Giant Steps: They Might Be Giants at Asheville's Orange Peel

The Citizen Times, September 23, 2011
by Jonathan Rich

ASHEVILLE -- When the quirky pop duo They Might Be Giants played The Orange Peel in 2004, they dropped confetti from the rafters, started a conga line circling the stage and immortalized the Asheville music venue with a song written about the massive flooding that had recently submerged parts of the city.

Years later, John Flansburgh and John Linnell are celebrating their 30th anniversary making music together with a return to their one of their favorite music halls to promote their latest album, "Join Us."

"Asheville just seemed like our kind of town, and we liked it right away," Linnell said during a recent phone interview from his Brooklyn, N.Y., home. "The year we were there, there had been a catastrophic flood where the French Broad River had just inundated all these houses along the river. We wrote about 30 songs about venues, and that was one of the few we made a video for. I love The Orange Peel."

In the three decades the self-proclaimed "Brooklyn ambassadors of love" have worked together, they created eclectic college rock hits, including "Particle Man," "Ana Ng," "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," and made a name for themselves by licensing their songs for use in TV shows and movies. They also won two Grammys for adapting their cerebral lyrics for a younger crowd by recording albums targeted to both young children and their parents.

All the while, Flansburgh and Linnell stayed true to their intention of making independent music for independent people.

"Initially, we thought we might be misunderstood if we made a kids record or that people would think we were a kids project," Linnell said. "After 20 years or so, we decided people knew what we were about and we could do something else without confusing anybody."

The band took its name from a 1971 George C. Scott film, which referenced a passage in "Don Quixote" about mistaking windmills for evil adversaries. But Linnell said not to put too much thought into anything associated with his eclectic band's unique brand of intellectual pop.

"I am on the inside of it and can barely figure out what we are trying to do next," he said. "We spent the last 30 years not trying to figure out what it is supposed to be, and I think maybe that is one of the strengths for us."