The Blackouts was a band in which John Flansburgh played guitar while he was in college, before the formation of They Might Be Giants. Flansburgh claims that it was the income from a particular gig in Dayton, Ohio with The Blackouts that made him realize that one could make a living by being in a band. Flans was in the band while attending Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. His years in Ohio were the source of the reference to Xenia in "Out Of Jail".
The other band members were Dan Spock (guitar), Chel White (drums), Dan Julty (bass), and, at some point, Karl Hecksher, who had also played drums for The Turtlenecks.
Very little is known about the type of music the band played, but in a radio interview, Flansburgh stated, "I was in a band called the Blackouts. We did, uh...we did some really messed up stuff. We did a bunch of James Brown covers that were un-identifiable as James Brown covers. I was playing the role of James Brown." John Linnell added, "John just basically screamed."
One of the James Brown covers in question was "I Can't Stand Myself". Other songs performed by The Blackouts included "Sweet Pea" by Tommy Roe and an original surf/funk instrumental called "Two Points".
From the Early Years Handbook:
John Flansburgh played in a band called the Blackouts. 'I was wearing pyjamas. I was 20 years old,' he recollects.
A few other bands going by the name "The Blackouts" have also existed through the decades, including Frank Zappa's first band, and a Seattle/Boston-based band that at one point included Paul Barker of Ministry. However, the group Flansburgh was involved in was one of the less notable among these, and ostensibly unrelated to those aforementioned.