Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Apr 26th
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

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise