Music Q&A: They Might Be Giants

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The Brooklyn based duo’s 16th album Nanobots features 25 songs in 45 minutes. The band play Academy 2, Manchester on 20 November. John Linell updates us on their plans.

Many of the tastemakers, bloggers and music critics weren’t even born when you released your first album. Does their assessment of TMBG intrigue you?

It’s even harder to know what we mean to 21st century listeners than to our original followers. I hope we can somehow benefit from the (admittedly fraudulent) mythic status of elder statesmen rather than be perceived as irrelevant, but I don’t know how to control that. Probably best to ignore the subject and carry on with what we usually do.

Do you always know when it’s time to leave a song alone and move on?

I would say sometimes yes, often no. It’s generally a measure of the success of a song that the writing process is straightforward and the direction in which to take it is strongly suggested by the germ of the idea. As opposed to the flailing and meandering that characterises so many failures. The ones that make it to the album are the vigorous and healthy swimmers.

How do you know when you’ve strayed too far from the Venn diagram where weirdness meets pop?

The temptation of the freaky sound is sometimes overpowering. Our policy has tended to be to follow that impulse when we’re recording and reassess when mixing, at which time we can rein things in if necessary.

Do you count some fans as longstanding friends?

Believe it or not there are a number of people in the front row who come to every show, so we see them wherever we go. I’m impressed and amazed by their commitment, but I don’t know them personally. A few have been with us for so long that we’re actually growing old together, so I imagine we’ll eventually meet in the same retirement community.

Is there a particular artist who currently fascinates you? 

My guess is that by the time I’m excited by anything contemporary it’s already been deemed passé by everyone else, but I also get the feeling that music doesn’t mean quite the same thing to today’s youngsters. My friend thinks that food has taken over the role of music amongst the youth culture. Sadly I’m kind of a philistine when it comes to eating.

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