Downtown Crowd

They Might Be Giants Full Interview Transcript

By Tanner Yea—

Our interview with John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants was just too packed full of goodness; a two-page story couldn’t capture it fully. As a supplement, we have provided the full transcript of the interview, which includes stories about Detroit, recording songs for cartoons and They Might Be Giant’s songwriting goals.

J: Hello!

D: Hello!

J: What a crazy day this has been.

D: Yes, how are the pipes?

J: Well the pipes are still frozen, which is a drag. But I’ve turned the temperature in the house up to a toasty 75, all the cabinets under the kitchen sink are open, all the actual faucets are open. So as they come loose, hopefully it will not be a problem.

D: Where do you live that pipes freezing are a problem?

J: Well we’re like two hours north of New York City and overnight it was like 0, if not sub-zero temperatures, and unfortunately, we don’t keep the house super warm overnight. This all happened in the middle of the night, so I’m hoping that means it won’t be too frozen. It might just be one little part of the line early on that got frozen. But who knows? We’ll see what happens. I’m looking for a space heater in my attic right now.

D: I have a lot of family in West New York, around the Buffalo area.

J: Now that is some cold winters there.

D: Yeah, that’s why my parents fled to Florida in the 80s.

J: Right, the lake effect thing. I know a guy who lives in Buffalo and that lake effect snow is pretty nuts.

D: Yeah, it is.

J: But hey, now I’ve got a question, sidebar question about Buffalo.

D: Ok!

J: Isn’t Buffalo becoming super hipster now?

D: Uh, Buffalo is a very complicated city. Part of it, like Downtown Buffalo, is very hip now. But still, most of Buffalo, West Seneca and stuff where a lot of the working class people lived when the steel mills were there, is very poor and depressed and not super great.

J: Mhm.

D: But there was this news that Elon Musk wants to build a solar cell plant in Buffalo or something

J: Hey, now we’re talking!

D: So who knows? Buffalo is an interesting and also sad place.

J: Well, I get the impression that there’s almost like a Detroit thing going on.

D: Yes, very much so.

J: Because as how low it has gotten, it’s sort of rebounding in this classic Williamsburg hipster-style. There’s a lot of artisanal farm to table restaurants opening up.

D: What’s interesting is it used to be the second largest city in the state, but after the steel industry left, it just got poor.

J: Huh. Well, I hope it comes back. I have to tell you, Detroit is totally coming back.

D: Is it, really?

J: We’ve been coming through Detroit every couple of years for 30 years now. And we watched Detroit completely fall off the edge of the cliff, and it seemed impossible it could ever come back. And then it completely came back. I shouldn’t say it completely came back, but it has surged forward in very meaningful ways. And I’m very glad to be playing in Detroit again. There was a point where it seemed shows in Detroit were going to stop happening. But anyway, enough about Detroit.

D: And Buffalo.

J: Now let’s get to the business of They Might Be Giants.

D: So just a little info, this is for Ballinger Publishing in Pensacola, Fl.

J: Oh excellent! The Vinyl Music Hall.

D: Yes, yes sir. Have you guys played at Vinyl before?

J: We have.

D: You have? When was this?

J: Yeah yeah. Just a couple years ago we played there, it was a blast.

D: Yeah, it is a fun space. It’s pretty exciting to be talking to you. I’ve been listening to They Might Be Giants since maybe like the mid-90s when I was a kid.

J: Sure!

D: So I got a ton of questions here about you and the other John.

J: Mhm.

D: How do you tell you guys apart? Do you call each other like “The Other John”; do you go by your last names?

J: We became friends in high school when everybody just called each other by their last name, in that kind of bro way. So I just call Linnell “Linnell”. And he calls me “Flans” or “Flansy”. Everybody calls me Flansy; I don’t know how dignified that is, but I’m used to it.

D: Do you remember when you guys first met as teenagers? When you guys met, were you guys like “I’m definitely going to be in an indie rock band with this guy for almost 30 years.”

J: -laugh- When we met, I don’t think the term punk rock had even been coined. So we certainly weren’t thinking about indie rock. John is a year older than me, and I think we really go to know each other in high school. We both worked on the school paper together. That was really the axis, the fulcrum of our social lives. That was where all the people we knew met each other. It’s kind of a hothouse environment. A lot of the ideas that They Might Be Giants embraced came out of conversations at that time.

D: So were they just jokes or observations that turned into some of the ‘weirder’ stuff?

