, NYC, April 2006.

At one point in a conversation between Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie (published in the June/July issue of Believer), they talk how they deal with fans, and Gibbard says,

...I just find that whatever mood I’m in, whether I got enough sleep the night before or whether or not we had a bad show, or let’s say I had a fight with Joan on the phone, or whatever else I tend to let that affect the way I deal with people…

To which Wayne responds,

In the end I kind of look at it like, what did you want when you met Santa Claus for the first time? You didn’t really want to know that he was just some guy who was lucky to have a job being Santa Claus for two months around Christmas time. You wanted it to be the real Santa Claus. And at some point, you and I, we put on a little bit of the Santa Claus costume and go out there and do the show. So I can look at it like, if I met Santa Claus, would I want him to be tired and grumpy and say, “Hey little kid, leave me alone, goddamnit”? I would want him to handle it and let me walk away with that image and that belief still in my mind. And so, I don’t know, I think in that sense I always feel like I owe the audience. Someone comes up to me, you know, I owe it to them not to have bad breath and be grumpy… I’ve met people like John Waters, where I walked away from meeting him and he’s perfect, just the way I wanted him to be… And then there’s other people that you meet and just, frankly, don’t even like, and I would never want that to happen to this great thing that’s become the Flaming Lips, I would just ruin twenty-five years of all these great accidents and all these wonderful things that have happened to us in two seconds, when someone says, “ah, fuck, he was a dick. I don’t like them.” I value every fan – they’ve given me this life, and if they want to talk to me for a couple of seconds, no big deal, right?

Sometimes it’s not even about putting on that Santa Claus suit, but just a matter of showing some little sign of respect. I don’t think it’s an easy matter, especially after we’ve had a bad day, and it will become increasingly hard to maintain our humility and manners as our business grow and gain a reputation and success. Like Wayne Coyne has said, it is the people who have given us our success, and our reputation takes so long for us to build up, and it would be a shame to throw it all away in two seconds.

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