The internet “news” industry, such as it is, asks writers, some of whom may be young and/or inexperienced, to quickly churn out blog posts in order to provide websites with a steady foundation of daily traffic. Unsurprisingly, it is pretty easy to game this system!
The dynamic is especially prevalent in the withering sub-section of journalism devoted to music, where news is usually provided by publicists via mass emails sent to hundreds of websites. This makes genuine scoops especially valuable, and also rewards websites for being the first ones to publish a morsel of news. You can only get so far by being the eighth site to blog the stream of a band’s new single.
It is within this context that we can perhaps understand why several of the web’s most well-read music news sites served their readers the debut of a new song by the band Beach House on the first episode of Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne’s podcast, despite exactly none of that being true.
“Beach House Share New Song ‘Helicopter Dream (I’m Awake)’” wrote Spin. “Beach House debut new song “Helicopter Dream (I’m Awake)’” droned both Consequence of Sound and Fact. “Hear Beach House Debut Unreleased Track ‘Helicopter Dream’ On ‘Wayne Coyne’’s New Podcast,” stated Stereogum, in a post that has since been deleted. If you clicked on any of these headlines and then proceeded to click play on the attendant podcast, you might immediately have begun to wonder if something was amiss.
The podcast opens with a man crowing, “Hello! Hello, my fearless freaks and freakettes! This is Wayne Coyne and here is my podcast.” Despite the announcement that this is Wayne Coyne and this is Wayne Coyne’s podcast, the man doing the speaking immediately and suspiciously sounds like someone doing a self-consciously bad impression of, I guess, Wayne Coyne. You do not have to be familiar with Wayne Coyne’s speaking voice to know this—a bit of common sense and attention to the audio in your ears would probably do the trick.
Soon, the alleged Wayne Coyne introduces his guests, purported to be Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. As their conversation begins, it becomes clear that the three of them are sitting in a room together and recording themselves in a very crude fashion, perhaps merely via a laptop’s microphone. This would be another clue to you, the discerning listener, that things are not as they seem.
If you skip to the 22-minute mark, as instructed by Consequence of Sound and Fact, you will begin to hear our fearless leader, the singer Wayne Coyne, introduce Beach House’s new song, “Helicopter Dream (I’m Awake).” “Ugh, it gets me so hard, guys!” says the person who we are led to believe is Wayne Coyne, which is something that Wayne Coyne would definitely say to Beach House as they get ready to perform a new song on his podcast.
But wait! “One final question,” our Coyne says. “There’s a song on your new album called 10:37, but it’s only three minutes and 49 seconds long. What’s up with that?” The person who is now obviously playing the role of Beach House’s Scally explains that when he first pours a cup of his morning coffee and Dr. Pepper—“PDPP” he calls it—it’s usually 10:37 in the morning. The three try and stifle their giggles, as if they can barely believe they’re attempting to get away with this prank.
With that pressing question answered once and for all, Beach House get ready to debut their new song, but not without first shouting out “Jimmy and P down by the docks.” And what a song it is. I sincerely urge you to skip about 24:10 into the podcast and listen to it. It sounds exactly like the sort of openly dumb Beach House parody you might write if you were planning on playing a hoax on the music press with a fake podcast that you say is hosted by Wayne Coyne. If the chorus of this fake Beach House song went “This sooooong / is faaaaaake” it would somehow sound less obviously fake than the song we actually hear.
So, how did four websites get duped by just about the most easily detectable prank imaginable? Laziness, basically. Here is the email about the podcast sent to a bunch of music sites, forwarded to me by someone who works at one:
From: Sean Price <[redacted]>
Subject: Wayne Coyne Podcast
Hello! I’m not sure if anyone has brought this your attention yet but apparently Wayne Coyne just recorded a podcast called “The Fearless Freakcast” where he interviews Beach House?
I’m not sure why it was released secretly but it’s pretty interesting!
This is basically all it took. In his post, Stereogum’s James Rettig—who wrote that a “Wayne Coyne imposter has a podcast now” but still somehow presented the Beach House song as real—even thanked “reader Sean Price for the tip!”
It would maybe somehow be encouraging if none of the writers who blogged the post actually bothered to listen to the podcast and/or song., but they all appeared to have checked it out without any of their bullshit detectors going off. Spin’s Harley Brown called the song a “fuzzy space-age odyssey” while Consequence of Sound’s Michelle Geslani described it as a “reverb-soaked number.” If you write enough blog posts you will probably fall for a prank eventually—hello, there—but this one is as egregious as it is funny.
In any event, the legitimacy of the podcast could have been uncovered by emailing the representatives for either Coyne or Beach House. When I asked Beach House’s publicist Frank Nieto if it was Beach House on the podcast, he responded three minutes later:
Nope, not at all. Funny though.
Indeed. I emailed “Sean Price” to ask him if he was surprised at how easy it was to pull off this hoax, but he has not yet responded. I can’t wait to hear who is on episode two.
[image by Jim Cooke]