The Avatars Of They
The Avatars Of They are a musical duo of sock puppets—Blue Avatar (Flansburgh) and Green Avatar (Linnell)—who were a recurring segment of live They Might Be Giants shows from 2009 to 2015.
The Avatars made their debut on October 1, 2009, during the tour promoting the album Here Comes Science. Frequently introduced with the riff from Edgar Winter's "Free Ride", Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train", or Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", the puppets sang a selection of songs and exchanged banter—including commentary on their "opening act", They Might Be Giants, and their endorsement of made-up products from their sponsors. The Avatars were sometimes accompanied in their segments by cardboard cut-outs of public figures, including Meg Ryan and the Supreme Court of the United States.
John Linnell speculated that their success is generated by the fact that they are "the one element that adults, teenagers and kids all crave...sock puppets." Flansburgh said on Tumblr in 2022, "When we first got a video projector it just seemed like we should do more with it than just blow up what was already happening."
At one point it was rumored that there might be an album from the Avatars. Linnell initially denied this in an interview with Pittsburgh Music Report, March 2010:
We're not making an album with the puppets, but they do appear with us in the show. They present us with an opportunity to let our real feelings out. We've also been using them backstage to work through some issues from our own childhoods. I think we're beginning to see a real breakthrough there. Only the first sentence is true.
Despite this claim, likely due to their continued popularity, they made their studio debut in Podcast 50 with "Goatee" and followed that with "He's Loco" in August 2012. The Avatars also played a role in the 2012 They Might Be Giants Instant Fan Club subscription, with four exclusive Avatars video podcasts available to members. Their eponymous debut EP, The Avatars of They was released in 2013 on 7" vinyl. They also made appearances in YouTube videos, including a 2015 music video of the Blue Avatar performing "Piece Of Dirt," a strange 2013 pre-animated video referring to the Avatars, and, according to its YouTube description, the 2011 music video for "Spoiler Alert", which features the bare hands of John and John.
In the late '90s, John and John performed the songs "Exquisite Dead Guy" and "Counterfeit Faker" at live shows by moving severed ventriloquist dummy heads affixed to mic stands around the stage. Though TMBG gave away the puppet heads in late spring of 2000, it is possible that this element of their show acted as a precursor to the use of the Avatars.
Songs that the Avatars have been known to perform live:
- Epic Fail Baloney Sandwiches Jingle
- He's Loco
- In The Middle, In The Middle, In The Middle
- Midnight Train To Georgia
- Pandor Jingle
- Shoehorn With Teeth
- Spoken bridge of Snowball In Hell
- Stalk Of Wheat
- Spoiler Alert
- Three Might Be Duende
- To All The Girls I've Loved Before
- Toddler Hiway (Live)
- What Is A Shooting Star?
The Avatars also produced these studio tracks from their The Avatars of They EP: