As a side project of The Flaming Lips, with Steven Drozd performing vocals, guitars and keyboards and Wayne Coyne on bass, Electric Würms are a psychedelic venture into the unknown. Bringing along Nashville's Linear Downfall along for the ride, they are set to release their debut album Die Shwer Zu Twerk on August 19th, via Warner Bros. Records.
With the goal of differentiating their sound from that of The Flaming Lips, Electric Würms present a seamless mix between their well-polished cloudy counterparts and a deliberate jam band vibe. Throughout the duration of their debut EP, a wide palette of effects bring styles together to form a somewhat daunting overall feel that are balanced with subtle hints of optimistic relief.
We are happy to offer up the premiere of the album's spaced-out, instrumental track "Futuristic Hallucination". Chiming at at just over 4-minutes, this hallucination is best taken on with a set of headphones, as panning effect-filled instrumentals breath life over a eerie underlying soundscape. Acting as a structurally sound, yet intimidating bridge, "Futuristic Hallucination" leads the star-gazed "I Could Only See Clouds" into the depths of the album's bulk, setting the overall tone that is vastly explored on the succeeding songs.
Three other songs off of the six song EP have also been released on other major outlets. Two of which have been within the past few days in anticipation of the EPs official release, a week from today. You can listen to Die Shwer Zu Twerk's aforementioned opening song "I Could Only See Clouds" via NPR Music here and "The Bat" premiered by Billboard here. Also, their cover of Yes' "Heart Of The Sunrise" was released earlier this summer as the first preview of the EP, which you can stream here.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Steven for an in-depth interview the ideas behind the Electric Würms and their upcoming album release.
EARMILK: How are you doing today?
Steven Drozd: I am pretty good. We are in Minneapolis and we are playing at the legendary 1st Ave. We haven’t been here in many years and I am actually looking forward to tonight because; A. We are not playing outside at a festival and B. It’s a smaller place where you can get some pretty high energy shit going on.
EM: Electric Würms has been teased for over a year now, how did the idea for the group initially come about and how has the group morphed along the way?
Steven Drozd: It started out when Wayne and I were talking, maybe like two years ago, we had these conversations all the time that were like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if a band did this, or did that, or whatever” and then the conversation became, “Why don’t we do something like that?” We had these discussions all the time. He and I started talking about how we need to start a side group where we can do music together that doesn’t necessarily have to be Flaming Lips music. We could make it whatever we wanted. We could shape it however we wanted and it would still be he and I working together. That’s how it kind of started and he had this idea that I would sort of be the front man of the group–obviously he is in the group, but he is not the focus of the group. I think he was more interested in that than even I was; me sort of being like the singer and all that. So, we started in that realm.
We talked about it and then he mentioned this group, Linear Downfall, this Nashville group. These young musicians–I have to tell you–these guys are just incredible musicians, it’s just crazy how good they are. They are like on the level of Dearhoof as far as how technically good they are. They are still young so there are some tastes things, but they have so much energy and all they care about is making music. We did this 8 concerts in 24 hours in 8 different cities thing and one of the shows was with them. I watched them and I was floored by how great they were, so it was Wayne’s idea to include them. He was like “It will be you and me and we’ll get these guys to play music with us and we’ll just see what we can turn it into.” That’s kind of what happened, they came to Oklahoma City, we jammed for a couple of days and recorded everything. We started going through stuff—That stood out, this stood out—and not every song of the 6 tracks has Linear Downfall. Half of it has Linear Downfall and the other half is Wayne and me and a couple of our friends around the studio. But anyways, that sort of turned into, ‘Now it’s going to be me and Wayne and this group of four great musicians’ and we rehearsed two weeks ago in Oklahoma City for four nights with them.
I have to say, it was the most fun I had playing music in a long time, I can’t really describe it. I am really looking forward to these shows that we have coming up. Hopefully it won’t completely fail, but that’s how it happened. It started as sort of a conversation. Wayne wanted to try this thing where we could make music together that wasn’t necessarily Flaming Lips music.
EM: Could you walk through the recording sessions at Pink Floor with Linear Downfall?
Steven Drozd: Wayne has the studio just outside of his house. They came into town and we set up a ton of gear and we just played for a few days. Sometimes I played drums, sometimes I played guitar, and sometimes I played bass. We just jammed, for lack of a better term, and started to shape it from there. And that’s really all there is to say. We would just set up, sometimes having no idea what we were going to do. Like “Futuristic Hallucinations”, that was sort of a bad jazz chord progression that I have had for years and I wanted to use it for something, but I never could figure out what to use it for in The Flaming Lips realm. So, I showed the chords to Linear Downfall and we played that for about 30 minutes. Wayne and Wayne’s nephew, Dennis Coyne who is one of the engineers at the studio, worked on shaping that for a couple of days, with filters, delays, painting and all that. So that’s really all that is, is just us jamming and taking a bit of it. We are actually going to turn that into a full-fledged 15-minute song at some point that will actually go somewhere else besides that main progression. So, to go back to your original question, it was just kind of a free for all.
