They Might Be Giants Going Strong Nearly 30 Years Into Their Career

Washington Examiner, November 24, 2011
by Robert Fulton

They Might Be Giants co-founder John Flansburgh is kinda bummed out.

Last week, the band's trailer caught fire at a tour stop in San Diego. The band lost some instruments, part of its stage show, and a custom-made marching band bass drum Flansburgh had for more than 20 years.

"It's just been a really crummy time," Flansburgh said during a phone interview from New York City, before expressing gratitude that no one got hurt.

"I liked that bass drum," he said.

They Might Be Giants performs at the 9:30 Club on Saturday.

The recent property damage not withstanding, things have been going pretty well for They Might Be Giants, which includes fellow founding member John Linnell. In July, the band released its 15th studio album, "Join Us," and earlier this month released the compilation "Album Raises New and Troubling Questions."

After finishing "Join Us," Linnell and Flansburgh felt they had a number of songs not quite completed but worthy of seeing the light of day. "Troubling Questions" includes these tracks, along with a number of other songs the band hadn't yet released. The compilation also boasts gems in the form of an electric version of the band's hit "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and a cover of Chumbawamba's "Tubthumping."

"We kind of crashed into the deadline of finishing ['Join Us'], and there were a bunch of tracks that were halfway done that were really good tracks," Flansburgh said. "We realized we were sitting on the better part of a really high-quality album.

"Sometimes people come out with compilations just because there's a whole crazy quilt of spare tracks," Flansburgh continued. "This is actually pretty consistent with itself and pretty consistent with where we're at right now."

They Might Be Giants had a recent run of success recording children's music, but the band has put the children's releases on the back burner to focus on this year's output and current tour.

"Writing songs is kind of a low-level mental illness," Flansburgh said. "Once you start on the path of writing, it never really leaves your mind. The song is such an inviting form, such an efficient way to express on idea and it's so magnificently abstract. Our love affair with the popular song is pretty much going full on."

They Might Be Giants formed 29 years ago, and released its first album in 1986. The band had a hit in the early '90s with "Birdhouse In Your Soul," and then again in 2001 with the "Malcolm in the Middle" theme song "Boss of Me."

At Saturday's show, the band plans to play its second album, "Lincoln," in its entirety.

"It's a nice treat for the audience to kind of hear a different set, and it's interesting for us just to get a different repertoire into what we are doing," Flansburgh said.