J: Yeah. I mean the truth is we are very much a product of 70s pop music. We grew up with the radio, and there was a lot of different stuff. You don’t realize that when you’re in it, things are any different from any other time. The role that popular music took in people’s lives when we were growing up was incredibly vital and incredibly formative. So we were just into it. Music was everything. In some ways, the idea of being in a band seemed kind of unattainable. It was a very egotistical idea to think you could be in a rock band.

D: Kind of because back then, being a rock band was a very hard to do.

J: You don’t just say, “I’m going to be Bob Dylan” or “No, wait, I’m going to be The Beatles.” It was a time when rock bands were really a big deal. But popular music was just incredibly fun and exciting and diverse, and it just seemed there was a world of possibilities that a pop song could be almost anything. And that was a very exciting idea.

D: Did that kind of bleed over to They Might Be Giants, that a pop song could be anything?

J: Yeah. For instance, I had heard the song “Trans-Europe Express” by Kraftwerk with John Linnell. And this was probably the first time we had ever heard Kraftwerk – it was their first breakout song. That song seems very different from any other kind of song. And there’s just a whole series of things like that that’s just our kind of shared history together.

D: So before you guys actually formed They Might Be Giants, what were those early songs in high school like, where you and Linnell would just kind of fool around with. What did that sound like?

J: The very first recordings we did, there are things we did that are incredibly similar to what we did later on in certain ways. We worked with drum machines very early on, or electronic percussion devices that made metronomic sounds. That’s the other thing that’s so odd to me, when we started there weren’t really drum machines per se. There weren’t drum machines like the way we know them. There were these devices that accompanied organists that kind of made these puttering, pedestrian beats – you’d think of it almost like a Casio sound, but this was before Casio. I don’t know, we did some rock songs, we had a fuzzbox, and we had a synthesizer. They were very, very misguided efforts that have to be suppressed. I’m blushing just thinking about them right now, to be perfectly honest.

D: I remember the songs I wrote when I first started learning to play music, and I think I’ve willfully blocked them out of my memory.

J: We did do a cover of “Don’t Worry, Kyoko” by Yoko Ono that was pretty spirited.

D: -laugh- Yes, spirited. That’s what I would call my early stuff too.

J: I think you can tell it that as long as no one hears it. And then when people are actually hearing it, you just have to admit it was bad.

D: They say ‘It’s just a lot of yelling’ and you say ‘Well, you know.”

J: -laughs- Exactly.

D: When you first started, was it intentional to make more obscure instruments in the forefront – like the accordion – or is that what you guys knew how to do?

J: Well like so many things, there are a couple of levels to it. I think the accordion was definitely an interesting sound and it was a very rich acoustic sound at a time when a lot of music had a cold, synthetic quality.

D: This was the late 80s right?

J: Actually very probably in the mid-80s. There was a lot of development happening very quickly in synthesis, so it was a nice contrast in the arrangements we were doing. We were working with drum machines, and it really offset a lot of the impersonal sounds of the drum machine we were working with. At the same time, we were trying to figure out how to work every weekend in Manhattan, and if we used the accordion instead of an organ, it meant we could take the subway to the gig. There was a utility to it, there was more than one upside to it. It was this incredibly easy and economical ways to just putter around town.

D: What were those early shows like in 80s or 90s Brooklyn or Manhattan? How did that affect what you were doing at the time?

J: To sort of paraphrase Pete Seeger talking about The Weavers, “It was quite a time.” In 1984, 1985, 1986, there was a huge explosion in the East Village of all sorts of culture. There was the East Village arts scene, which is probably better documented – which is like Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring and a host of other artists who were kind of working in a cartoony, graffiti format. And that was a real youthquake moment for the New York art scene, because up until then the SoHo gallery scene had been very dominant. And that was a very self-serious culture, and the East Village culture was the opposite of serious. It was people working in a very loose way that often couldn’t be too easily monetized. And running at the exact same moment there was a whole world of performance art that was even more out of left field that was really challenging the art world of New York in an even more fundamental way. Some of that was very politicized, even though the politics would be considered dorm room by today’s standards – it was a lot of bird-flipping to authority. And all this was happening in the East Village, which was a pretty blown-out neighborhood. There were many blocks in the East Village that were abandoned or semi-abandoned, with buildings that had squatters in it and buildings that were burned down by their landlords because burning the buildings was a better deal than all the people who weren’t paying their rent. So New York was in this very hard transition from the Ed Koch era of New York being completely broke, and amidst that East Village scene was a very vital and popular nightclub scene – with lots of live acts and lots of activity, none of which was getting noticed in newspapers. In fact, I remember very distinctly trying to get our show listed at the New Yorker and The New York Times and being told – and this might have even been true of the Village Voice – but it was their policy that they didn’t list shows below 14th Street. So it was as if the lower-third of Manhattan just didn’t exist as a cultural place. And forget about Brooklyn – anything that happened in Brooklyn might as well had been happening in Maine, no body in New York City was covering shows in Brooklyn.

