Apollo 18/Press Release
John Linnell accordion
John Flansburgh guitar, glasses
1972: APOLLO 17 successfully returns to the earth, concluding NASA's Apollo moon missions
1992: APOLLO 18 is released by They Might Be Giants
Apollo 18 is more than a rocket to the moon. It's a trip through nature, evil, death, and delirium. They Might Be Giants' new album finds the band's acclaimed song-writing reaching a new peak. Soaring with a kaleidoscopic variety of songs and a bold, full sound, Apollo 18 is a sonic adventure that befits its title.
From the first track, "Dig My Grave," with its vocals recorded through a guitar fuzz-box, to the last, "Space suit," which spotlights the Moog synthesizer, the album features extreme song arrangements. In its range and imagination, Apollo 18 is more like singer/songwriter albums from the late sixties and seventies thap the singles-and-filler albums so common today. Brimming with up-tempo rockers and diverse instrumentation, it is the first album the duo have completely produced themselves. John Flansburgh: "Having the freedom to do the production on the entire record has been very positive. The writing and recording were our only focus for nine months. We purposely avoided session-man-mania, and let our own humble playing shine through ... There's more Hammond organ and horns than ever before, and guitar is quite distorted on most of the songs. Before we started this album I got a Marshall amp and John Linnell got a couple of better saxophones, and those changes can be heard all over the recordings."
Apollo 18 is one of the first CD's to take full advantage of the shuffle mode found on today's CD players. The song "Fingertips" is composed of a series of twenty-one separate refrains, and in shuffle mode the CD player mixes up songs and "Fingertips" twenty-one refrains at random, producing an ever-changing musical collage.
Recorded in New York City, Apollo 18 is rich with special guest appearances. The Giants' Brooklyn neighbors Laura Cantrell and Julie Cohen provide vocals on "The Guitar" and "Hall of Heads" respectively. Among a string of cameos on "Fingertips" are Peter Stampfel, founder of the Holy Modal Rounders and Brian Dewan, musician and artist who built the shrine structures on the cover of They Might Be Giants' Lincoln album.
They Might Be Giants have agreed with NASA to be Musical Spokespeople for International Space Year. By an Act of Congress, 1992 has been dedicated to the celebration of space as an international frontier. They Might Be Giants have dedicated their Apollo 18 tour to the Year and will promote its message of peaceful discovery in all their Apollo 18 related activities.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
John Linnell and John Flansburgh have known each other since grammar school. They became friends in high school in Sudbury, Massachusetts, where they worked on the school paper and recorded some songs together. After high school they moved to different states. Linnell played in a Rhode Island band, the Mundanes. While in college in Ohio, Flansburgh played in a couple of hobby bands. Both moved to Brooklyn in 1981, converging on an apartment building in Park Slope. Flansburgh: "We arrived as most of the New York bands we were interested in were going national or breaking up. We kind of missed the scene." They started working together on home recordings—pooling instruments and equipment and playing on each other's songs. By the mid-eighties the Lower East Side club scene was heating up again, but the focus was on acts very different to punk rock. "We were on bills with a lot of avant-garde musicians and performance artists, which was challenging and exciting—and it definitely influenced us. But we always seemed very much like a rock band by comparison, and that's why it seems so inaccurate to tag us with the same kinds of labels."
As for the band's name, John Linnell explains: "It's the name of a movie made in the early seventies. We wanted a name that was outward-looking and paranoid."
While the band was getting noticed on the downtown scene for their live performances, many people in and outside the New York area discovered They Might Be Giants through their Dial-A-Song service. Years before any other fan line, They Might Be Giants' service offered songs recorded especially for their phone line, and the only charge is that of a regular call to Brooklyn. Linnell says, "It's a difficult medium of expression. A lot of sounds just can't be heard over the phone, and of course if you hit that sustained note which sounds like a beep, the machine ends the song right there."
After their 1985 demo tape was reviewed in People magazine, Hoboken's Bar/None label approached the band about releasing an album, and a quick succession of events vaulted the band into the national spotlight. Their self-titled first album was widely praised and a solid commercial success, selling over 100,000 copies in its first year of release. Through a series of striking and creative videos the Giants became MTV regulars—a rare feat for a band on an independent label.
They Might Be Giants began touring nationally with their two-man show, and started to gain an enthusiastic national following. Flansburgh: "Most rock shows are very schematic—they're about bigness. By comparison, our show probably seems very stripped down. We wear our street clothes on stage, and we talk to the audience. We play a few different instruments to keep things moving along, but we try to keep it simple. We'd rather people notice the words than a laser show." After the release of their second album, Lincoln, the band signed with Elektra records and in 1990 put out their enormously successful Flood LP.
1990 saw They Might Be Giants' first major label single, "Birdhouse In Your Soul," became a top ten hit in the UK. They toured around the world and performed over 160 shows in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. The band made numerous television and radio appearances, including The Tonight Show, where they played with Doc Severnson, Today, and Late Night with David Letterman.
They Might Be Giants still rehearse in John Flansburgh's apartment in Brooklyn.