John Flansburgh and John Linnell are two of the busiest guys in music and appear to be having a lot of fun at it, even after more than 30 years in the business. They formed the alternative band “They Might Be Giants,” in Brooklyn in 1982 and have been making music ever since. In fact, they seem to be doing it non-stop. They’ve just released “Nanobots,” their 15th album, and have launched a tour of the U.S., Australia, and Europe to promote it.
How do they turn out so much new music year after year after year?
“I don’t know,” John Linnell said in recent telephone interview. “We just drink a lot of coffee.”
‘We’re still searching for that lost chord in a way,” he explained. “We haven’t really altered the way we work. We’re still kind of, I think, just wanting to write a good song and not feeling like we’re allowed to lower the IQ. And some of it gets harder now because we know we just can’t repeat ourselves."
They’re known for their alternative, unconventional style, writing quirky, creative, clever songs that sometimes make you think and often make you wonder. I first discovered “They Might Be Giants,” when someone shared their song “When Will You Die?” at a time I was frustrated and dealing with a very negative influence in my life. It’s a funny, black comedy approach to something you can’t do anything about – but laugh. And so many of their songs are like that – experimental, edgy, some that may not always seem to make sense, and yet, all very musically solid.
Linnell says they try to be as entertaining, interesting, and mind blowing as they can be. And both he and Flansburgh work hard to stay creative.
“We try out a lot of stuff and we throw away the bad ideas. And that’s just as important as anything else.” he explained. “I think it’s just continuously working and rejecting your bad ideas.”
TMBG has turned out so much music – you not always know you’re hearing them. In addition to their regular albums, they’ve done albums for kids, and theme songs for film and TV shows like the Jon Stewart’s “They Daily Show” and “Malcolm in the Middle.”
“We performed the theme for the Daily Show and wrote the sort of fake news music in the beginning, but quite a lot of people hear that and don’t immediately think of us,” he said.”Malcolm in the Middle sounds more like us.”
Linnell has an interesting story about theme show music.
“We were actually offered the "Friends" theme, that’s the really funny part,” he recalled. “We took a look at the pilot episode and we passed on it. ‘Yeah, I don’t think this show’s going anywhere.” He laughs.
TMBG has just released a new album called “Nanobots.” It's described as “25 unreasonable songs in 45 impossible minutes,” and includes songs like “You’re On Fire,” “Call You Mom,” “Lost My Mind” and many more. And they’ve launched a lengthy tour of the U.S., Australia, and Europe to promote it.
Linnell said he and Flansburgh still get along great after working together for so many years. And they both look forward to going out on the road.
“John and I get along pretty well. We spend a lot of time together when we’re touring. We, and the band, get into these very involved conversations, about completely transcendental and ridiculous topics, and it never stops,” he said. “There’s kind of a clubhouse vibe, that also extends to the members of the crew and we all enjoy that.”
They also enjoy getting out and sharing their music. They're looking forward to a having a good time. It's what they do.
Photo: Courtesy of Dominic Neitz