Giant Steps

They Might Be Giants hope that the revolution will be downloaded

The thing I like about the Long Tall Weekend compilation the most is, for whatever reason, the cumulative effect of the song selection just seems very wide-open to me. The opening track, "Drinking," is a really neat kind of instrumental. I don't think if we were looking over our shoulder at all, thinking about how people would critique this record, we would necessarily feel relaxed and confident enough to have the opening track be a low-key instrumental. I think that kind of sets the tone, and the rest of it carries on through that. It's hard to explain, but it's nice to do something that's kind of off-the-record. This is literally off-the-record.

NT: Will the next album -- or whatever you prefer to call it -- be available as a hard copy, something you can buy in a store?

JF: Oh, yeah. We're about three-quarters of the way through it. We've been recording this summer with Joe Nicolo, the guy from Ruffhouse Records who discovered The Fugees. He approached us. He called up our manager and wanted to sign us. He's a real self-starter, Joe. So, we've been working with Joe and Phil, his twin brother -- better known as The Butcher Brothers. The recordings came out really great, so we're really excited about that stuff. We're almost done, actually.

The two Johns: Linnell and Flansburgh are back, peddling their quirky pop on the biggest record label in the world -- the Internet.
The two Johns: Linnell and Flansburgh are back, peddling their quirky pop on the biggest record label in the world -- the Internet.

NT: Now that the band isn't on Elektra anymore, what label will it come out on?

JF: It would be a mistake for me to say. I mean, I could tell you off-the-record, but I just don't want to get myself in trouble. But it's big. Honestly, I don't even know that much about it. I know that Joe is doing a label deal, and Ruffhouse is leaving Columbia -- or Sony or CBS or whatever it's called. I mean, the guy sold like 30 million records last year, so he's moving to another big super-label somewhere. I don't want to fuck up his deal. People in the record industry are very touchy about that kind of thing. I don't care.

NT: Do you think Elektra never figured out what to do with They Might Be Giants?

JF: I don't think it really mattered that much. They afforded us tremendous artistic freedom, and I will be forever grateful for that. In a lot of ways, I think the model that Elektra was working off of was kind of started at Warner Bros. in the '70s. Very, very artist-friendly. To be perfectly honest, it was a great run. We were with them for eight years, and I got to make the records I wanted to make. That meant a lot to me, especially at that point in our career, because we were having our first success. That's the hardest part for most bands. You start having some success, and suddenly people start trying to push you around, and you become alienated from your own project. That never happened to us. In many ways, I think being on Elektra is the reason that we're still together.

Was I disappointed that they totally folded up on Factory Showroom, like, before it was even released? Of course. I thought that was an incredibly strong record that was just a lost opportunity. I don't think they saw the depth of our fan base. There were two complete personnel changes over the course of our time there. It was a completely different company by the time we left. But you know, it didn't really matter that much in the big picture. I think working with new people and having a completely different spin on things right now is clearly having a positive effect on us. Everyone we're working with is really excited to be working with us. It's great to be working with people who are into it. It gives you a whole different kind of momentum.

NT: Since you've been in a band with John Linnell since 1983, do you think the momentum was slipping over the past few years?

JF: I love working with John. The biggest problem with my working relationship with John is that we're forced to spend so much idle time together. It would be an endurance test for any friendship to spend that much time in a car with anybody. We spend more time in a car together than most married couples. Considering what a sensory deprivation chamber a lot of our life together is, we get along great. The thing is for me, it's often a tremendous relief to work outside of the official stuff. If I could be in a side project with Linnell, I would love to do it. [laughs] The problem is, I don't even know what kind of songs aren't allowed in They Might Be Giants.

They Might Be Giants are scheduled to perform on Thursday, September 23, at the Cajun House in Scottsdale, with You Were Spiraling. Showtime is 8 p.m.

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