They Might Be Giants Biography

Review The Artist (1)

They Might Be Giants-photo
FORMED: 1983, Boston, MA

John Flansburgh(born: 5/6/60) and John Linnell(born: 6/12/59) grew up in Lincoln, MA. Linnell was actually born in New York and moved to Lincoln early in life. They met in Junior High School when they both worked on the school newspaper. Linnell was an editor of "the only high school newspaper without a sports section" and he became friends with Flansburgh through their work on the paper. They each went their separate way for a while after high school. Flansburgh went to art school in NY for a year, but eventually left to pursue music. Linnell spent some time around the Providence, RI area playing with a group called the Mundanes. The Mundanes were fairly successful locally and released a 7" album.

Eventually, however, Linnell moved to Brooklyn to pursue bigger opportunities. It was here in Brooklyn in 1981 where John and John met up again. They had been interested in making music from their childhood days in Massachusetts, and now that they were both living in NY they decided to pursue a career in music. Their first performance together was in the summer of 1982 at a Sandinista rally in Central Park where they were introduced as "El Grupo de Rock 'n' Roll." Six months later they performed their second show under the name "They Might Be Giants" at a club called Dr. B's in Soho. Linnell played a Farfisa organ and Flansburgh played electric guitar. They used a taped rhythm track as backup. Despite a heavy snowstorm, 23 of their friends showed up and the show was a big success.

They Might Be Giants then started to perform around Manhattan about once a month. They both worked jobs during the day and would rehearse at night. Living in an apartment together they began to work on recording their music. John and John both took pride in making interesting arrangments of their music using their 4-track recorder. To fill in their sound they used various different types of "rhythm sections" These included: a moog synthesizer, an abandoned drum kit, Music Minus One-type records, tape loops, and very early drum machines.

It wasn't until the mid 1980s that John and John were able to pick up a good programmable drum machine which could replace some of the other items. It was also around this time that the infamous Dial-A-Song service was started. After a burglary cleared out Flansburgh's new apartment and Linnell broke his wrist in a bike accident, They Might Be Giants was not able to perform live for several months. In the wake of these events Flansburgh set up an answering machine with stripped down versions of their songs as the outgoing message. John and John figured this was an efficient way to get people to hear their music and advertised the service in the Village Voice.

By 1985 they were performing weekly sold out shows in the East Village. They decided that this would be a good time to start selling their demo tape to their fans. This original tape contained most of the first They Might Be Giants album as well as some tracks which showed up later as bonus tracks on the "Then: The Earlier Years" Retrospective.

In 1985, a reviewer for People Magazine discovered TMBG and reviewed their tape for the magazine. This really started the ball rolling for TMBG. Soon they were in contact with Bar/None records and were able to put out a lot of their demo tape material on to their first album "They Might Be Giants". Much of the work on this album was done late at night by John and John and producer Bill Krauss at Studio PASS in New York. Many of the unique sounds on this initial release came from insomnia and curiousity about some of the studios fancy toys. Work would go on through the night while the John and John tried different sound effects and arrangements. The first album was fairly successful and spawned three videos for the songs "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head", "Don't Let's Start", and "She Was A Hotel Detective". This also marked the beginning of their nearly constant touring schedule.

They continued to play and improve as musicians leading up to the release of their second full length release "Lincoln" in 1988. Lincoln contained many news songs plus some songs leftover from their demo tape. From this album came videos for the songs "Ana Ng", "Purple Toupee", and "They'll Need A Crane". With their 6 videos and two solid albums came more TV exposure. They made their national TV debut performing "They'll Need a Crane" on the David Letterman show.

As They Might Be Giants became more popular it was clear that they were outgrowing the money and distribution that Bar/None could offer them. They were offered a contract by Elektra Records and released their third album "Flood" on this label in 1990. Flood again offered alternative and college radio stations a new hit song, "Birdhouse in Your Soul", following in the footsteps of "Don't Let's Start" and "Ana Ng". Flood also marked the starting point for an expansion in TMBG's sound. They had guest musicians join them on several tracks to broaden their sound.

As they released their fourth album, "Apollo 18" in 1992, John and John decided to get together a full band to join them on tour. This initial full band which joined the Johns on tour in 1992 was J.D Feinberg on drums, Kurt Hoffman on saxaphone, and Tony Maimone on bass. The sound was great and their live show was better than ever. A lot of fans find the shows from this era to be most enjoyable to listen to. The Johns liked the full band sound so much that they decided to record their 5th album "John Henry" with a full band.

The band they collected to record John Henry included Brian Doherty on drums as well as Tony Maimone still on bass. On this album they also made extensive use of horns. With Jim O'Conner on trumpet and Dan Levine on trombone, TMBG's sound took on a whole new dimension. John Henry allowed John and John to produce that intricate sound they loved on their 4 track using a full band recording virtually live. Unfortunately, John Henry seemed to also mark the beginning of problems between They Might Be Giants and Elektra records. John Henry only had one video produced for it, for the song "Snail Shell". This was their first album with only one video. The Johns continued to tour and write new material and continued the pattern of releasing an album every two years with the release of Factory Showroom in 1996.

Factory Showroom represented a bit more of a departure for They Might Be Giants. This LP only had 13 tracks, 5-7 less songs than their other albums. Elektra, possibly concerned with sales numbers, also did not release any videos for this album. The reduction of support didn't hold back John and John, though. They continued to tour constantly and in 1997 released a two disc retrospective of their early material on Restless Records. This release entitled "Then: The Early Years" included all of the first two albums and the B-sides/remix album (Miscellaneous T - 1991), as well as bonus tracks from their earliest Dial-A-Song recordings. As a way of promoting this album TMBG did a couple "Then" shows. They came out on stage and did a set of songs as just the two of them with a tape backup, just like they used to. Then they came out with the full band and put on the rest of the show. The Johns' live show was as good as ever and soon all their fans would get to experience it...