We would go out and do these shows all across the East Village, and we were playing almost every week all through 84-85, there was a sort of a circuit of places – there was a place called the Pyramid Club, a place called 8BC  – which was on 8th Street between B and C, and that block was extremely rundown. There was a ton of acts – we were on bills with Swans and The Butthole Surfers, there would be pop acts coming over from England. We didn’t play the same night, but I remember the Bronski Beat playing at the Pyramid Club. It was just this very underground scene, but it was also extremely popular, that was the thing that was hard to imagine – it was explosively popular, there would be very big crowds for this stuff, and people wanted to see what was happening downtown. We had been kicking around New York for a couple of years doing stuff, and then when the East Village exploded, we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

D: Are your pipes working? I feel like I hear water running in the background

J: No, no, it’s the cold-water side of things just going. These are desperate times; I just wanted to see if the cold water was working.

D: Calls for desperate measures.

J: Yes, yes.

D: You mentioned the Village Voice, which brings me to Dial-A-Song, which is something They Might Be Giants is a little famous for. I read that there were some pretty radical circumstances that caused it – I don’t know if this is true, but I think Linnell broke his wrist and your house got robbed?

J: Yeah, they were certain momentary setbacks. We were playing very steadily in the East Village and one thing that’s odd is that there was a whole hierarchy of playing shows at CBGB. CBGB’s was a very established venue, and they had an audition night that was Sunday night or Monday night, where you would come in and play for 20 minutes and they would figure out if they wanted to book you – they didn’t want to book people off their demos, because some people had very slick-sounding demos but they couldn’t really play live. So they had these audition nights that were free-for-alls. We had worked our way up from Monday nights to Thursday nights. But the real gig to get at CB’s was Friday or Saturday Night, and they would plug you in – you would play and they would book you for a month later, and they expected you to bring a crowd – it was all kind of mapped out.

John was working as a bike messenger and had an accident and broke his wrist, so his wrist was in a cast so he couldn’t really play. And I moved into this apartment for one day, and unfortunately some of the other occupants in the building were drug dealers, and they weren’t too happy about me being in the place. So when I went off to work they set me up to be robbed, so I basically lost all my worldly positions.

So it was a rough patch there for a month or two. But when I got to my new apartment, I bought a phone machine and I was in an apartment by myself – so I could dedicate the phone line to this Dial-A-Song idea, which was something we had been kicking around but kind of seemed like a bad idea. But suddenly when we had no ability to do gigs, it was a way to keep the idea of the band alive. We put up posters in the East Village. Originally it was called Dial-A-Machine because it seemed like a funny idea. And it just kind of took off and it had a life of its own because there were a lot of curious people who would call a phone line, but they would never go to a nightclub.

All these nightclubs had shows in the middle of the night; you’d have to be a dedicated barfly to go to a rock show in Manhattan back then. Everything started at midnight, the early shows were at like 10 o’clock, and so it was a very late night scene.

So we felt like we had an audience out there beyond these night clubbers, and this was a way to reach them.

D: After that, you eventually recorded Flood – which I’m sure you get asked about all the time – since its like the biggest album.

J: Yeah, yeah. Platinum selling album.

D: But listening to Flood and listening to the early stuff, Flood doesn’t sound very different – not in a bad way, it’s more They Might Be Giants. Why do you think Flood got as big as it did? Do you think Birdhouse In Your Soul just hooked onto something and that helped it?

