Long live the 'King’s Mouth': Flaming Lips' Record Store Day release has its origins in hometown art installation
Over the past decade, The Flaming Lips have ruled Record Store Day with unusual offerings ranging from songs on USB drives stuck inside gummy skulls to last year’s vinyl collectible filled with a special pink beer called Dragons & YumYums.
This year, the Grammy-winning art rockers are offering up music fit for a king who has recently resumed his reign in their hometown.
The Oklahoma City-based band's 15th studio album, “King’s Mouth: Music and Songs,” will be released Saturday, which is Record Store Day 2019, in a limited-edition gold vinyl pressing of 4,000 copies.
The follow-up to 2017’s “Oczy Mlody,” the album features otherworldly music from and inspired by Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne’s immersive art installation the “King’s Mouth,” which began its royal life about eight years ago inside the band’s Oklahoma City arts center The Womb.
“Oftentimes, you’ll see something and you’ll just think, ‘How did they think of that?’ But the good news is that you don’t ever really think of it all at the same time. You thought of this, that didn’t all work, but a bit of it worked, and then that evolved into this thing,” Coyne said in a recent interview inside the recently reopened Womb.
“If you walk in here now, and you’re 10 years old, I’m hoping it completely blows your mind. ... But it’s what all great art does: it’s an evolution that in the end exposes itself as this insanely magical, original thing."
Since 2008, Record Store Day has been an annual celebration of independent record stores that takes place one Saturday every April. The event, which has spun off a second Black Friday edition in November, has evolved to include dozens of exclusive vinyl and CD releases offered by musicians, while stores host special events like in-store concerts, meet-and-greets and DJ sets.
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Likewise, Coyne said his art installation has evolved: The giant cylindrical structure of the “King’s Mouth” initially was inspired by a bizarre Japanese TV show in which kneeling people stick their heads through a table, have meat strapped to their foreheads and a giant lizard is unleashed in their midst.
“The dragon would run toward them and they would scream and they would pull their heads out or whatever. So, I think it was probably like the last one that left their head in there probably won,” Coyne said. “As we got along, we really thought, ‘You know, no one really want us to have a dragon bite them in the face,’ really. I think it’d be a great story, but I don’t think it was very realistic."
Inspired by the band’s bombastic concerts, the “King’s Mouth” eventually evolved into a royally immersive installation, where people can crawl inside the giant head, lie on their backs and view a stunning music and light show devised by the Lips and their team. With the encouragement of John Lewis, a curator at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, Coyne penned and painted a fantastical fable to go with the silvery visage. That story and series of paintings was adapted into the companion book “King’s Mouth: Immersive Head Trip Fantasy Experience,” and The Clash’s Mick Jones narrates the otherworldly tale on the new album.
Record Store Day exclusive
In 2015, Coyne and his cohorts developed a traveling version of the “King’s Mouth” that has been exhibited at the American Visionary Art Museum, the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon, and Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Saturday, Coyne will celebrate Record Store Day 2019 signing copies of the vinyl exclusive at the Brooklyn record store Rough Trade NYC, where the portable version of the “King’s Mouth” is making its next appearance.
While the king art experience was on the road, the original installation was hidden away with the closure of The Womb. But OKC artist collective Factory Obscura, in conjunction with the Lips, last month reopened the landmark with free admission to the first phase of its upcoming immersive art experience “Mix-Tape” as well as the original “King’s Mouth.”
Factory Obscura Co-Founder and Director of Logistical Creativity Kelsey Karper estimated at least 5,000 people have visited The Womb in the past month. The gift shop carries the “King’s Mouth” book, soap dishes and air fresheners, she said, and will offer the new album upon its wide release in July.
“People are loving the ‘King’s Mouth.’ They’re just having their minds blown every time," she said. "People have been so curious about this building for so long, for it to be open regular hours, people are thrilled about that."
RECORD STORE DAY
Saturday is Record Store Day 2019. Participating stores in the metro area include Guestroom Records in Oklahoma City and Norman, CD Warehouse in Shawnee and 3 Dachshunds in Edmond. For more information, go to https://recordstoreday.com.
KING’S MOUTH OKC
The original Flaming Lips “King’s Mouth” arts installation is housed at The Womb, 25 NW 9. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free through mid-September. For more information, go to www.factoryobscura.com/mixtape.