Even as the world’s tilted off its axis and freakish aberrations have occurred with increasing regularity, there are thankfully still a few natural laws that have held firm. Just as water is wet and grass is green, They Might Be Giants are still releasing new music and touring. Although it might seem like only yesterday that the treasured indie-rock duo was tearing up college radio with “Birdhouse In Your Soul” and being featured on the likes of Tiny Toon Adventures, John Flansburgh and John Linnell’s ongoing project of marrying absurdist lyrics with stupidly catchy riffs has remained vital through the years. They Might Be Giant’s newest album, I Like Fun, has even been heralded as the latest in a late-career hot streak.
The band’s remarkable consistency — whether it’s in Dial-a-Song projects, on their traditional studio releases, or in their children’s music albums — has come to be one of its defining characteristics. Speaking to New Times in advance of the pair's appearance at Culture Room tomorrow, January 26, singer and multi-instrumentalist Linnell, one-half of the They Might Be Giants brain trust, joked this might have something to do with the relative sanity of his musical career.
“The Onion did a humorous thing many years ago about how our episode of VH1’s Behind the Music was the most boring and unwatchable episode ever,” Linnell recounts with a laugh. “To which I was like, Yup, they nailed it.”
From Onion articles to beloved sitcom theme songs, the last three-and-a-half decades have seen They Might Be Giants quietly establish themselves as a cultural phenomenon. And although their seemingly constant stream of releases makes it seem effortless, Linnell says he and Flansburgh treat the creative process with great respect. They aren’t content to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike.
“It's actually so important to have a work ethic; sit down, have your materials in front of you and just start working. And if you feel uninspired, just keep going,” Linnell says of the band’s prolific output. “The act of trying to write a shitty song will lead me to the good song."
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When fans swing by Culture Room tomorrow, they can look forward to a lengthy, segmented set that pulls from both the band’s most cherished, well-known hits and its weirder, neglected pieces. Linnell describes the responsibility of drafting up a live setlist as involved — and notes it's handled by his partner, Flansburgh.
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“What we tend to do is have a kind of a rough setlist for the beginning of the tour which is subject to change,” Linnell shares. “We have two complete scenes, and then we get to go backstage and lie panting on the dressing room floor, and then come back and do another installment."
Twenty albums and nearly four decades in, Linnell says it’s going great, and certainly better than he would’ve ever guessed at the outset of his and Flansburgh’s career. Even their children's music has gained popularity.
“I'd be totally content if we just held onto our old fans, and instead we seem to have continued to attract new people,” Linnell observes. “I'm very impressed with the range of ages and the diversity of the audience. And the fact that we still have an audience is... it's just, it's like a miracle, it's terrific.”
They Might Be Giants. 8 p.m. Friday, January 26, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-564-1074; cultureroom.net. Tickets are sold out.