By Tony Binns
CALGARY – As their Cervantes-inspired name suggests, absurdist quirk-pop-rockers They Might Be Giants have been hard at work tilting at musical windmills since the duo came together back in 1982. Guitarist/vocalist John Flansburgh and longtime pal John Linnell, who plays keyboards and shares vocal duties, have had an output that has been nothing short of prodigious. Together they have produced 20 studio albums, 10 live albums, numberous podcasts, a dial-a-song service that demanded daily content, as well as numerous TV and film compositions. Even when doing press interviews Flansbugh keeps busy, taking questions in his Brooklyn studio in between mixing a song and dashing out to vote. He attributes much of this prolific streak to taking a work-a-day attitude to the creative process.
“In rock music there’s this very general notion that people kind of enter screaming, and everything after that is just more of the same,” he muses. “I think we are trying to evolve and challenge ourselves to keep the standard of what we’re doing really high. There is part of me that wonders if we don’t have kind of a middle class or working schmoe attitude about it.”
They Might Be Giants are known for insanely catchy hooks with tight melodic harmonies and lyrics that cheerfully bounce into the surreal. In fact, the lyrics are often so funny that it might be tempting to call them a comedy band, but thematically they are every bit as heavy as the Cure, or the Smiths they just apply a different, often unique approach to the same issues.
For instance, a track off their latest album, I Like Fun, is called “An Insult To the Fact Checkers.” Taken by the title alone, one might think it’s a cheeky ode to the current White House, but Flansburgh had something more personal in mind. “It is definitely a hostile statement. But it’s more about a broken friendship and disappointment in the nature of a hypocritical ex friend.” However, he is also quick to add, “Which is not to say I don’t have tremendous hostility toward the current American president. And on behalf of the United States I’d like to formally apologize to Canada.”
Sticky stuff from a couple of guys who not too long ago had a number of successful children’s records crawling up the charts. But if you are planning to take your kids to hear John and John sing about the number seven, you’ll need to reconsider. No kids will be admitted on the current tour.
“We never really played for kids, we did projects for kids,” says Flansburgh. “Our live shows have always been essentially for adults…performing for kids requires a generosity of spirit that we don’t have.”
The adults that do show up for their current run of dates are in for a treat. An Evening with They Might Be Giants features two sets with no openers and a few special guests, including horn player Curt Ramm who has toured with Nile Rogers and Bruce Springsteen. Flansburgh is very excited about the musical possibilities.
“Curt is a real showstopper of a trumpet player. He’s got extraordinary chops, and incredible tone. It brings this whole fourth dimension to the show.”
From a band who are already juggling quite a few dimensions, that’s really saying something.
They Might Be Giants perform October 16 at The Imperial (Vancouver), October 18 at Bella Concert Hall at MRU (Calgary), October 19 at Starlite Room (Edmonton), October 20 Broadway Theatre (Saskatoon), October 21 at West End Cultural Centre (Winnipeg) and October 21 at Garrick Centre at The Marlborough (Winnipeg)Bella Concert Hall, Broadway Theatre, Garrick Centre, MRU, Starlite Room, The Imperial, The Marlborough, They Might be Giants, West End Cultural Centre