They could be giants ready to release a new album and a book, “Book”


Growing up, John Flansburgh, co-founder of Grammy-winning alternative rock band They Might Be Giants, loved to DIY. He loved sound and he also loved new technologies, rudimentary as they might have been, even then. For example, he liked to listen to the radio in his parents’ car. He was “mesmerized” by the songs from the Top 40. As a child, he also got into tape recorders and bought a three-inch reel to play with the sound. Later, his popular band became known for their “Dial-A-Song” gimmick where They Might Be Giants recorded new songs and put them on an answering machine for people to call in to hear. Today, the group is constantly innovating, staying fresh. This is part of their mission, as evidenced by the band’s latest album and the accompanying tome of the same name, DELIVERED, released on October 29.

“I was really into the sound,” Flansburgh says, “really into the recorded sound. I don’t even know why he had such a hold on me. In the end, I spent a lot of my life in it. think and work with sounds.

At the time, emerging technology seemed to offer endless possibilities. It was new, flashy, from Casio keyboards to vintage tape recorders. That was in the late ’60s and early’ 70s. For Flansburgh, now 61, those days offered new ways to connect with people, to share ideas and creations. It was a pure possibility. As Flansburgh grew up with these passions, he later befriended John Linnell at their Boston high school. The two officially co-founded They Might Be Giants in Brooklyn, New York in 1982, creating innovative, sometimes raucous music from their 19-song debut album to later, children’s cartoon themes.

“We’ve had a lot of very formative experiences together,” says Flansburgh. “We went through the fear of classic mid-70s rock and came out on the other side with the whole first wave of pick rock bands from New York and Boston. We were 17 when all the New York bands had just emerged.

Together, Flansburgh and Linnell have attended a myriad of shows. They lived in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn so they could afford an artist’s life. In the audience, during these Big Apple club gigs, the duo implicitly learned what they liked and didn’t like in terms of sound, performance and creative production. It was a master class at clubs like the CBGB in New York and elsewhere at the Rathskeller in Boston (aka The Rat).

“These have been really educational,” says Flansburgh.

Flansburgh and Linnell perfected themselves in small clubs in the East Village of New York. Back then in the ’80s performance art was all the rage and bars and stages wanted original material, not covers or more silly stuff played for party people. Instead, the more thoughtful and more experimental the better. This successful gestation, the Petri dish period has since propelled Flansburgh and Linnell to great success. As a result of their experimentation, they were allowed to find their voice and build the courage to stay with them.

“We have always been ambitious,” says Flansburgh. “Everyone wants to write the most powerful songs possible and explore all the musical territory they can think of. But I think the only thing for us is that we gave ourselves permission from the start not to limit ourselves to working within the established guidelines of what defines a group.

While the origin story of They Might Be Giants will always be tied to the “Dial-A-Song” gadget, Flansburgh says the duo didn’t start this to grab the attention of record managers, as many do. ‘have claimed in the past. Rather, those same executives warned them that this was bad practice, that it upended the more traditional relationship between repressed fans and performers.

“When we were actually approached by major record companies,” says Flansburgh, “we were often asked if we could stop doing the ‘Dial-A-Song’ service. Not only was it not making any money, they saw it as shorting the process.

The band’s latest album is lively, eccentric and charming. It starts off with a bang with the first track, “Synopsis for Latecomers”, which humorously reintroduces the band to new fans. Other hits include the electric lullaby “I Broke My Own Rule”, the eccentric “If Day for Winnipeg” and the joyous “Part of You Wants to Believe Me”. The music is indicative of a playful yet serious ambition. And the accompanying book includes sometimes haunting photos (by Brian Karlsson) and a wobbly offset print copy (by Paul Sahre).

“The truth is,” says Flansburgh, “the thing with our project is that it feels like the challenge is bigger than just a song. I think from the start, we almost wanted to figure out how to stay somehow musically unknowable. If you really want to get out of the simple new band alert and check out their unique new thing, you have to to announce this one way or another.

They Might Be Giants has certainly made its fair share of statements over the years, from goofy songs to Tony nominations to Grammy wins. While the group has never taken a break in history like it did during the pandemic, its members remain tuned in to what could be the next step in today’s upside down world, while enjoying the process of writing new songs and creating new material. Together, they hope the future is bright so they can pursue a career that to date has seemed like lightning.

“It all happened in a flash,” says Flansburgh. “I love everything about music, just hope people know how to get the shots so we can get back on stage.”

Photo by Shervin Lainez

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