Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
May 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

They Might Be Giants' Puppet Talk

music_TheyMightBeGiantsThey Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh on living with a split personality
"Can you call me back in 10 minutes? I just arrived, and I have to sort of de-pack my crap.” The statement is classic John Flansburgh, vocalist/guitarist for the jubilantly strange, lovably dorky alternative rock band They Might Be Giants. Since founding the group with vocalist/accordionist/keyboardist John Linnell in 1982, Flansburgh has practically built his career on the kind of pithy wording and amiably sardonic delivery he’s now displaying.

After liberating his crap, Flansburgh gets GT up to speed on a “misguided hand puppet project” that TMBG is currently working on. (Fans will soon see the results in the form of a slew of videos for the Web.) The 50-year-old musician explains that the puppets in question are “kind of angry, and that really speaks to adult audiences. They kind of feel put down by They Might Be Giants. They don’t want to be a part of the show; they feel like we’re holding them back.”

The puppet project is an extension of TMBG’s split personality: Just as some fans refer to Flansburgh as “Big John” and Linnell as “Little John,” there’s been a “big” TMBG and a “little” TMBG since the early 2000s, when the group began doubling as a kids’ act. As evidenced by the group’s 2009 Grammy Award in the category of Best Musical Album for Children (for Here Come the 123s), TMBG’s bouncy rhythms, sing-along choruses and penchant for the truly absurd are well suited for children’s entertainment. All the same, you really have to wonder what’s to become of the tykes whose worldviews are being shaped by the twisted minds behind lyrics like “Would you mind if we balance this glass of milk where your visiting friend accidentally was killed?” and “Where your eyes don’t go, a filthy scarecrow waves its broomstick arms and does a parody of each unconscious thing you do.”

According to Flansburgh, there’s a distinct separation between TMBG’s two identities. “We feel very self-defined in the world of kids’ stuff because we so clearly don’t belong there,” he offers. “But in the world of rock, there’s a lot more reason to look over your shoulder. Things are critiqued rather closely, and you’re contributing to a world of music that people have very strong feelings about. Everyone’s trying to figure out where you fit into the culture.” Making mention of discussions with the band’s manager as to which TMBG songs will be played on the radio, the singer whimsically notes, “We have big-city problems in Rockville.”

Between the children’s market, the alternative rock market and the mass media (TMBG songs have been used in video games, in movies like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and in TV shows like The Daily Show and Malcolm in the Middle), this band’s music definitely gets around. Flansburgh seems amused by the ubiquity of his and Linnell’s work. “I think in some ways, we kind of don’t think that any of it is really even true,” he states. “I feel like there’s the real world, and then there’s this kind of dreamscape that includes us. I’m always amazed when people know who we are, because we’ve never broken through on that big, big level.”

Nor do they wish to. Flansburgh says he finds the thought of big-time success intimidating. “It already feels a little bit like running for Congress just doing shows,” he admits. “You’ll be in the middle of having an argument with a friend in a restaurant, and all of a sudden, someone’s at your table wanting to take your picture. But the funny thing about that whole strange relationship with the public is that on a personal level, the parts that seem the phoniest are actually when you’re really doing your duty as a conscientious public servant.”

Hey, that’s the way it goes when you lead a double life.

 


They Might Be Giants plays at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 423-8209.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival