New Fumes isn’t technically a local act. However, one gets the feeling this is its home away from home, as the Dallas-based experimental brainchild of Daniel Huffman returns to Opolis this Friday.
“I’ve lived all over the metroplex,” Huffman said. “Now I feel like half the time I live in Oklahoma City.”
It started in the early ’90s, when he and longtime friend Josh Garza (of Dallas space-rock trio Secret Machines) traversed the Red River to see a then-budding Oklahoma band.
“I skipped school one day to see the Flaming Lips on a Friday afternoon,” Huffman said. “I ran into this guy with a weird haircut and this weird T-shirt and just started talking to him. It ended up being [Lips multi-instrumentalist] Steven Drozd.”
Drozd invited Huffman backstage to meet his fellow bandmates, bonding over a shared appreciation for eccentric rock acts like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. In the two decades since, Huffman’s kept close to the Lips, being everything from a one-time stagehand to frequent collaborator.
That mutual fascination with noise, psychedelia and the outskirts of pop would become the bedrock of their relationship.
“I like the possibilities of sound, what you can do with sound,” Huffman said. “Whenever I’d hear something that I hadn’t heard before, making a sound that I couldn’t quite distinguish what it was … I’ve always been drawn to that. And then finding The Flaming Lips, which is both melodic and sometimes has unrecognizable sounds, was really inspiring.”
It’s a sound apparent in New Fumes’ live show and debut album, Bump and Assassination, but it also extends beyond the audible realm. You know all those vibrant, multicolored vinyl records the Lips have released? Huffman’s responsible for that, quite literally.
He had spent hours at Dallas vinyl manufacturer A&R Records, toying with patterns and designs, before presenting the idea to head Lip Wayne Coyne. Needless to say, Coyne was intrigued.
“I just asked [A&R] if they minded if I poured my own records — let me pick the colors and play around,” Huffman said. “I gave one to Wayne, and he kind of tripped out on the way it looked.”
Two weeks later, Coyne was paying Huffman to press his own records. A slew of limited-release collaboration albums ensued, including last year’s double-vinyl The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends, which saw Huffman hand-pouring nearly 20,000 discs in a month’s time.
He said such hard work goes a little easier when you’re pressing an album featuring the likes of Yoko Ono, Nick Cave and Bon Iver. Oh, and a little-known Dallas act by the name of New Fumes, which, from time to time, enjoys a leisurely drive up and down Interstate 35.
“I just felt honored that they wanted me on there,” Huffman said. “Working with Wayne, you never know what’s gonna happen.”