They Might Be Giants

Then again, they might be, like total nerds. Star Hits dares to discover the difference. Janette Beckman gathers evidence.

Star Hits, 1987
by Janette Beckman

YOU MIGHT BE a fan of theirs from watching wacky videos like "Don't Let's Start." YOU MIGHT BE a caller to their Dial-A-Song service (718-387-6962 and your phone company will bill you for the service so don't blame us if your 'rents start an inquisition!) But, then again, YOU MIGHT BE wondering what in tarnation we're talkin' 'bout here. And WE MIGHT BE telling you. There's this band, see, and THEY MIGHT BE called THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS. (Then again THEY MIGHT BE called something else entirely, but let's just press on, shall we?) Well, like some of the finer apartments in Brooklyn from whence they hail, They Might Be Giants have two Johns--John Linnell and John Flansburgh--and to tell you the God's honest trooth, even we can't tell 'em apart. And since they're both "blessed" with the gift of gab--especially John--we decided to let them do the talking...


"There's always a bit of confusion about the name. We never really expected people to think that the 'they' was referring to us, as 'they' obviously do. But it's always interesting when people just get it completely wrong. One night someone called a club we were playing at to ask when 'Ain't They Gods' were going on."


"In middle America we sometimes had trouble breaking the ice with a crowd. We found that in some situations cursing maniacally got people interested. But the one thing that never failed to endear us to a cold audience was having everything go wrong on stage. Once the tape broke in the middle of a song and smoke was coming out of the amp and we'd completely forgotten what song to play next. We knew we had them in the palm of our hands."


"About three years ago we started our Dial A Song service out of John's apartment in Brooklyn. It's just a regular phone machine on which we record a new song every day. It's our little way of saying 'Yo!' to the rest of the world. People are surprised when they find out that we don't make any money from it. But it's the parents of our overseas fans who are the most surprised when they get their long distance bill."


"Our first experience making music for the public involved playing our tape on the high school radio station, which wasn't a radio station at all, but a guy in a tiny room playing records, the sound of which was piped in two large, ancient speakers in the cafeteria. Everyone we knew hated the intrusion of the 'radio' which usually played Frampton Comes Alive. Over and over again. So it was with mixed feelings that we introduced our 'music' to the high school at large. And then we knew there was no stopping us."


"The record company chipped in for John's hospital bills after he injured himself recording the guitar solo on our single 'Hotel Detective.' Now that we know his blood type, it makes performing the song a little easier."


"Making videos is more difficult than you'd think. Since pretty much everything has been done, and most of it would have been better left undone, it's hard to think positive. We made these hats for the video for 'Don't Let's Start.' People like them but they do have negative side effects--they turn your forehead red, crush your brain and make you vote Republican."


"I have one message for everyone out there: Get married, have a lot of children and buy each one of them a copy of our album, Lincoln. This is the perfect gift for children, because as they grow, the songs grow on them. And when they get really big, so will the record."