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They Might Be Giants

When asked what the impetus or inspiration is behind one of They Might Be Giants’ most popular recent albums, Here Comes Science, TMBG’s John Flansburgh’s answer is quick and – delightfully predictably – the first thing he focuses on are the meanings of the words themselves.

Inspiration seems so pompous compared to the worker-like pragmatism of impetus, so let’s go with impetus…” he muses, “our previous projects had big topics – the ABCs and the 123s – and themes that are that big generate a lot of ideas. Science was one of the few topics that seemed equally rich. Although we’ve gotten some nervous questions about Here Comes Science’s controversial ‘fact-based’ method, ultimately for us it was less politically volatile than doing a history project,” he chuckles.

The wit and charm of the lyrics and music are all TMBG – but the details, facts, and info, as Flansburgh already mentioned, were cribbed together, appropriately, much as one might do research for a term paper. Flansburgh says he thinks they’d still get a decently high grade.

“Some of it we actually learned in school, some of it is from books, and some from the always available, often unreliable internet,” he explains, “we did have a science consultant who saved us from some crushing embarrassments, especially in the video department, but we didn’t get away totally clean. We’ve actually had to change a few bloopers for the second pressing of the DVD. But I think we’d get a B+ on facts alone. We hope the power of the music allows people to overlook the small mistakes.”

Flansburgh’s personal favorite song from Here Comes Science – “Meet the Elements” – is a song that he says has a “natural rhythmic pocket,” a novelty of sorts amidst TMBG’s usual roster of far more intricate, geek-cred compositions.

“When we’re playing it live, it feels extremely comfortable,” Flansburgh explains, “that might seem like a suspect reason for being positive about a song, but for us it’s rare.”

In addition to the new …Science album, the band recently completed not one, but two additional albums, a rarities set and their new full-length studio set (their 15th album overall), which they dubbed Join Us. The studio where the latter album was recorded may not necessarily be where you’d picture a geeky-cool indie-rock band working on their songs – well, unless that band is They Might Be Giants.

“We recorded Join Us in a new studio built by our long time engineer, Pat Dillett,” Flansburgh says, “it is in the shadow of the shrinking but vibrant Wig District – yes, there is a Wig District in New York City.”

So what do TMBG have in their plans next, now that their latest record is completed? Again, from Flansburgh, a quick, direct – and perhaps wig-inspired – answer.

“Rock, rinse, repeat,” he smiles. – Kristi Kates

Find out more about They Might Be Giants on their official website.

originally published on, reprinted with permission.