Interview: They Might Be Giants – ‘I can tell you this: kids love confetti!’
Prolific US alt-rockers bring a family show to Celtic Connections
If you say the name They Might Be Giants to anyone who was conscious in the 1990s and early noughties, they might respond in three ways. Some will wonder if you’re talking about the film in which George C Scott plays a fantasist who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes; others will reckon this must relate to the band who sang the theme tune to Malcolm in the Middle; the third, possibly largest grouping, will start to hum or whistle the catchily kooky ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’.
When such a song can remain in the collective psyche for so long (it reached number six in the 1990 UK hit parade), then a band has clearly done something right. But has that tune been a blessing or a curse? ‘My main feeling about “Birdhouse” is that it’s one of our best songs, so it doesn’t bother me playing it again and again,’ insists the band’s co-founder John Flansburgh. ‘I guess we are lucky that the style and sensibility of the song isn’t that distant from what we do now. It feels kind of like a calling card for what we do in general, so if it gets a big reaction it’s just that much more exciting. I don’t really know how the general public feels about TMBG. Honestly, I’m always surprised if anyone has even heard of us at all.’
Those who have heard of They Might Be Giants will be delighted to know that they’re appearing in two shows at this year’s Celtic Connections: an afternoon family show and a grown-up evening affair. What does Flansburgh envisage being the main difference between those gigs? ‘You grow very accustomed to folks paying attention to you as a performer, and that is not really the case with kids. But we have confetti in our show and I can tell you this: kids love confetti!’
The band may have gone through several personnel changes down the years, but both Flansburgh and John Linnell have remained the band’s core since its formation in 1982. Clearly, time hasn’t withered their enthusiasm, given the pair’s recent prolific ways with their Dial-A-Song web project. ‘We posted a new song online every week in 2015,’ notes Flansburgh. ‘It was a big creative challenge keeping the quality up and making that many studio recordings, but it’s great to have such a big stack of brand new songs to liven up the show.’
They Might Be Giants play two gigs at O2 ABC Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections, Sunday 31 January, 2pm and 7.30pm