In a typical rockumentary, a filmmaker tours with a band during a particular period of time, trying to capture their lifestyle on the road, while (perhaps) simultaneously giving some idea of the band's history through interviews and archival footage. Whatever personal relationship the director tries to convey on film is limited by the relationship he forms with the band during a short time.
The Fearless Freaks is not a typical rockumentary. Bradley Beesley, the director, has been a friend of The Flaming Lips for nearly 15 years, collaborating with them on nearly all their music videos, as well as his own film projects. Over the years, he has attended multiple concert tours, studio recordings, family jam sessions, and Christmas celebrations, all with camera in hand. In The Fearless Freaks Beesley combines his own footage with home videos, interviews, and photographs to make an incredibly intimate documentary that spans the entire career of The Flaming Lips.
The film's title is taken from the name of a gang of weekend football players Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne and his brothers formed as teenagers. They were an odd combination of jocks and druggies who got together to play wildly violent football games. According to Beesley, this unfettered and reckless playfulness in childhood was a foreshadowing of the experimental approach the Lips would take throughout their musical career. He traces their roots as a no-talent noise rock band, always grounding it in the members' experiences growing up.
While Wayne's own experimentation found a successful outlet in music, his other family members have not been so fortunate. Several of them have long been addicted to drugs, and one feels a sad disconnect as Wayne says he believes his older brother is probably still doing either crack or meth--he's not really sure which. Still, there is an enduring sense of family between the Coyne brothers and their mother.
It is remarkable to see how little Wayne is changed by his success. In addition to seeing him interact with his family, we witness him fixing his mother's gutter, mowing his lawn, cleaning his jacket after a concert, and personally unloading equipment to set up for a show. In Wayne we find someone who invests an amazing amount of personal attention to every aspect of his musical career, from recording the music, to painting the album cover art, to directing every music video, to constructing sets in his backyard for his own movie (which he also is writing, directing, and starring in). It is hard not to feel a connection with a man who invests so much of himself in every work he creates.