In 1998, after an apparent breakup with Elektra in 1997, They Might Be Giants released their first ever live album on Restless Records entitled "Severe Tire Damage". This release included many of their greatest hits as well as 3 new studio recordings. In addition, as this is being written, TMBG is working on a video for the song "Dr. Worm", a video compilation, and a new studio recording for 1999

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they might be gaints | Reviewer: thomas midgett | 5/17/2005


They might be giants is was and still is one of the only bands to ever put a guitar and an accordion together and make it sound good, part of a different sound was the instant recognision for fans and listeners. Tmbg provided a unqiue setup for there live shows two guys and a tape recorder. A that makes them truley unquie things is that both members are named jhon. jhon, linnell and jhon flansburgh. described as “the vanguard of alternative music in America.” (Sew Drew gigantic)

The Johns (John Flansburg and John Linnell) grew up together in Lincoln, Massachusetts. They met through their school‘s junior high paper. After high school they split up, Flansbrug pursing art and Linnell pursing music, but eventually both met up again in Brooklyn where they first started making music together as “El group of rock and roll“. Their first show was in Central Park and was not the most successful gig of their career. Their second more successful show was performed at DR. B’s under the name of they might be giants.

From then on they performed around Manhattan once a month with their four-track recorder filling in the drum section. But just when they started to get going, something bad happened, something that would change the band forever. Linnell broke his wrist in a biking accident and Flansburg‘s apartment was robbed and his instraments were stolen so he was Unable to perform live, they started the most ingenious musical answering machine.
Dial a Song was born.
The idea was simply a phone number you could call to hear a they might be giants song for free. “It was great--you could hear fragments of songs, or things they were working on, all on the same line” (Jamie Kitman, they might be giants manager gigantic)
After Dial-a-Song, they had a large enough fan base to start performing weekly and selling their demo tape, which had most of the songs from their first album, they might be giants. A reviewer for people magazine who was in Manhattan stumbled upon they might be giants in a local club and wrote a review the next morning, saying, “they should change their name because soon they will be giants.” (people magizin) After this several record companies took interest in them. The one they signed up with was Electra Records, releasing their third album, Flood, in 1990, soon after signing their contract with Electra. After this they got a call from Adam Bernstein, a director of music videos. Flansburg’s response? “Linnell, there‘s a guy on the phone who wants to be famous.”(John. f gigantic) Bernstein ended up producing six of their music videos such as “puppet head” “Ana Ng”. All of the videos ran the loop on mtv
After this, one British talk show host said “You‘re really the most successful independent group in the States now, aren’t you?” Flansburg’s response? “Yeah, but that’s like saying you’re the world‘s tallest midget” (john f. Gigantic Even while being a tall midget they cast a formidable shadow on any who tried to follow in their footsteps. One such band, Corn Mo, has had minor success in the they might be giants community, but otherwise remains in the shadows.
(Corn Mo shown here playing with JohnLinell. of they might be giants.)
In 1992 they might be giants released their fourth album, Apollo 18. To go on tour for this album they got together a full band which had drums, saxophone, and bass. The band liked the way it made their music sound and released their fifth album, John Henry, recorded solely with the full band.

Even though it “made live shows ten times better“ (Sarah Vowel Gigantic), some fans protested the shows, saying it was just another step to selling out. Some fans would even stand in front of shows and hand out flyers saying “don’t go to this show” (Jamie Kitman, they might be giants manager.) In spite of some bad publicity, people still went to they might be giants shows and in 1996 they might be giants released FACTORY SHOW ROOM. This album shocked some fans because there were only 13 tracks when previous records had an average of around 20. Because of the decreased number of songs and lower sales, they might be giants for the first time did not release any videos for this album.

In spite of this setback, the machine trugged on and two years later they might be giants released their first live album, severe tire damage. It received even less attention than factory show room, and it started to look like the end for they might be giants. In 2001, however, they released a smash hit, mink car. This album had some of their more famous songs such as Cyclops rock and man its so loud in here.

A real groundbreaker for the band came in 2002 when they released NO!, their first album for children. (Although the band had always dealt with more adult and serious themes, this album may have been inspired by the fact that both jhons had children at strooler age) Not that the other albums had warning, stickers but they might be giants had always dealt with more adult and depressing music and themes. This album may have been inspired by the fact that both Johns were married and had chidren but whatever inspired it was fortunate, because this was one of their best albums to date. The band countinued to perform, now acompanied by the band of dans: Dan hicky, drums; Dan miller, guitar; Dan Weinkauf, bass Now the full house of music (two jhons and three dans) they might be giants released anouther children‘s album and book, BED BED BED.

And a year later they realesed the ep indestructible object witch was almost imeditly followed by the spine and the spine surfs alone thier first not for kids albums to have been released in over 3 years. The band went on one of there first tours in two years to advertise for there new albums. they toured and played with corn mo a fellow accorden player and alternitive weird guy. Now in 2005 they realesed there first album for disney sound HERE COME THE ABC’S. the band countines do things that no one else does for example all of their live proformances are recorded so if you went to a concert you can have a cd of that concert. The jhons countinue to make music and break ground where ever they step and will hopefully countinue to do so for a long time to come.

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