Wayne Coyne, the leader of the pop group The Flaming Lips, gave a rambling interview on Friday to Rolling Stone where he addressed various controversies he is currently involved with, including those surrounding the actions of Christina Fallin, the daughter Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin. Christina Fallin put a picture on social media of herself wearing a faux-Native American Headdress in March and in the storm of the controversy, Coyne put pictures of two women, and a dog up in social media also wearing a headdress. Fallin appeared with her band, Pink Pony, at The Norman Music Festival in April where they taunted Native American protesters, allegedly along with Coyne, and Fallin is accused of wearing a faux-Indian shawl with the word “sheep” across the back while doing a faux-Indian Dance.
Coyne distanced himself from Fallin and Pink Pony in the interview by denouncing the band’s music as “stupid” and while Fallin has insisted from the beginning that she never intended to offend Native Americans, Coyne contradicts her and corroborates what the Native American protestors have said all along, that Fallin and Pink Pony were taunting the protesters.
“I thought [Pink Pony] making fun of the protestors seemed stupid,” Coyne was quoted as saying. “And I just thought, ‘Why don’t you just go out there and play your music, tell them you’re sorry and play some cool music, and that would be what the festival is about?’ And Pink Pony handled it badly.”
Along with denouncing the band artistically, Coyne also puts all the blame on Fallin and Pink Pony for things turning ugly. “I left because I just didn’t think it was very good,” Coyne said in the article. “But then to hear that they were making fun of people, and people probably got too drunk, I thought it was bad.”
Coyne also seems to be saying that he just happened to be laughing while Native American people were being taunted in public, but he was not laughing at them, he was just generally having a good time during the taunting. “Yes,” Coyne was quoted, “I was at the festival. People probably saw me laugh. I took pictures with probably 500 people that night. I’m laughing in probably all the pictures.”
“I, myself, had eye contact with Wayne; he and his little girlfriend were laughing and pointing at us,” said protester and former Flaming Lips fan, Louis Fowler. Fowler, who is Choctaw, was there as a journalist covering the protest, but decided the situation was too overwhelming to remain impartial and picked up a sign and joined the protesters. “You come face to face with someone you respected and who you wasted so much money on between concerts and albums. For him to do that – it was really heartbreaking.”
While the mainstream music press has reported that Coyne apologized for his actions, the protesters who were publically humiliated at festival feel the “apology” was empty.
In one part of the interview Coyne seems to not address offending Native Americans specifically and recommends that anyone who was offended should simply not follow him or his band. “I would say that I’m very sorry, to anybody that is following my Instagram or my Twitter, if I offended anybody of any religion, any race, any belief system. I would say you shouldn’t follow my tweets; you shouldn’t even probably want to be a Flaming Lips fan because we don’t really have any agenda. We go about doing things through our imagination. And I would say that if we wrongly stepped on anybody’s sacredness, then we’re sorry about that. That was never our intention.”
However he later says he is sorry. “I understand now that if I’m a spokesperson for any kind of behavior, I shouldn’t have done it, and I regret doing it now. I am sorry. I realize now that it goes deeply to the heart of some Native Americans. And I definitely regret it. “
“If you use the word ‘if,’ you’re not apologizing; it’s as simple as that,” Fowler said of Coyne’s statements. “(Friday) on Wayne’s Twitter where he said Sean Lennon and Charlotte [Kemp-Muhl], who is in Lennon’s band, were playing Bricktown Saturday night, and he had a picture of Sean Lennon and the girl in an Indian headdress also. So he’s not doubling down, it’s like he’s quadrupling down.”
Samantha Crain is a well-known local musician who is also Choctaw. Like a lot of people, Crain was upset by the headdress photo Fallin posted and she was shocked when the band posted “I heard pink pony was wearing full regalia tonight” on their facebook page before their performance at the Norman Music Festival.
“I didn’t immediately read that and think ‘they are going to be wearing full Native American regalia’ but I did realize they were egging on the same people that were upset by the last photo,” Crain said. “I was very clear that even if they were not wearing regalia I was still doing the protest because it wasn’t so much a protest toward their actions, it was a protest towards their minds: minds that think it is alright to belittle how impassioned people feel when they are hurt by cultural appropriation.”
