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April 15, 1994 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-04-15

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10 -The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 15, 1994

They Might Be Giants
They're larger than life and live in Ann Arbor

By HEATHER PHARES
From their eponymous debut in
1986 to their latest record, 1992's
"Apollo 18," the ever-popular They
Might Be Giants have been the kings
of catchy, clever and bizarre pop
music.
Their unique mix of arty leanings,
witty lyrics and endearing quirkiness
has yielded such hits as "Don't Let's
Start," "AnaNg," "Birdhouse in Your
Soul" and "I Palindrome I" and more
obscure gems like "Rabid Child,"
"Shoehorn With Teeth," "For Sci-
ence," and "Everything Right is
Wrong Again." Truly among the pio-
neers of "alternative" rock, They
Might Be Giants continue to provide
a refreshing alternative to most of
today's music, crafitng interesting and

unpretentious music.
"Interesting" and "unpretentious"
are apt words to use when describing
John Flansburgh, the bespectacled co-
leader of the band. Taking a break
from the recording of the Giants' up-
coming album (called "John Henry,"
it's due out in August) in Los Angles,
he was more than happy to discuss the
new album, the band's tour and his
numerous side projects.
"We will be done within the week,"
he said of the band's progress in re-
cording "John Henry," "and we're
kind of relieved, and excited, and
bundles of raw emotion pent up in
wafitng, uptight bodies." As to
whether or not the new album is a
departure from the rest of their work,
he opined, "Well, in terms of

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songwriting, I feel it's in a similar
vein; I mean, we kind of created our
style before we were making records,
so I feel that there's kind of a consis-
tency to all our songs.
"But in terms of sound it's a big
departure from our previous efforts
because it's with a full band. It's
really different sonically, and that's
exciting for us because there's a lot of
different things we're able to do mu-
sically. It's just a different bag of
stuff; there's a lot of stuff you can do
with drum machines and samplers,
that's a very interesting way to work,
but this is just a big departure for us."
This new way of making music
didn't interfere with the band's
songwriting ability, however; in fact,
Flansburgh seems perfectly happy to
get away from his computers: "One
thing that's nice about it is that we can
actually wri te songs and then rehearse
them with the band and just do casual
demos of them and kind of shine them
up with the assistance of a lot of great
players, and that' s an exciting pro-
cess for us becauseit defintely facili-
tated the songs. It's like strapping on
a jet pack to get to work, it's great.
"Every songwriter should have a
really happening band torealize their
songs ... there's a bundle of exciting
new ones. What's interesting about
this new record is that we're set up
like amore traditional band. We didn't
set out to make a traditional rock
record, but I think just having the live
drums and other live instruments
turned it into a very rocking thing. I
think there's a lot of songwrintng
development as well."
But if the album is going to be out
in August, then why are they touring
now? Because they can and because
they want to; according to Flansburgh,
the band is eager and excited to re-
sume touring, to play cities that they
haven't yet, to try out new material
and take a break form the studio- all
things that the spring tour will pro-
vide. Besides, They Might Be Giants
simply want to start once again"the
mobile cocktail party that is our tour-
ing adventure."
But the band's touring experience
hasn't been all one big cocktail party;
the stage fell through when they played
in Milwaukee once, and one of the
band's tour gimmicks, "Stump the
Band" (so named because, in
Flansburgh's words, "we would to-
tally mangle a popular song we had
no idea how to play") fell through as
well because the band reached the
point where "everything the audience
requested, we had already played," he
laughed.
"The audience would say (he puts
on a goofy voice), 'Play "YMCA,"
play Madonna,' and we'd have to say,
'we played that already.' The people

*I

What we want to know is: Are they really giants? They might be, but they might not be ...what else could they be?

in the back must have been like (puts
on goofy voice again) 'Why's it so
quiet up there? What's going on?"'
Hopefully such experiences won't
plague them when the two original
members of They Might Be Giants,

until I went there."
When he is not on tour or record-
ing with They Might Be Giants, John
Flansburgh is involved in some inter-
esting side projects. The most famous
of these is the special phone service

'We're kind of relieved, and excited, and bundles
of raw emotion pent up in wafitng, uptight
bodies.'
- John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants

John Linnell (who sings, plays the
accordion and saxophone) and
Flansburgh (who also sings and plays
guitar) are joined by the rest of their
"really happening band," which con-
sists of drummer Brian Doherty (an
ex-member of the Silos), bassist Tony
Maimone (formerly of Pere Ubu),
saxophonist and keyboardist Kurt
Hoffman, and trumpet player Steven
Bernstein, come to Hill Auditorium
this Saturday.
Indeed, Ann Arbor is one of the
band's favorite tour destinations:
"Yeah, Ann Arbor is a great town,"
Flansburgh said enthusiastically. He
added cryptically, "What I want to
say about it you can't print, but it's
great. I didn't realize how powerful
the rock forces were in Ann Arbor

that the Giants offer their fans, "Dial-
a-Song." Originally started by the pair
as a quick and easy way to get their
music heard, it has endured over the
years and is continually changing:
"Yeah, it's still going on. The
songs change daily, sometimes even
hourly. It's all computerized." Dial-
a-Song (718-387-6962) has also pro-
vided the "training ground" for such
B-sides as "Welcome to the Jungle
(no, not the song from Guns n' Roses)"
from 1992's "The Guitar" EP.
Another of Flansburgh's musical
hobbies is Hello Record Club, a mail-
order record club he started early last
year to publicize bands and solo art-
ists heenjoys. "Mac from Superchunk
just released something in Februrary
that was pretty cool. By the way, the

number to subscribe to Hello Record
Club is 1-800-HELLO-41," he said.
Some other notables that have ap-
peared on Hello Record Club singles
are Brian Dewan, a New York artist
who is also the Giants' opening act on
this tour (see article, page 8) and ex-
Pixies frontman Frank Black.
That Frank Black appears on the
Hello Record Club's roster should
come as no suprise, for They Might
Be Giants are his favorite modern
band. In fact, the two acts played a
few gigs together on Frank's last tour,
and Flansburgh directed two videos
for Black, "Los Angeles" and "Hang
On to Your Ego," both from 1993's
eponymous album. Whether there is
to be another collaboration anytime
soon remains uncertain:
"I don't know when we'll work
with Frank again, because he's a re-
ally busy guy, you know. We were
hoping to visit him while recording
the album, because we dont know too
many people in Los Angeles, but then
he got the offer to tour with the
Ramonesand hejumped at thechance,
since he's a huge fan of theirs,"
Flansburgh added.
His passion for music spreads to
all genres; lately, Flansburgh has been
listening to the "Songs of the South,"
a four CD-set that "is actually sung by
people on chain gangs," he says, im-
pressed, "and the Danzig 'Mother'
cassingle, because I thought it would
be cool music to drive around LA to."
Nowadays, however, creating and
performing his own music keeps him
pretty busy. They Might Be Giants'
stage show is a fun, energetic spec-
tacle that is not to be missed. But, true
to form, Flansburgh is modest about
the band's upcoming spring tour:"We
will be touring in the fall as well, if
people want to stay home. But if they
go now, they'll see something that
they've never seen before."

I

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