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Monday April 21st 2014

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Web Extra: They Might Be Giants

By Hana Frenette

They Might be Giants have been playing their humorous and catchy music since the early 80s. They’ve won a couple Grammy awards, released over a dozen albums, toured endlessly and found the best art museum in all of Tasmania.

The founding members of the band, John Linnell and John Flansburgh originally met in high school in Massachusetts and came to form the band several years later in Brooklyn. They started out with Flansburgh playing guitar and Linnell playing accordion and saxophone, while being backed by a drum machine, but have since grown to encompass a live backing band.

Their last album “At Large,” was released in March of this year and contains 25 fairly short songs, with the opening song expressing a desire for someone to die. It’s so catchy though, that it’s hard to tell if it’s a song of true hate, or perhaps just an affectionate dislike.

“I really liked the idea that it could be about that thought process—we alone are waiting for you to die,” John Linnell said. “It really isn’t about anyone though, just a thrilling prospect.”

The album is peppered with thoughts and lines that seem to be along the lines of joke, but are carried out with all seriousness. Such is true for the dialogue between songs about a children’s musical instrument charity.

“It’s kind of just a gag we did on stage,” Linnell said. “We talk about how we’re going to high schools to steal their musical instruments and give them to kids in middle school instead.”

TMBG like to joke, and aren’t afraid to do it right in the middle of a song, a performance or an album.

Before their two most recent albums, TMBG released several albums for children, including “Here Come the 123s” and “Here Comes Science,” which offer plenty of room for them to get silly.

“Its music that’s not necessarily aimed at a specific age group, but that can be enjoyed by everyone. You don’t have to feel embarrassed to listen to it,” Linnell said. “I think kids need stuff like that as much as they do the remedial things—we want it to be entertaining and engaging.”

Most children can still remember the theme songs to their favorite shows, or songs that were sung in movies they liked.

“I can remember I used to love ‘Songs of the Pogo,’ when I was a kid,” Linnell said. “There was something so strange and hilarious about it. We cover it sometimes, and I still love it.”

“Songs of the Pogo” was an album released in 1956 by Walt Kelly, the famous cartoonist of the comic strip “Pogo.”

Before the band embarks on its next children’s project, they’ll be finishing up the tour in support of their latest record. “Finishing up” means traveling to a dozen more countries or so, in addition to the places they’ve already stopped.

“We’ve been touring for a quarter of a century, but this last tour has been unusually intense,” Linnell said. “We’re finishing up the U.S. tour now, and then we’ll be headed on to Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany.”

The band also spent a month touring Australia earlier this year and is confident they might have found the coolest art museum in the world, or at least in Tasmania.

“It’s a museum called MONA, and it stands for the Museum of Old and New Art,” Linnell said. “They have a lot of really modern pieces, but they also have all of this awesome stuff that this wacky eccentric millionaire has donated. “

The museum has been described as a “subversive adult Disneyland,” which seems perfectly suitable for TMBG and perhaps could even act as inspiration for future funny or childlike recordings.

TMBG will be playing at Vinyl on Sunday, with Moon Hooch.

“Hooch like the homemade liquor, moon like the satellite of the earth,” Linnell said. “Their music really defies categorization, which is
something we can only aspire to do- but I think it sounds like people trying to play dubstep with acoustic instruments.”

And that sounds like something that surely shouldn’t be missed.

They Might Be Giants with Moon Hooch
WHEN: Sunday, October 20
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox
TIME: 7 p.m.
COST: $22-$25
INFO: vinylmusichall.com