On the “Transform” track that is me on the drum kit, the guitar player from Linear Downfall playing the wicked bass stuff, the drummer playing congas and Wayne playing percussion while the other guitar player was playing scorn guitar. So, it was a big hippie freak out, free for all. I don’t know what you’d call it. We didn’t really have anything set in stone besides ‘Alright, let’s get together, see what happens and hope something works out.’ We came up with some of that stuff that I think is some of my favorite music that I have ever done, so I’m pretty happy about it.
EM: Was this when the majority of your forthcoming EP came to be?
Steven Drozd: Yeah, I would say like 80% of it is from the jams and another percent is Wayne and I in the studio doing some stuff. Most of it is with Linear Downfall for sure. We have other stuff, for now we are going to see how these few shows and the release go. We have other material that was recorded that we didn’t get the chance to shape, or mix or anything like that. We definitely have some material that we are going to revisit later this year and see what we can do with it. I am hoping that this is just the jumping off point of some whole other thing for us.
EM: What were you listening to at the time of the recording?
Steven Drozd: I can’t say anything specific. When we have these sort of nods to kraut rock and psych and prog this isn’t just something that we listen to for a week, it is stuff we listen to all the time. Faust IV is just like a bible to me Spaceman 3, Perfect Prescription or Playing With Fire are just like a bible to me. I go back through all the time and revisit again and again. So, I am always listening to that and obviously there are all the new bands that we love. I can’t think of anything specific that we were listening to, trying to get inspiration. I mean the one song “Transform” is just us trying to a Miles Davis groove—I think it is on Live-Evil called “Sivad”. In fact, on the linear notes “Sivad” is actually credited. We just wanted to do something that was just not Flaming Lips music. I mean, obviously, it is going to sound somewhat like Flaming Lips because Wayne and I are playing on it and he’s singing on some of it too. We just wanted to create this whole other entity that can go do its own thing without having it be a full big Flaming Lips production.
EM: With Electric Würms live shows coming up (Aug 31/Sept 1), what can we, as an audience, expect from the live set?
Steven Drozd:We don’t know yet. Like I said, we rehearsed a couple of weeks ago for three or four nights. I would say musically, it’s going to be crazy. It’s just going to be wild, that’s just all I can say. I have had more fun playing those three nights then… I don’t know. It’s just so much fun and some of it is just so punk rock, so wild and so out of control. As far as visually, we don’t know what we are going to do yet. We don’t know exactly what kind of lights we are going to have, or any lights. I mean, we will have something obviously. There is no way that Wayne would let us do a show without some kind of visual presentation. I think we are trying to set it up where I will kind of be the front person and they are set up around me, while Wayne will be the band director or something, when he is not playing. It should look interesting, we just haven’t worked out all of the details yet.
EM: From what I have read you pulled the stylization of the second part of the name Electric Würms from the guitar freak-out section of Yes’ “Starship Trooper”. What was it about Yes that inspired the creation of the band and the cover of “Heart of the Sunrise”?
Steven Drozd: Well, it is funny, Wayne and I have been going back and forth about Yes since I first joined the band. Back in the 90’s it was not cool to listen to any English progressive rock of the 70’s, you just couldn’t do that, you know? Back when I joined the Lips in ‘91, you had to have your Jesus Lizard, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and your Dinosaur Jr. If you had any prog rock records from the 70’s they had to be way in the back. I think younger people now don’t give a shit at all what genre of music it is. They either like it or they don’t, whether it is Led Zeppelin or hip hop from the 80’s, everything is just wide open. When I was in my 20’s everyone was a lot harder about what was cool and what wasn’t cool.
I don’t think Wayne actually knew “Heart of the Sunrise” before I played it back in like ’94, or something. Maybe he did, but he had kind of forgotten about it. Over the years we have always talked about how cool that song is, how much we loved it and wouldn’t it be great if The Flaming Lips did it, but we never got around to it. So, when we were getting this project together we thought ‘Well here’s a perfect opportunity to try to do this song.” The Linear Downfall guys actually learned the whole 9-minute version of the Yes song. We did play it with them a couple of times, but it felt too straight, like a cover. We decided to strip away all the time signature changes and all of the corky, weird riff stuff and do just the main meat of the song. That’s kind of how that came about. I think when we do it live we are going to play the intro and then go into the song that we do.
