They Might Be Giants: ‘jingles for insane ideas’

They Might Be Giants might be in it for the long haul, with the short songs on "Nanobots." (PHOTO CREDIT: Scott Gries/Getty Images)
They Might Be Giants might be in it for the long haul, with the short songs on “Nanobots.” (PHOTO CREDIT: Scott Gries/Getty Images)

Fans of They Might Be Giants know to expect the unexpected. Over the course of a singular 31-year career, the Brooklyn-based duo of John Linnell and John Flansburgh have carved out a solid pop music niche as whip-smart geek-rockers and deft musical satirists, with a trademark sense of humor that’s equal parts existential dread and surreal silliness — often within the same song. In more recent years, they’ve been supplied music for films, TV and even children’s albums.

“We’re just as aware [as anyone else] of what an unlikely place we reside in, in the rock constellation,” Flansburgh says.

Their most recent effort, “Nanobots,” seems to reflect all these trends, with subjects ranging from exploding heads (“You’re On Fire”) to the Oedipus complex (“Call You Mom”) to eccentric 20th century inventor Nicola Tesla (“Telsa”). Its most distinguishing feature, however, is a set of what Flansburgh describes as “miniature” songs, many less than 15 seconds long, interspersed among the longer tracks.

“They’re almost like jingles for insane ideas,” he says.

Madness, perhaps, but not without a method.

“As we were constructing the album,” Flansburgh says, “we were looking for a way to make it less predictable as a listening experience.”

Mission accomplished. Then again, according to Flansburgh, unpredictability is something of an M.O. for They Might Be Giants, and pop music clichés, in both style and substance, have always been fairly taboo for the duo.

“But starting from an ‘anything but clichéd love songs’ point of view is actually pretty liberating,” he says. “It’s going to make things bolder as you approach writing songs… Speaking as a listener myself, I know the experience of being affected by a song, and I know how tremendous that is, and a lot of times it does come from a song landing an idea that seems all its own.”

They Might Be eccentric
Where do They Might Be Giants’ unusual subjects come from? Occasionally, as in the case of the song “Tesla,” they can have a long and winding gestation. Flansburgh says “Tesla” was originally meant to be a scientific history lesson for kids, but as he researched the inventor further, it was the pathos of Tesla’s notorious ambition, occasionally bordering on delusion, that struck him more deeply.

“The core of the song is a meditation on the burden of having too much information or being too inspired,” he says.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Drive charged in fatal hit and run, police…

The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for a fatal hit and run in Manhattan last weekend. Doohee Cho, 33, was hit…

Local

Mayor de Blasio raises minimum wage for some…

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order Tuesday morning that will raise the minimum wage for workers employed by private companies that receive more…

National

3 myths about the working poor

Linda Tirado works to debunk some common stereotypes about the working poor in her new book, "Hand to Mouth."

Money

Lawsuit funding advances: friend or foe?

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Many plaintiffs awaiting resolution of their lawsuit or legal claim often find themselves in a tricky financial…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

Entertainment

Interview: Metro chats with filmmaker Meir Kalmanson, man…

A New York filmmaker hands out smiles to its residents.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 30: 'Selfie,' 'Utopia'…

'Selfie' This modern day take on the "My Fair Lady" story stars John Cho in the Henry Higgins role. Perhaps instead of "the rain in…

Music

Can't-miss weekend events continue to attract the masses

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Earlier this summer, the Firefly Music Festival drew crowds of tens of thousands of people to Dover, Delaware.…

MLB

Mets 2014 report card

The Mets wrapped up their eight straight season without a playoff appearance last weekend. Needless to say, they fell a bit short of general manager…

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

Style

Products that support breast cancer awareness and research

Asics GT-1000, $100 Asics’ third pink collection in collaboration with Christina Applegate’s Right Action for Women includes this pink-accented version of its best-selling GT-1000 3…

Wellbeing

Dr. Marisa Weiss: Where we stand on breast…

As an oncologist and a survivor herself, Dr. Marisa Weiss knows the urgency felt by those diagnosed with breast cancer. Genetic testing has accelerated the…

Wellbeing

Bees' stingers hold new hope for cancer cure

A promising new lead in the search for a cancer cure has turned up in a place that most people naturally avoid. A team from…

Home

Emily Henderson on small space design

Design expert Emily Henderson shows us how to upgrade our cramped quarters.