J: Birdhouse in your Soul got played on the radio and was deemed acceptable on the radio, so that was a tremendous help. And having the distribution of a major label was very, very important to selling records back then. We had had a lot of success on an indie label beforehand just having our songs played on college radio stations, and we also had the good fortune of having some videos played on MTV. MTV was much less an extension of the charts back then, they really programmed things – it’s hard to even say how they programmed the channel – but their choices were very free from the charts. They didn’t feel obliged to play things in the charts just because they were in the charts. This was a time when there was a ton of hair metal bands from LA that had ballads on the charts, and MTV was just like, “We’re not playing that.” I mean MTV wasn’t playing Winger music videos. It was really their call, they didn’t have any competition, and it was a format they kind of created, so they clearly did whatever they wanted. And one of the things they wanted to do was play our kind of left-field videos in pretty heavy rotation. It was kind of a tail-wagging-the dog scenario, as MTV was in many ways very much ahead of the radio, at least as far as our careers were concerned. So Flood was our big breakout.

D: I also feel like one of the things that made it popular, and kind of maybe helped pave the way for your guys eventual children’s music career is that your songs were on a lot of cartoons. I remember seeing them on Tiny Toons with songs like Particle Man and stuff.

J: Yeah!

D: And also on Ka-Blam with Dr. Worm and The Sun Is a Mass.

J: Whenever we got those calls, whenever somebody said they wanted to animate something, it just seemed like it would just be such a fun thing to be a part of. And it really was the beginning of this long collaboration with the world of animators. We’ve done many, many videos with animators at this point. It’s exciting to see a song get that kind of treatment – it’s very otherworldly.

D: I feel like that fits with what you were talking about earlier with this whole loose art movement and willingness to experiment: it probably felt pretty natural.

J: Yeah, and to be candid, it’s flattering! When you see your song get “the treatment” and you see the visual someone has poured a ton of effort into, it’s a thrill. I love seeing our stuff animated; it never stops being exciting.

D: That actually goes into a later question I had, in that you guys have done a lot of music for media. I didn’t know you guys performed the theme song for The Daily Show with John Stewart?

J: That is one of the better-kept secrets in rock music. There’s multiple things that have happened with the Daily Show. Very early on before John Stewart was the host, when the show was just being rolled out, they hired Bob Mould of Husker Du to write a theme. And he wrote the melody to Dog on Fire, which is like the rock theme part. The producers felt like it didn’t transition the news music part of the opening, which was very much a parody of the NBC Nightly News. So we put together a music package for them, and we had previously done a summer series with Robert Krulwich – who people probably know now from RadioLab- but he used to be head of science reporting for AB TV and they had done a summer series of science specials, and we had done the orchestral cues for that, very much in that John Williams news vibe. And the people at the Daily Show said, “Ah, here’s a rock band that has done these new cues”, and we were brought in to do that. And part of it, we just replaced the guitar driven version of Dog on Fire by Bob Mould with a horn-driven version, so it would transition out of the news cue version we did into a rock cue that somehow linked up better. So for years and years, I think we re-recorded it three times over the course of 15 years, it was an incredibly long run. And even now they still use the recording, but they did like a remix of it, but it’s still the same piece of music – the recording is just kind of looped and tweaked.

D: What’s it like composing for media or writing for a cartoon or writing for a show, how is that different from writing just a regular They Might Be Giants song?

J: It’s hard to say, each thing is different. We’ve done a lot of TV commercials; we’ve done a lot of incidental music for television. You know, when you’re doing incidental music, you’re writing as fast as you can. You don’t have that much time, there’s a deadline, there’s budgetary constraints, there’s a client who has a very specific idea of what they want or you have a very specific idea of what they will accept. Sometimes you’re just projecting on people, but we have pretty good senses on what’s going to fit.

Sometimes writing for television is not that different from being a tailor – you’re just trying to make sure it suits the vibe of the thing you’re doing. We’ve done a ton of stuff like that. It’s hard to sum up. But the truth is it all happens so fast, I guess that’s the biggest difference. When we’re writing for They Might Be Giants, it’s a very open-ended thing: I might start writing a song and get 90% of it done and put it up on the shelf and not revisit it for like two-years. But there have been many things we’ve done for ad agencies where we’ve gotten the call at 11 am and it’s done at 5 pm.

I remember we did a thing for an HBO show – it was for a Rosie O’Donnell production about family diversity. I don’t remember the actual name of the show, but the song we did was called “And Mom And Kid.” I got the call at 11 o’clock saying they need this thing, they need it really fast, they need to animate the open so the animators need the song yesterday; can you put together a demo they can make the animation to and then go into the studio and do a finished version later. But the main thing was they needed something to cut to right now.

And I was like “Yeah, you know, I got a strong cup of coffee, I can hit that today.” So I did the demo and shipped it off at 5:15, and at 6 they said, “It’s fine, we like it just the way it is. We’re gonna use that.”