Crain says that Wayne Coyne was backstage during the entire protest laughing and taking pictures of the protesters. “I do not believe that the shawl or the dancing was meant to be derogatory towards Native Americans,” Crain said. “I do think, even though these things were not meant as a jab towards Natives, the blatant disrespect [toward] the protesters spoke volumes about their attitudes in the situation. If they really wanted to make a statement about ‘sheep’ or ‘yellow journalism’ they would not have asked their audience to boo us and flip us off, which they did.”
Crain said after the performance she spoke at length with Steven Battles of Pink Pony, who explained that he’s in love with multiculturalism and cross-culturalism; he explained that he had traveled to Turkey and was in love with things he saw in the culture. “I never got the impression that he actually respected the cultures,” Crain said. “He also explained his love for the punk rock ‘fuck you’ attitude and wanting to have a mutual distaste between him and his audience… I think with these two ideas, being so important to Steven, clash violently sometimes.”
“I pretty much believe Steven Battles is the mastermind behind all of this, and Christina Fallin — and you can quote me on this — Christina Fallin is like his dumb little automaton that does what he says,” Louis Fowler said. “In the interview she did with Indian Country Today she had ample opportunity to apologize and speak her own mind, but she sounds like a brainwashed cult victim. When she was referring to Steven Battles as a ‘philosopher’ she sounded like she might as well be drinking the Kool-Aid at Jonestown.”
The Lost Ogle, an Oklahoma City information site, is reporting that Battles’ radio show for Oklahoma City’s “The Spy” has been canceled. The Pink Pony facebook page has been taken down and the Oklahoma City fashion and beauty magazine So6ix has severed its ties with Fallin, who was working with the publication as a media consultant, according to the site
On Friday, the same day Coyne’s Rolling Stone interview was posted, Pink Pony played for the opening of the Echelon Salon Suites, Dry Bar, and Spa in Edmond, Oklahoma. Writer and activist Frances Danger, who is Muscogee Creek and Seminole, contacted the salon and was contacted by a representative, Stefani Scott Beard. “She confirmed that Pink Pony would play and apologized if I was offended by any of the articles written about Pink Pony,” Danger said. “She stated unequivocally that all media coverage had been fabricated regarding Pink Pony.” Danger asked for clarification but says she was ignored.
“I did, via tweet, inform Echelon that I had written an article about my Pink Pony experience, that it was not fabricated, and that I would gladly provide 8 pages of unedited screen shots to back up my account” Danger continued. “I also requested an apology from Echelon and Stefani Scott Beard implying that I lied in my coverage. I was ignored; no response.”
The situation has grown bad on The Flaming Lips’ social media pages where message boards have turned into hate filled responses on both sides of the issue, often filled with racial slurs, including the comments section of the Rolling Stone interview. Most of the messages seem to be critical of Coyne, whose fans (and former fans) are attacking him for two reasons: Solidarity with Native Americans who are dismayed by the Pink Pony saga, and support of The Flaming Lips’ drummer, Kliph Scurlock, who Coyne says he fired because he was only technically competent and very negative. Many fans find it questionable that Scurlock would have been the band’s drummer for 14 years if Coyne’s accusations are true.
Louis Fowler says he will definitely continue this protest. “My greatest resource, my greatest talent is my writing, so I’ll use that and I’ll use whatever means I can. I never realized what a significant problem this is in our state. It’s been one of the most heartbreaking and soul draining things I’ve ever encountered in my life.”
“I think Wayne Coyne and Christina Fallin operate in a tower so tall they can’t even see where their arrows are landing,” Samantha Crain said. “It is possible that my next move may be another protest. As long as they hold the beliefs that they do, I don’t believe there is much forgiveness from the Native community to be had. … However, if they want to read some books, interact with some tribal members, and take steps towards understanding and respecting the culture, then speak more about how their attitudes have changed, that, I think, would be grounds to supporting them, and forgiving them. I think they keep dragging it out because their lack of knowledge and understanding really convinces them that they’ve done nothing wrong.”
Wayne Coyne, Christina Fallin, and Echelon Salon Suites, Dry Bar, and Spa were all contacted for comments on this story. Coyne never returned our message, Fallin indicated that she would give a statement that Echelon Salon had prepared, but then texted that had a “low grade migraine” and could not make a comment.