Becoming Giants

So the theme of our print piece from our interview with They Might Be Giants co-founder John Flansburgh discussed how it was only an interview in name.

Here are a couple conversation tidbits that resulted from topics brought up by Flansburgh rather than initiated by the interviewer.

He couldn't believe we made it more than five minutes into the interview without me asking about the band's name. Apparently, this is a popular topic. We had avoided it because we felt that the band's being about 25 years on meant the name wasn't really relevant any more. (We didn't say this, we instead launched into the following.)

We mentioned a story from days long past when The Beat was working at a corporate record store here in the greater Columbus area. The store received weekly notices from the home office letting us know what new releases were scheduled to come out on upcoming Tuesdays. One we received included a new release for "They Must Be Giants." Our (joking) hypothesis at the time was that perhaps the band was making progress, or at least becoming more confident in its giant-ness - that maybe one day the band would be called "The Are Giants."

Unamused, Flansburgh told us (as he probably has numerous interviewers past) that "'They' is not about us." Of course, the name is borrowed from the title of a 1971 George C. Scott film.

"It's the first thing you ever do," Flansburgh said about naming a band, "and it's probably the last thing you're worried about at the time, for something that ends up being so important."

"It seemed quaint that it was so long. We feel like the name has served us well. It it a bad name? I don't know. It's obviously a novel name. So it's not a disaster."

At one point the topic shifted to the fact that the band's new record, Nanobots, is not due out until March 5, three days after the band's Columbus date. A co-worker/fan had wondered how the audience will sing along to new songs they don't yet know, and The Beat relayed this to Flansburgh, with the thought that maybe they would use a screen to project the words.

He thought we meant for the band.

"I recently saw a show where the band used a teleprompter. It was distractring. We've stumbled our way through songs but the teleprompter thing is a terrible trend, and this is speaking as someone whose memory is out the window."

"It's your only job. You should know the words."

Flansburgh did admit - we think seriously - to having made up cheat sheets, taping tiny chord charts to the headstock of his Fender guitar behind the tuning pegs.

"It's amazing how much room there is there, if you really need it."

In the end, he pointed out that, while the record isn't officially out yet, that there are numerous ways for fans to have discovered a handful of new songs from it - including (commercial here) via the band's new smartphone app.

"The show will be different from the last time we came through. we've been touring relentlessly and it's important not to do the same show. We will be performing songs from the new album for sure."

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By: Jim Fischer

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