TMBG Get Literary On McSweeney's Trek
They Might Be Giants are busier than ever. The group, celebrating its 20th anniversary, just released the Rhino anthology "Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants," and continues to tour nearlyThey Might Be Giants are busier than ever. The group, celebrating its 20th anniversary, just released the Rhino anthology "Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants," and continues to tour nearly non-stop. Last year the band even won a Grammy for "Boss of Me," the theme to the hit sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle," and this year the duo is nominated again for "No!," its children's album. And now They Might Be Giants are about to embark on a book tour.
Well, sort of. Beginning Friday (Oct. 18) in Washington, D.C., the duo will be appearing with author and McSweeney's publisher Dave Eggers in a series of events dubbed "Dave Eggers Vs. They Might Be Giants," a combination book reading and concert.
"It definitely shakes things up," TMBG's John Flansburgh tells Billboard.com. "Having been to a lot of readings, there's this notion that it's a very polite environment. It naturally shifts that to being a rowdier time. And a lot of the writers for McSweeney's [have] a really solid kind of comedic underpinning to what they do. They actually are real entertainers. There's definitely a relationship between their aesthetic and ours that's real. The point of view of a lot of the stories, and the point of view of our band, is in sync. It's not just a compare and contrast thing."
The relationship between They Might Be Giants and McSweeney's actually stretches back several years, well before the band contributed a disc of music to the literary journal's Issue No. 6. "I'm friends with Sarah Vowell, and she works with McSweeney's and introduced us," says Flansburgh of Eggers. "Actually, Dave Eggers was a member of the 'Hello CD of the Month' club, a project I ran for a while, so I stuffed a few envelopes and shipped them off in his direction."
"[Eggers] had this very ambitious and vaguely psychedelic idea to do an issue of McSweeney's that would just be images and music," he continues. "Because it was such a specialty thing and he had already gathered a bunch of the images, he called up and figured we'd be game. It sounded really trippy, and it was hard to even wrap our minds around how to approach it, because it was so impressionistic. When they brought stories into it, it became a little bit trickier. Some of the stories were long, and there was this real time feel to the project. We were trying to create a soundtrack to a book experience."
Last year, TMBG played New York's Bowery Ballroom to celebrate the issue's completion, and "a lot of writers came out and spoke," recalls Flansburgh. "We played in between stories and did a little set of our own. It was such a great night, and such a different kind of experience. A lot of these writers are really great performers and storytellers. I think everyone in the audience and on stage walked away with the feeling that we should do more like this."
Even this close to the start date, Flansburgh admits that nothing is set in stone. "We're doing a bunch of the songs that are more universal, from the [McSweeney's] disc," he says. "I think we'll probably cook up some other stuff, too. We're not sure what all the people appearing will be reading, so we'll probably take our cues from the stories and see if there are any other songs in our pretty sizeable back catalog that match. Maybe if their story and our song share a few nouns, we can illustrate their story with a They Might Be Giants song."