So something we worked on for literally less than 4 hours, and now its on one of our albums, its on TV. It did come out really cool, I like the way it sounds – it’s a very crazy kind of recording, and I’m glad we did it, but it was almost spontaneous

D: After doing all those pieces for media and composition and incidental music, and having about 20 albums, how do you write new things? No offense, but how is the well not dry yet?

J: -laugh- That’s a good question. I don’t know if I have a really good answer. We try to up the ante as we go. We’ve come up with a lot of different strategies to create tracks and create sounds, and I don’t think we have a set notion on how to make a song. From the very beginning, we’ve worked with metronomic electronic devices – before it was drum machines, we worked with those Casio like things – and then when drum machines came along, obviously they were programmable and a lot of other things. It’s such an optimistic format; songwriting feels like unlimited potential. That’s the thing about writing songs: it seems like an enterprise that has no limits. It’s not hard to keep going, and we’ve also been very lucky that we’ve found the level of success that we can make a living at it and we’ve found an audience for what we do. We’ve had a lot of good luck as well.

It seems as strange to me as it probably does to anyone else. I’ve been in this band for 35 years – I thought I’d be in the band for 15 months.

D: In the mid-2000s, you guys shifted focus and started writing children’s music. What was the decision for you guys to start making this children’s educational music?

It was pretty arbitrary at first. I don’t remember what the complete conversation was, but in one go there was somebody at Sony Wonder – which is a record label that no longer exists – but for a brief period in the early-aughts was a very, very big kid’s record label. And really it was the beginning of sort-of “kinder rock” moment. We had signed a deal with Restless Records, which had distributed our Lincoln album, and they were like a big LA indie label, they had put out a lot of indie hair metal acts that had done well in the 90s. Everything was up in the air – we just left Elektra after 10 years, and were just trying to figure out how we’re going to fit into the wheel post-major label deal, which is actually a place where a lot of bands just break up. And some people were saying “You should start composing music for movies,” and that was the beginning of us doing incidental music for Malcolm in the Middle, so we’re doing advertising and all sorts of things we’ve never done before. And one of the things that was possible with our new record contract was that we couldn’t do records for outside labels UNLESS it was a children’s album, which was very odd. We somehow had a dispensation for that, so we were free to strike yet another record deal as long as it was for a kid’s album.

Maybe I’m remembering this wrong, or maybe I’m misunderstanding the facts on the ground, but somehow that was in play. So all of a sudden not only did we have a regular deal, we also had the opportunity to do a kid’s project. When we started working on No, which was our first kid’s album we thought it would be a one-off, like a Christmas record – we thought we’d do A kid’s album, there’s a long tradition of people making A kid’s record. And it seemed like an opportunity to do that.

And it was like a special thing. John and I thought given the type of band that we are, given the opportunity to write for kids is sort of a privilege, and we wanted to make a record that had the level of imagination that our regular records had but somehow be suitable for kids. So we made this record, and it was the exact right time to do it. It was incredibly successful, it immediately outsold our current rock release and went on to sell 100k+ copies at a time when all record sales were cratering, the album was getting picked up by Borders, getting sold in bookstores, it was getting sold in big box stores. It just had a level of success our stuff had never had

So it went from being a one-off to being a parallel career. That’s when we were approached by Disney to do this series of DVDs, which is the whole Here Comes thing and that got a Grammy. Without really having any plan to do it, we just kind of tripped into this very, very successful kind of work.

But again, that’s the nature of the music business. You really don’t know where things are going to click or why things are going to click, but it was a pretty sweet run.

D: I know you’ve gone back to more normal They Might Be Giants stuff, but is there a possibility of more kid’s music in the future?

J: We did a kid’s album in 2015 called “Why” that I thought was a pretty quality record. When we first started doing the kid’s stuff, it was an incredibly fresh breeze. Lots of parents were like “Thank God these guys are here.”

D: No more wheels on the bus for me anymore.

J: Exactly! But the truth is those kid’s projects we did over the past 10 years; they’ve become perennials. We’ve reissued No, it’s been bought in multiple formats, and people buy it on their kid’s iPad now. Those catalogue titles are really evergreens for us. It’s not the same career arc as being a recording artist – a regular adult recording artist – people aren’t necessarily looking for new material. We don’t do too many kid’s shows, so when we do a kid’s show we are reacquainting ourselves with a set of repertoire that we might not have revisited in a couple.

