'Old-Timey' Technology Is Just What They Might Be Giants Ordered

Spinner, October 13, 2009
by John Linnell

They Might Be Giants have been making music since 1982, a career that includes fourteen studio albums. In 2002, the band released their first children's album and has since recorded three more records for their educational series. The Brooklyn band is currently on tour supporting their latest release, 'Here Comes Science,' and singer John Linnell will be checking in with his thoughts and musings all along the way.

All hail the old and crappy! From what I can gather here in the remote, leaf-shrouded They Might Be Giants treehouse, there continues to be a growing interest in obsolete technology to meet contemporary tastes. Some consumers of the rock music have turned back to vinyl LPs as a more visceral listening experience. Some recording artists have renounced computer based recording and digital gear altogether and are sweating over 40-year-old tape recorders.

I, for one, am sticking with my computer for music-making purposes, not because it sounds better, but because I'm too lazy to deal with all the clunky, fussy audio gear of the past.

However, after ten years of documenting life on the road with a digital point-and-shoot camera, I have turned back to taking pictures with cheap, post-war gear on old-timey film. Maybe the lo-tech cameras I like to use help to conceal my crappy technique, or maybe I'm clinging desperately to an imaginary, better past, but I find I just love old cameras to pieces.

They Might Be Giants will be touring the U.S. this fall, playing shows in dark, smoky clubs for adults, and in slightly cleaner environments for kids. I'm going to be taking snapshots along the way, so I'll be using this forum to present these analog documents of America, along with my wry and insightful commentary -- or perhaps meandering, confused mumbles -- about whatever it is we run into.

For example, here's a picture taken backstage at one of our recent kids shows. Between John Flansburgh (guitar/vocals) and myself is Brobee from the kids act 'Yo Gabba Gabba!'. The photo was snapped by our friend Annette Berry with my 1953 Brownie Hawkeye Flash (see example below with Kodak Rotary Flasholder).

The BHF has one of the most fervent cult followings of any vintage camera, which is as much due to its stylish bakelite exterior as to the homely results of its meniscus lens. Brobee didn't say much when we met him but he was every inch a professional entertainer. As we have learned, rockin' the tots can be hard work.

Next week: The Egg in Albany, New York -- modernist shrine or ditched alien spacecraft?