Lizzy Allen of Vitamins tells us how she ended up singing backing vocals for the Flaming Lips
With her classical training and her background singing country music, Lizzy Allen brings impressive chops to her role in Vitamins, which got its start in Greeley. And tonight at Red Rocks, she'll be putting that talent to work with the Flaming Lips, who have asked her once again to provide backing vocals as they perform Dark Side of the Moon. We spoke with the gracious Allen recently to find out more about how she got the opportunity.
Tom Murphy Lizzy Allen fronting Vitamins
Westword: How did you end up being a back-up singer for The Flaming Lips?
Lizzy Allen: They wanted to do some Dark Side of the Moon stuff. They had Peaches, who originally sang on the [Flaming Lips live album]. They had her do one of the gigs in Hollywood, and they realized she wasn't going to be able to do all of the gigs. I told them a couple of months ago, because we text back and forth, "Hey, if you ever need a female vocalist on anything, I'd be willing to do it; I'm down." And [Wayne Coyne] didn't respond or say much about that, but in June he texted me and said, "Hey, can you sing 'Great Gig in the Sky' by Pink Floyd?"
I didn't really know what he was talking about. Even before I knew I could do it, I said, "Yes." I was really thinking to myself, I don't know if I can. That song is crazy the way Peaches does it. Listening to the way she did it, I thought, "I'll go out there and give it my all or die trying." They needed someone to fill in, so they asked me.
They flew me out to Pennsylvania. I didn't even know I was going for sure until the day before and [I had been learning the part up to then]. Wayne asked me what I was going to wear and he sent me a sketch of what he thought I should look like. The day before I was trying to learn this impossible, ridiculously hard song and trying to find a costume. It was crazy. But when they flew me out to Pennsylvania, I met up with them and drove down to Atlantic City.
The first night was at The House of Blues. I didn't think I was going to be doing it that night. I just thought we were going to do a soundcheck and we were going to run through it -- my first run-through with them. So we did the soundcheck, and Wayne said, "I think we're just going to go ahead... you're going to perform it tonight. Here's three hundred dollars, go find yourself a pink wig, come back, and we're going to perform this thing tonight." I went out and found a green wig because I wanted a green one instead. We came back and performed that night and it was so much fun.
The next day, I did it at a Dave Matthews Caravan Concert at Bader Field. I woke up and realized my voice was kind of going. The higher notes were kind of scraped out because I had been using it trying to learn the songs so much. I had kind of abandoned everything that I'd been rehearsing and did my weird, it's kind of like a falsetto voice, but it's like a whistle tone. The crew members called it the "pterodactyl voice."
So I was mortified because I started warming up and realized I had strained my voice, and I started freaking out. I told Wayne, "I'm losing my voice." He said, "It doesn't matter, you just get out there and you be a freak." So I did. A lot of the people were like, "Whoa, that was insane." They almost liked it better.
So I did those two shows in Atlantic City, and they flew me out to Milwaukee on July 9th, and I went to some shows, and the next day I performed in Chicago at Lakeside. It's an open field. It's nothing like what I thought Chicago would be like. You know, a big city. But when we got out of the bus that morning, it was tumbleweeds. Where am I, you know? It was so hot, but it was so much fun.
From Chicago, they didn't fly me out. After the show we got on the bus and we bussed back to Oklahoma City, fifteen hours. I stayed on their bus for three nights and had my own little bunk there. It was really surreal but really fun. All I'm doing right now is these three shows, but I think if they do more Dark Side of the Moon shows, hopefully they'll ask me.
How did you end up meeting The Flaming Lips to begin with?
It was really random. It was at a Tame Impala show at the Bluebird. Somebody said, "Wayne Coyne's in the balcony." I didn't even know. I was like, "Who is that?" They said, "You know, the lead guy from The Flaming Lips." And I was like, "Oh! I should probably go find him." So I went up to the balcony and I was kind of hanging out, and Crawford Philleo was there, and he actually introduced me. Wayne's tour manager Chris Chandler was there.
From then on we were like, "Hey, let's go find the Tame Impala people and hang out with them" So we went on their bus and me and my cousin and Chris and Wayne ended up getting breakfast. I showed them around Denver, took them to Gabor's. We drew some art together and just kind of talked about everything. I don't know, just kind of shared a weird artist's connection of being weird, I guess, and unusual. He's kind of a mentor, teacher person to me.
So then he asked the Vitamins to open for them in Aspen, and we did that. At that show Chris said, "Come on over to Oklahoma City, if you can. Come to the New Year's Eve show. We're playing The Soft Bulletin." Absolutely. My mom said, "Yup, you're going." She bought me a ticket out there, and me and my cousin went, and we had a ball.
The next night, after New Year's Eve, we hung out with Wayne and his wife [Michelle] and spent the whole night drinking and singing songs. His wife gave me a bunch of old clothes. So we've kept in contact ever since. It's a crazy story, but when I'm hanging out with him it seems so normal. Wayne is very down to earth and not really into himself that much.