If you’re a fan of the Flaming Lips, then you already know him.
The operatic background vocals and life-changing drum fills on record; the man behind the curtain to Wayne Coyne’s floating wizard head; the caped gentleman stage right, playing a hundred instruments in ways the average human could never figure out how to do. Those are all Steven Drozd, the Lips’ resident prodigy and multi-instrumentalist.
Drozd is tentatively stepping into the figurative limelight with Electric Wurms, a tangential, proggy, sinister offshoot of the Lips.
Electric Wurms is, sort of, the prog-rock little brother of the Flaming Lips, featuring Drozd on lead vocals and guitar and Wayne Coyne on bass. The duo, for future shows, will be joined onstage by Nashville, Tenn., band Linear Downfall.
Electric Wurms’ debut, “Musik, Die Shwer Zu Twerk” — that is, “Music that is hard to twerk to,” loosely — comes out on Warner Bros. Records on Tuesday, and the group has tentative European club dates planned.
Drozd is indisputedly, as a Warner Bros. rep said to me during a pre-interview phone call, “a genius.” He’s also funny and polite, and his dream karaoke song is “Gypsy” by Fleetwood Mac, as I found out when I chatted with Drozd for a few minutes last week to get the scoop on how the Wurms came to be in the midst of all the Lips chaos.
Q: Where did the material for this band come from?
Steven Drozd: Probably two years ago, Wayne and I had a “what if” conversation: What if someone did this or did that, did this kind of music or was this kind of band? That turned into, “Oh, we should do that,” so we started this sort of side project ... the two of us and some other people playing a type of music that doesn’t necessarily have to be Lips music.
We started recording a while back, and then everything was put on hold, since we go through phases where the Lips are just too busy to do anything. It was like that for a while.
So, yeah, it started as a “what if,” and I’m usually satisfied with just saying, “That would be cool if someone did do that,” and forgetting about it, but Wayne, of course, said, “We have to do it.” It just went from there.
Q: When you’re writing or recording something, do you have the end game for that piece of music in mind? Do you think about what the release might be, or just what you’re doing right in that moment?
Drozd: It depends on what it is. Some things, as soon as I start on them, I have an expectation that it’ll do this or do that. Other things I just enjoy working on in that moment.
Right now, I’ve got this song I’ve had for a little while, and I was hoping Miley Cyrus could record it with (the Lips). As soon as I came up with the chords and this melody, that was in my mind.
But then there are things I do, that I’ll play for Wayne, and he’ll say, “I like that,” and start working on it, and I actually just forget about it. It’s all over the place, really.
Q: If you are working on something and then get really busy with touring, are you able to come back to it and pick up where you left off? Or do you have to start that creative process over with the now-old material?
Drozd: You know, that’s a good question; I don’t know if anyone has ever asked me that.
Sometimes I’ll try to think of a piece of music that got put on hold for whatever reason, and it’ll stay in my mind, and I’ll think that whenever we can get back to it, we should do this or that.
But I’ve had songs before that I’ve played for Wayne, as far as Lips stuff, that he just didn’t respond to, so I forgot about it for a year or two. “Race for the Prize” had four different versions. I played it for the first time in 1992, and it felt like a Dinosaur Jr. song. After hearing it again years later ... it’s no wonder none of us wanted it. A few years later, I revamped it, and then Wayne said it sounded like a car commercial. In the summer of 1996, I came up with the big drums and the small drums and the kind of ’70s AM radio sound, and that was when he finally responded to it.
There have been a few like that. I’ll forget about them and then listen back later and say, “Oh yeah.” It surprises me, and hearing it for the first time again a couple years later, it’s like someone else’s music, almost. That’s pretty fun.
Q: How do you feel about being the frontman? What’s this other element like for you onstage?
Drozd: I am the lead singer on most of the Electric Wurms songs but not on all of it, and I have to say, it did not take me long to really like it. Within a couple of hours of us practicing, with me standing in the middle, I understand why you’d want to just do lead vocals. You’re there and you’re listening to cool music, and you get to sing on top of it. I love it.
At first, though, I didn’t really know what to do, and Wayne said to keep standing there, focusing on singing as well as I can, and that it looked great.
It’s really fun to just get to sing. I’m playing a little guitar but not really while singing; it’s one or the other.
I very quickly learned that I am way into it.
At a glance
‘Musik, Die Shwer Zu Twerk’
Electric Wurms’ debut album will be out via Warner Bros. Records on Tuesday.