Wayne and I were batting back and forth names for a couple of months. I had a couple of awful ones, Tweepy Dweeb was one and he came up with Electric Würms. I thought of the U with the umlat thing as a nod to Steve Howe and Yes. Even the title of the record is kind of an absurdist thing, which people don’t understand. We are using this heavy-handed German language but it is actually incorrect and it had the term ‘twerk’ in it. If people don’t understand that it is supposed to be an absurdist thing, I don’t know what to tell them. A lot more fans are writing, “That’s not translated correctly” and “You did that wrong”. So, yeah, we know. Wayne just put ‘Music that is hard to twerk to’ in the Google German Translator and that’s what it spit out. If people don’t understand that it is supposed to be kind of a joke, I don’t know what to tell people.
EM: So, the Electric Würms will also be on the Flaming Lips Sgt. Pepper’s tribute due out this fall, what can be expected from the cover of “Fixing a Hole”?
Steven Drozd: Well honestly, that’s just me. It is just a track that I did at home. We are calling it Electric Würms, but it is just something that I did by myself in my own little studio at home. I just tried to give a take on it that wasn’t, to me kind of bouncy and jaunty like a Paul McCartney 1960’s, or 1970’s song would be. To me, I always got a real creepy, negative vibe from that song, so I wanted to do a version of it that sounded very dreary, unsure and almost depressing. I just always wanted to do a version of it that way and that’s just what I did. It’s a coming down off drugs kind of mood of a song, where I just think that that was a great way to do it.
EM: How would you describe the album as a whole?
Steven Drozd: I am pretty excited about it. There is a bunch of different stuff going on. Every song is a totally different thing. Let’s see, Jim James did a version of the opening track. Brian Chippendale, who is the drummer for Lightning Bolts–I don’t know if you know who that guy is, but he is a maniac, he is insane. He has a side project called Black Pus and it is just him playing drums and running 3 or 4 different oscillators and low bass, synth things, while singing at the same time. It makes Lightning Bolts sound like Chicago–did “With A Little Help From My Friends.” I mean, we would have to talk for an hour. Every song is a different group and there is just some crazy stuff on it. We got Phantogram to do a version of “She’s Leaving Home” where Sara’s voice on it is really beautiful. It is just all over the place. It is Wayne’s idea to really take the heavy friends collaboration thing to the next level. We also got Miley Cyrus to sing with us on a couple of tracks. I have to say I have become a huge Miley Cyrus fan so I am happy about it. I think it is going to be great.
We are struggling a little bit to finish the project because it is coming up on us, but I think we have everything except for two things done. Wayne is working on it everyday. Right now he is trying to get a vocal for “The Benefit of Mr. Kite”. We have the music for it, but we don’t have the vocal take that we need. You and I are talking about it now, but it is sort of like a work in progress. People might just instantly neigh say it because we are doing Sgt. Peppers, but it really just is an opportunity to hear a bunch of different bands do this music that is so iconic and I think it is just fun. Why not?
EM: Do you have a favorite song off of the Electric Würms EP, or a song that was the most entertaining to record?
Steven Drozd: I guess my favorite right now is that first track, “If I Could Only See Clouds”. For no real reason, I just really like the way my voice sounds on it. I am still a bit self-conscious with my singing and I just really like the way the vocals turned out. Musically it just sounds like psychedelic rock of 2014, where that one sounds less traditional psych rock then some of the other ones.
EM: Overall, what do you want listeners to take away from the EP?
Steven Drozd: I just hope people hear something in it that they wouldn’t otherwise hear from The Lips. I just hope people give it a chance and obviously it is a Flaming Lips side project because it is Wayne and me, but I hope there is at least some moment for everyone that doesn’t sound like The Flaming Lips, or something they are expecting. I hope it is the beginning of something new for us where we can do some shows, something great. I hope that people hear something new that makes them think that we haven’t completely run out of ideas, I guess. * Laughs Wayne and I have been making records together for 21, 22 years, so for us to be able to do something that is exciting for us and allows us to keep making music together–I am totally down with that.
We also look forward to the release of The Flaming Lips cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on October 28th. What seems to be an official, extensive guest list of the cover album was released a few days ago (see the full list via Stereogum here).
If you are in or around London or the Larmer Tree Garden around the end of the month, be sure to catch the debut shows from the Electric Würms. You never know what to expect.
8/30 Larmer Tree Gardens, UK End Of the Road Festival
9/1 London, England UK The Village Underground