They Might Be Giants. A single sentence that has meant so much to so many. The doors open at Their Lasell concert at 8 PM on Saturday night, and speaking as their number one fan on campus, I can assure you that Williams is in for a treat. But just what is this mysterious group?
They Might Be Giants was founded in 1983 by John Flansburg and John Linnell, two Brooklyn, NY residents who had become friends years before at Lincoln-Sudbury regional high school in Massachusetts. Having worked together in high school on experimental projects using Flansburg’s tape machines, the two wound up sharing an apartment together in NYC in 1982, and though They attempted independent careers early on, their work soon merged. The rest, as they say, is history.
Back in the day, TMBG cultivated Their interest in 4-track home recording instead of the standard “live band” sound that most groups were trying to achieve. Using tape loops, Moogs and records, They created the unique rhythm section that would send them straight off the beaten path. Soon, with the invention of the easily-programmable drum machine, the Johns gained a solid foundation for their delicate musical creations.
By 1985, the duo was making a name for themselves in the East Village art rock scene performing live with their drum machine in tow and selling Their demo cassettes. A burst of popularity in the exploding club scene brought the group to the attention of People Magazine, which in turn brought Them the contract with Bar/None Records that would initiate Their all-out assault on mass media.
At the same time, the phone-answering machine provided the band with a popular quirk that survives to this day. Call 718 387 6962 at any time of day and you’ll hear a new, experimental or just plain odd TMBG song that you won’t find on any of Their albums. Dial-a-Song is and always has been just a regular phone call to Brooklyn with no extra charges, which means it’s free if you call from work.
Since the founding of the band fifteen years ago, the Johns have released six major albums: They Might Be Giants, Lincoln, Flood, Apollo 18, John Henry and Factory Showroom. Like most wildly successful bands, TMBG has evolved over its long and prestigious history, and Linnell and Flansburg are now joined by a full band (with actual full-time human drummer) as of the John Henry LP.
As good as the regular albums are however, a couple of years ago WCFM received an album-length recording of a live concert in New York. The CD was stolen within weeks, of course (I have already called for the damnation of the thief to eternal misery in Hell on many other occasions, so I will refrain from doing so here.) There are always rumors of a live album in the works for us average consumers, but nobody seems to know an exact date. Nevertheless, while it was actually in the station the live CD stood as a testament to the fact that They Might Be Giants’ studio recordings are only half of what the band has to offer.
Sure, They’re a bit unusual, but above all, They Might Be Giants are crowd-pleasers. Expect them to encourage a conga line. Expect them to orchestrate the crowd in a chaotic version of “Spy.” Hope for puppet heads on long poles being waved over the audience. Like Drew Bunting at this past weekend’s Musicfest, the Johns are actually very funny people on stage. You can also expect to hear some unreleased songs being tested out for the next album. Best of all, songs that you’ll remember from their early years such as “Ana Ng,” “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Don’t Let’s Start” sound even better when there’s actually a full band backing them up.
And by the way, don’t forget to pay close attention to the opening act, Lincoln. The Johns tend to get acts that they personally like for opening numbers and having been to seven shows (each better than the last, of course) I can tell you that They have a habit of picking winners.