John & John Answer Your Questions
TMBG Info Club
On Misc. T album, where did you get the material for track 13? Flansburgh — Back in the days when Dial-A-Song only got five calls a day, it took messages (which were mostly from my friends asking why I had to have such a long message on my home line). I often set the machine to "unlimited message." One day I got back from work and discovered the full thirty minute tape filled with messages. I soon found it was mostly a single message. The primary speaker is a woman who called on a conference call with her friend, listened to our song and then proceeded to comment on it while my machine recorded their conversation. We only used about a tenth of it. It originally appeared unlabled at the end of the "Don't Let's Start" ep. What's the backwards message on the song "I'll Sink Manhattan"? F — Again, it is a message that was left on Dial-A-Song. This one was left by a New York cop saying something like "Hey They Might Be Giants, the NYPD love you," and since the song had a New York theme, it seemed relevant. Linnell — Any tips on how to play the accordion? Linnell — I play the kind of accordion with a piano keyboard on the right hand. It's not hard to learn if you have already played a keyboard instrument. There is a simple system to the arrangement of buttons on the left hand that puts chords which are more closely related closer to one another. This makes it easy to play two and three chord songs because the buttons are always adjacent. Linnell — Where did you learn to play accordion? L — I picked up the accordion about a year after forming TMBG with Mr. Flansburgh. I never had proper lessons and this accounts for my very personal "crab claw" technique. Why the name 'THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS'? They Might Be Giants are named after a movie from the early seventies starring George C. Scott. At the Vanderbilt University show in Nashville TN, there were some pictures/posters hanging from the ceiling. Was the little girl Pearl from "Night of the Hunter" starring Robert Mitchum? Yes, and the movie is definitely worth checking out. Any chance of a live album, ever? Plans are being made to record TMBG at the Fillmore in a couple of months, and some of that material might become a college radio release or be featured on a CD5 for the next album. We have had some luck with live recordings. There was a show we did through WXRT that came out sounding good, but often the arrangments don't seem ramatically different enough from the records to warrant putting them out as proper releases. How about a 2nd video compilation? <small>(A very popular question)</small> L — We have lots of videos under our belts since the last compilation, plus some promotional films for our last two albums. We hope to release this material soon. Our working title is "Super-Fueled Freaksicle" What did you study in school? Mr. Linnell studied liberal arts for a year at UMass Amherst. Mr. Flansburgh got a BFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. What is that accent of yours? F — We both spent some formative years in the western suburbs of Boston. A bunch of our friends talk like we do, although it's not really a standard Boston accent. I think of it as normal. From one composer to another, how do you guys arrive at the arrangements for your songs? L — There's usually a certain amount of trial and error, though some of our songs have their arrangements built-in when the songs are written. On a few occasions we've hired out, like when we got the Ordinaires to play the music for "Kiss Me, Son of God," or like the a cappella arrangement of "O, Do Not Forsake Me" Wilbur Pauley of the vocal group "Hudson Shad" made for his group to sing on our upcoming record. Do you usually write the lyrics or the music first? F — I have traditionally written both simultaneously. Recently I have tried experimenting with writing lyrics first — which was something I'd resisted in the past because it seemed like cheating. "Meet James Ensor" on our new album was written that way. I own 2 different CD's with a squid trabbing a tooth whale on the cover, the other one is Trip Shakespeare's "Are you Shakespearienced" Is there a connection or a weird coincidence? F — There is no connection between us and Trip Shakespeare, who we are unaware of. The image of the whale and the squid shows up in natural history exhibits as a big battle among sea creatures. Our cover was taken from Fate magazine, a pulp science fiction magazine from the '50s. Have you ever done any projects with Suzanne Vega? Mr. Linnell played the accordion solo on Suzanne's "Tired of Sleeping." Do you eat meat? F — We both eat meat. I went vegetarian for a year and a half, but it just got too dull living without barbecue. What is the picture in Misc. T of? The cover photo is a picture of some papier maché letters Flansburgh built in his hallways (or on the cover of the cassette, the stairs) of his apartment. The inner sleeve is a close up of Linnell's accordion buttons, and the back is a photo of the Brooklyn Library. When will you be touring Australia? L — We want to go this year, but the logistics of touring are only about five percent in our control. The only tour we ever did in Australia was a total blast. What is Dial-A-Song? F — We started Dial-A-Song ('718-387-6962') about ten years ago so people could check out our songs. We didn't have any records out, and it seemed like a good way to get our music heard. Since we started to record, we didn't want to seem like we were copping out, so we kept on doing it. It doesn't cost any more than a regular charge call to Brooklyn. What's your favorite flavor of Pez? F — Any flavor that comes out of my custom built Nixon piz dispenser. John F — Where did you get that ultra cool metallic green rectangular guitar with those gauges in it that you played "The Guitar" on in Ventura CA? F — I had that guitar built for me by Mojo Guitar in NYC. I actually designed it myself. For a "prop" guitar it sounds pretty good. Are you going to release more sheet music? We haven't had much luck with our publisher about coming out with a book. We usually think about it after we've finished a record, and it is too late in the cycle. Maybe we'll get it together this time. Are you going to record with Brian Dewan? L — Brian appeared as a guest vocalist on some of the "Fingertips" segements on our last record. He doesn't appear on the current one. Perhaps we'll record with him on the next one. Are Kurt Hoffman, Brian Doherty etc. really new members of TMBG? F — Well, John and I still lead the band, but everyone in our touring band is a big part of our next album. We've all tried to come up with a name for the other guys to differentiate this band from the duo set up, but we can't ever come up with one we like. Was there ever a video made for "Hey Mr. DJ"? Nope. When are your birthdays? Linnell – June 12th, Flansburgh – May 6th. Why doesn't my CD player register "Apollo 18" as having 38 tracks, thus allowing it to be played as TMBG intended? Sadly, the overseas pressings of Apollo 18 CD were not pressed with the individual tracks of "Fingertips." We're not really sure why, but all the domestic releases seem to work.