They’ve existed for 22 years, putting out consistently high-quality underground pop albums and helping people see the glory of geeky humor. They’ve put music on answering machines for callers to dial up and listen to and gained a cult following doing so. They’ve received a Grammy for a television theme, made an album of catchy children’s music, written a children’s book titled Bed, Bed, Bed and an off-Broadway play titled “People Are Wrong.” They have a DVD called “Gigantic” that has a bunch of famous people like Conan O’Brien gushing about them. They have a side band that features tuba, trumpet and trombone. They are They Might Be Giants and their co-leader John Flansberg spoke with Artsweek about their upcoming show at the UCSB Hub, children’s albums and being knee-jerk liberals.
Artsweek: OK, to begin, let’s let people know what to expect at the show. Fireworks? Epic guitar solos?
John Flansberg: Oh yeah, all of that. It will be very explicit; people should leave their children at home. Almost half the time we plan on playing brand-new material. We’ll be cursing and talking about drugs and everything. We’ll be really ripping it on the guitars too.
What kind of new material? Stuff off the new EP, Indestructible Object?
Some of that, but also a lot of stuff from our upcoming full-length album The Spine. That EP was sort of a stopgap thing before this new full-length. We’ll be performing this one song at the show named “The Spine Surfs Alone,” which didn’t make it onto the new album. We’ve got some awesome, indescribable stuff we’re going to be playing.
Anything else you’re working on right now?
Right now, we’re touring for this new album and putting together a CD for the political action group MoveOn, where we’ll jointly release the CD with a book that Dave Eggers is editing. The CD will have us, David Byrne, Death Cab for Cutie – lots of people. It and the book will be released in a few months and sold both together and separately.
How’s that working businesswise?
Well, it’s complicated because we might have to collect the name of every person that purchases the book. Doesn’t that sound mental? Apparently, because the proceeds are going to a PAC [Political Action Committee], the amount of times people buy it needs to be recorded so no one breaks any campaign finance rules. We might not be able to have any non-Americans perform on the album.
I take it you’re on the more Democratic side of things?
I am a knee-jerk liberal. I’m all about raising taxes, mainly on the very rich.
Are all the songs on the CD of a similar political message?
It’s not a bunch of “don’t vote for Bush” songs or anything. We, for example, cover a presidential campaign theme song from early America, one of the first political theme songs ever that made at a time when no one really used them. This song sort of started that fad way back when.
So what’s it like to be getting back to adult music, both on this and The Spine. after doing the children’s CD?
Well, it’s good to make songs about doing drugs again.