(photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
In 2013, Miley Cyrus scandalously twerked all over Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards and basically broke the Internet. Two years later, she shocked and awed at the VMAs again, this time performing with Oklahoma eccentrics the Flaming Lips and surprise-releasing their joint EP, the psychedelic masterwork Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, that same evening. Now, as the Lips and Miley embark on their wild “Milky Milky Milk” club tour that basically makes Twerkgate look like Hannah Montana, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne explains how the two events are connected. It was in fact Miley’s 2013 VMAs spectacle that brought the former teen star to his attention in the first place.
“I think we knew for a while that she was a Flaming Lips fan; she had made it known to the world, and there would be little videos of her and her brother playing our songs,” he tells Yahoo Music. “But I think when she did the 2013 VMAs with the twerking and all that, which now seems [tame] – I don’t even see why that was even news, but it certainly was then – the things that she said after that, when everybody was really attacking her, we just really loved I remember doing interviews around that time, and people would ask, 'What music are you liking this year?’ And I’d be like, 'I think f—in’ Miley Cyrus is badass, and I think that people should just f— off! Get off her a–, she’s f—in’ doing her thing.’ And she probably saw that and was like, 'Hey, this motherf—er gets it!’ We had a sense then that we liked each other.”
And the rest was history. Despite the 31-year age gap between Miley and Wayne, the two seem to be musical soulmates. The epic, experimental, 23-track Dead Petz is the best album the Flaming Lips have released in years, and the band has reciprocally brought out an entirely new creative side of Cyrus. To quote Miley’s old Disney alter ego, it’s the best of both worlds.
“Miley’s just a very strangely mature, smart motherf—er. Not smart like she’s calculated, but she’s on another level of stuff going on,” says Coyne, who clearly peppers his conversation with F-bombs whenever he’s particularly excited, as he discusses his connection with the pop star. “It’s kind of uncanny. People don’t want think she’s smart, and she is crazy, but she’s just got a bigger brain. And I accept that. I say, 'You know, Miley, I’m not on that level.’ When it comes to the part of the brain that makes people smart in the way you want – where they understand each other and they have empathy for each other and they understand what being happy is – that’s the kind of smart people I like.”
But of course, not everyone likes Wayne Coyne. Many “Smilers,” aka Miley devotees, actually despise him for supposedly corrupting their idol, and they spam his Instagram and Twitter with death threats and pleas for him to leave Miley alone. And Cyrus gets her own share of abuse from longtime Flaming Lips fans who believe she’s led their favorite alt-rock band down an uncool pop path.
“Well, I think that just comes with popularity,” Coyne shrugs. “You can’t be popular and not have a bunch of haters. And the Internet is just an open book – I mean, you can be any age and say to anyone, 'I hope you die!’ There’s no rules. So you don’t really take it very seriously. I mean, the kind of hate I get is nothing compared to what Miley gets, and it’s nothing compared to what Kris Jenner gets, or whoever. It’s just incremental: If you have 10,000 people that love you, you’re gonna have 500 people who have to hate you. That’s just their personality. With Miley, it’s just that sort of person to the extreme. She’s an easy target for people who think she represents the enemy of what they think is cool now. But most of them, I think they’re like 5 years old. They just say, 'Look, I got to say F-you to 100 people today, it was awesome!’ But if you send them a smiley face on their Instagram, they’ll write you back and be like, 'Oh, I love you now!’”
For the record, Coyne understands why some Lips fans aren’t on board with Miley, or at least why they think the Dead Petz partnership is bizarre. “I’m the first one to think that [it’s a strange pairing]. I totally understand why people would think that it’d be weird,” he says. “But even before then, we’d done things with Kesha and with Chris Martin, so we were always mixing it up. I just don’t think anybody was ready for it to be Miley Cyrus. But you know, she’s just so badass. [Our fans] will get used to it. They’ll begin to love her.”
The “Milky Milky Milk” tour, which kicked off last week in Chicago and wraps up in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, has received mixed reviews – by many accounts, it’s a “messy” and “baffling” “psychedelic assault to the senses” starring Cyrus dressed in barely-there Wendy O. Williams-wear and strap-on prosthetics, and the setlist is light on pre-Petz hits, other than “Party in the USA” and “We Can’t Stop.” (Sorry, old-school Smilers, but you won’t be hearing “The Climb” on this tour.) Coyne insists that this direction came entirely from Miley.
“She’s driving most of the big decisions about what songs to do and stuff like that, and she mostly wanted to do the Dead Petz record. We kind of said, 'You’ve gotta do some of the big hits,’ you know? But she has a great desire to say, 'This is what I’m doing now.’ Not in a big, serious, 'f— you’ way, but she wanted to do something that I think she could control, without having too many people telling her, 'You can’t do it this way, you can’t do it that way.’ I think she very much chose the model of the Flaming Lips’ career, like, 'How did you guys do it? You guys go out and do it and do whatever the f— you want.’”
As brazen as Miley can be onstage, Coyne reveals, “You know, she’s insecure like we all are. Sometimes she’s like, 'F—, am I doing the right thing?’ You know how it is. If you don’t do the things you want to do, nothing is right, and if you do the things you want to do, then you think the rest of your life is gonna fall apart. But what choice do you have, you know?” Still, Coyne is confident that Miley is doing what’s best for her artistically. “I think this tour is f—in’ amazing. I’ve been to plenty of her [solo] shows before, just watching her fans, and they love her so much. I mean, we don’t even really have to play music. She could just show up and stand there for two hours and cry.”