Giants in rare company with 16th album

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They Might be Giants plays the Newport Music Hall Saturday, March 2. Vandaveer opens. Tickets are $22/$25. Visit promowestlive.com.
Wednesday February 27, 2013 2:59 PM

Every once in a great while, the interviewed becomes the interviewer.

The Beat confesses to wrestling -- amicably -- with John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants for question-asking privileges during our recent phone interview.

Of course, a successful music career spanning through four decades and 16 albums will afford you a measure of deference.

That deference was rewarded (after answering questions from Flansburgh about our worst interview ever and, unrelated, Mannheim Steamroller) with some tasty nuggets.

Flansburgh pointed out his band's soon-to-be-released record, Nanobots, is in some remarkable company.

"There have been some really stellar 16th albums. (Bob) Dylan's Basement Tapes, Original Musiquarium by Stevie Wonder, the (Rolling) Stones' Some Girls," Flansburgh noted.

"I was surprised at how many esteemed bands do not have that many albums. I'm very happy that we've been able to record so consistently."

Nanobots is TMBG's latest "adult" album, a descriptor tamer than it sounds -- serving merely to differentiate from the band's recorded work for children. The band has recorded four children's albums, the latest being 2009's Here Comes Science.

Additionally, They Might Be Giants has worked on a host of projects for film and television, including Malcolm in the Middle, Playhouse Disney and Meet the Robinsons, as well as contributing original songs for a national Dunkin' Donuts ad campaign.

The combination of creative freedom and professional collaboration ("When you work for Disney, you really learn about deadlines," Flansburgh said) has allowed Flansburgh and longtime TMBG partner John Linnell to scale the heights of their musical abilities.

"We're feeling really brave about what we do," Flansburgh explained.

"We're rigorous (with our second-guessing). We don't try everything possible, but we can experiment with things boldly and still come back to the original intent without being embarrassed."

TMBG has recorded its last few projects at a private studio, not a studio complex.

While he misses the occasional creative serendipity that comes with sharing recording space with who-knows-what-other musicians ("We've become friends with some unlikely people, and I've come to learn what a bunch of weirdos musicians are"), Flansburgh said the benefits of a concentrated work environment outweigh the drawbacks.

"In a single studio environment, it's less like a clubhouse and more like a hothouse," he said.

"Everyone who is there is working on your project; everyone's goal is to make sure we're making the best music we can make.

"It's a different and better challenge."

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