Kid’s shows are kind of complicated to do, because you have to be extremely present and the audience is extremely cruel, but writing children’s songs is super fun because they can be so left-field. You don’t know have to worry about rocking ‘em.

D: You don’t have to worry about the lyrical analysis of a five-year-old

J: Yeah, I think the main thing is you have to avoid the swear words and the death imagery.

D: Strangely the death imagery does bring me to another question.

J: -laughs- Which brings us to our new album!

D: Your songs have a ton of different styles and subject matters. How do you go from writing something with death imagery and mortality like Older, which is kind of a brooding thing about the inevitability of time, to a song that’s an ode to a nightlight?

J: I have to tip my cap to John Linnell for those tracks, so I can’t speak to his intention with those lyrics. It sort of circles back to They Might Be Giants trying to create its own musical universe or have its own musical lexicon or language. We were reluctant to write cliché love songs, and once you’re free of that, you’re looking to write character songs, you’re looking to write from different points of view, and write about alternate subject matter. Once you cross out romantic love song clichés, you’re very quickly into a different realm. I think that’s the reason that a lot of songs seem prosaic – they’ll have an educational point-of-view, or historical point of view, or fact based point of view – those types of songs are other strategies to write a song besides writing a moon and June kind of lyric.

D: That does kind of lead into I Like Fun, which comes out next month. So what is I Like Fun going to be like?

J: It’s a big set of songs. There’s some range to it. We probably recorded 28 songs in preparation for this record, and pulled 15 to be on this set. There are actually a lot of electronic sounds, even though the first couple of preview tracks don’t spotlight that so much. People who are familiar with the record, I’ve already heard a lot of people say “I really like how lo-fi this album is”, which is a little confusing to me considering it was made with some really amazing musicians in a really fancy studio. I think the reason it might seem lo-fi in 2017 is in contrast to contemporary music production, it probably has more in common with records made in 1978 than records made now. It’s not overly compressed; it’s not filled with auto-tune.

Contemporary music production is almost in a steroid period. There’s so much production value available to anyone with a laptop, it’s very easy to move into overproduction quite quickly. I think there are people who prefer that, and I think there are also people who aren’t really making decisions; that’s just the way the work – that’s the way music is made. I couldn’t say if were showing restraint or working in an obsolete kind of way, but personally I don’t mind the simplicity of hearing a band arrangement of a song. Things don’t have to be completely diced up to hold my interests.


D: This is kind of a left-field question, but I saw you and Linnell have been doing podcasts for quite a while, and I looked back at some of your archives, which go to 2005 – long before the current podcast boom period. How was it making podcasts when the audience was much smaller versus now?


J: We haven’t done much in the way of podcasting since those early days when it was very, very under populated. I wouldn’t mind getting back into it, but I just don’t know the format. There’s so many crappy podcasts in the world, I wouldn’t want to pile on with my own crappy podcast. That said, it’s relatively low stakes – some of the best podcasts are relatively simple and have just one easy format. There are some podcasts I love that are literally just people yakking. I feel like the stakes are very low, but it’s so easy to do a bad job.

But I did find out we are going to be on Marc Maron’s podcast, which is a podcast I’ve been listening to since the day it started. My wife is friends with someone who’s friends with someone who’s old friends with Marc Maron, and so I heard about his podcast very early on, and it really caught my ear. And to see it become this very successful thing, I have to say I was very jealous of his success – because speaking of jumping onto emerging technologies, he really caught the wave of it and he just did a great job with it. And he brought a really perfect balance of personal stuff and also the whole way he interviews people by not preparing is a really fascinating strategy

D: As you guys are beginning to tour off of I Like Fun, what should people expect on this new tour and what should they expect at the Pensacola show?

We’ve taken on a trumpet player, so there’s a whole new kind of sound incorporated into the show, so we’re basically reworking our whole live act. We’ll play a lot of the favorites, but it’s really exciting to play Birdhouse with the trumpet solo in the middle and play Istanbul with the trumpet. It’s actually surprising how much trumpet is in our music. Both Birdhouse and Istanbul have Charlie Sepulveda playing trumpet on it, and then Mark Pender from the Conan band plays trumpet on Dr. Worm. So right there you have three songs with signature trumpet parts that we’ve just been glossing over live for all these years, so actually having a trumpet in the show it immediately pumps up what are already the show stopping moments.

It’ll just be a super size show, and we’re working with this guy Curt Ramm. He’s played for years with Bruce Springsteen, and he’s really good. He is what musicians call a “ringer”.