Star Scene: John Flansburgh

John Flansburgh‘s scene is driving. “These days I find driving is extremely relaxing, which is just emblematic of how little actual real relaxation I actually get. We’ve been working extremely hard so I’ve kind of forgotten how to relax, I would love to relax more.”

He’s not sure how many times They Might Be Giants have visited Australia. “Probably half a dozen times over the years. Australia’s a really fun place to play. The crowds are really enthusiastic and there’s something very infectious about just the general high spirits that everyone’s in. I find Australian tours to be extremely satisfying because we always get a very warm welcome when you’re coming to Australia. I feel like it’s a singularly un-neurotic response.”

“I think people kind of appreciate the fact that we’ve come from the other side of the world to do a show [laughs]. The actual travel involved is sort of a big commitment. We’re not expecting people to be like cultural ambassadors, but there is something very jolly about the response. We’re really looking forward to coming back to Australia it’s going to be Kick-Ass.”

[pullquote]Australia’s a really fun place to play. The crowds are really enthusiastic and there’s something very infectious about just the general high spirits that everyone’s in.[/pullquote] Flansburgh has been very busy this year, along with his band mate John Linnell. “We had an album come out in the Spring and we actually have a kid’s album coming out in a month and we’ve got a third album coming out in January.” Their legendary “Dial A Song” idea has been revived into a new website. “Every week we’re posting a new song for all of 2015, so that’s the best explanation for why we have so many new albums happening at the moment.”

Their audience has changed a lot over the years. Apart from hardcore fans from the College days they now have people that know them through Disney cartoons. Flansburgh explains “I’m always surprised at how many people within our kid’s audience really know about us from television. That seems to be the thing that drives them. You know we did music for a couple of different Disney television shows and that’s really a huge audience unto itself. So what they know of our history in alternative rock can often be surprising a little bit.”

“I mean it’s it’s surprising just because I don’t think we’re trying to keep our career a secret but a lot of people just never got that, I think when we were doing the whole College rock scene a lot of people were a lot more preoccupied with the pop scene.”

As a left handed guitarist Flansburgh has often found the range limited. “There’s not a lot of lefty guitars out there, I’ll tell you that much. I was on a used instrument site the other day and it had 35,000 right handed guitars and 180 leftys. I feel like I’ve been saved from a squandered fortune of electric guitars because there are so few of them, there’s really not a lot to collect.”

[pullquote]There’s not a lot of lefty guitars out there. I feel like I’ve been saved from a squandered fortune of electric guitars because there are so few of them, there’s really not a lot to collect. [/pullquote]I suggest that Paul McCartney may have them all. “You know, I think Paul McCartney is the least gear oriented musician in the world – I’m a very big Beatles fan. I’m always surprised at how little interest they had in the instruments that they played. They’re kind of from another generation, but I don’t even think they knew the names of the models of guitars that they were playing for the longest time. Maybe that was just really part of rock culture of the 70s. I think the Beatles just played the guitars that were in their hands and made the most of it. Which is perfectly valid and kind of refreshing. I feel like I live in a world of people who are really preoccupied with sonics and very small pieces of audio minutiae and to just kind of go at it with big broad bravado is like a better strategy.”

When it comes to songwriting, there are a few songs he wishes he’d written. “Oh, there are a million songs that I admire. I really like. There are a couple of writers that, I really like Harold Arlen. He wrote a bunch of songs in the Wizard of Oz. I like Hoagy Carmichael, I like a lot of the sort of mid century writers who kind of wrote in a – they wrote standards, but they didn’t write in the traditional Tin Pan Alley kind of way. It’s a good question. I feel like the popular song is a very interesting, very rich, world. From Stephen Sondheim to Frank Lesser there’s are a lot of people whose is in the field that I really like quite specifically. I’m not in love with Broadway music as a general idiom, but something like Guys & Dolls is a really interesting, kind of fantastic, fantasy of how to approach songwriting. Something like Guys & Dolls, which was written by Frank Lesser, is kind of its own style of music in a way.”

Would he be interested in writing a musical? “I don’t know how good I’d be at it, to be totally honest. you know, ti’s like, there are a lot of plates to keep spinning to do a successful musical. Like writing songs into a story. I find just writing a good song enough of a puzzle. I don’t know how they do it, really. I’m sure there’s a trick to it.”

“Although you know it’s also interesting. I remember reading about how the song “I don’t know how to love him” in Jesus Christ Superstar was actually written before Jesus Christ Superstar. They just took their high quality ballad and applied it to the show. So, it’s not like you have to do everything custom fit. You can take a good idea and sort of apply it to a vehicle.”

After Australian tour the guys head back to Brooklyn. “We have a standard gig in Brooklyn where we play at the end of the month, every month. Every month is a different kind of show. John and I are actually doing a special duo show in Brooklyn when we get back where we’re just playing with a drum machine and the two of us. That’ll be very strange. And then we’re doing a bunch of New Years show and that’ll be lots of cool sessions of New Years fun. Then we’ve got a couple of weeks in the UK in the spring. And a couple of weeks across the United States, so we’ve got a bunch of playing ahead of us, and then we’re going to take a nice looong nap.”

They Might Be Giants Australian Tour is on now. Tour dates below:


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