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They Might Be Giants

Rocker Invents New Type of Run-on Sentence; Scientists Baffled

Nov 07, 2002 They Might Be Giants Photography by C. Taylor Crothers Bookmark and Share

Believe it or not, They Might Be Giants have been creating music for over twenty years. I didn’t believe it, so I thought I’d ask an expert on the subject: my mom.

“They Might Be what ?” she responded, clicking her tongue. “Well I’ve never heard of that .”

Despite my mom’s glaring evidence, when I talked with John Flansburgh, the glasses-wearer of the They Might Be Giants duo reminisced about their 20th anniversary. ” We did a big pre-show in Central Park with like 8,000 people there. And we actually did our very first show in August of 1982. So, to actually be back in the same place where we started, playing for a gigantic crowd of people, on a beautiful summer night, was just like a really - it was a special time.”

It’s true They Might Be Giants have had a long history. The band has released 9 full-length albums, one of them an online album available on And that doesn’t include live albums, EPs, soundtracks, and countless singles. It’s quite a bit of music, so the band released the Dial-A-Song CD to catalog some of their best work (not to be confused with the their long-running Dial-A-Song phone service, always free if you call from work). John compares the CD to the Neil Young’s Decade album or Squeeze Greatest Hits.

“It’s like a career overview,” John explains, also saying it’s a good entry point for new fans. “Disc one kind of functions as a greatest hits record and disc two is kind of like, you know, They Might Be Giants at their They-Might-Be-Giantest. It’s really true to the spirit of the band in that it includes the fringiest impulses of our work.”

Some of the other fringiest impulses of their work include, No!, a top-selling children’s album released in 2002. “We’ve actually been able to do this kid’s album and kind of expand our audience without alienating our core, alcoholic, swear word loving crowd.” They have three more children’s songs in the works to accompany a book due in the fall of 2003.

But what got them interested in doing songs for children? It turns out there was no real reason. “The idea of doing a children’s album had been kicking around pretty much since we started the band.” After 15 years of making albums, an opportunity arose to create a children’s album during the year-and-a-half job of recording incidental music for Malcolm in the Middle. “The thing that was cool about the No! project was that it was kind of our personal work between sessions for our day job. It was like a purely artistic thing, as opposed to, like, trying to make somebody else happy with something that had been edited and modified and revised a few times. I mean, the work-for-hire thing is tough on your soul. The Malcolm in the Middle job was really difficult. Like emotionally, it was really taxing.”

Even though it was emotionally taxing, the theme song did earn them a Grammy in 2002. “That was just a very unreal kind of experience,” John says, still sounding slightly taken aback. “And really quite exciting, you know. We were surprised when we were nominated and just downright confused when we won.”

Another unexpected recognition of their work was a recent film about the band, Gigantic, produced by AJ Schnack. John had worked with AJ before, but never new he was a fan of the band. “To have AJ and Shirley, his wife (who’s also the producer of the film) turn around and say, ‘We wanna make a feature-length documentary about your band!’ I was like, huh?”

John explained how a documentary about They Might Be Giants is different from a typical “Behind the Music” documentary. “You know, John Flansburgh and John Linnell aren’t really the subjects of They Might Be Giants in the most essential way. I mean, I think Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are the subjects of the Rolling Stones. And that’s fine, because there is something sort of super-human about them as a topic. In some ways They Might Be Giants as an idea really resides very far into our imaginations and it’s a very abstract, projected kind of reality for us.” The quirky, critically applauded film toured in 2002 and is opening in theaters in May 2003. The DVD will follow with a release in fall 2003.

Alas, the band’s longevity isn’t all roses and sunshine. It prompted one reviewer to recently call the band “aging nerd rockers.”

“The only thing that could heighten the shittines of being called a ‘nerd rocker’ would be being called an ’ aging nerd rocker,’” John responds. “I really, I felt like saying like, dude, everybody’s aging.”

Are there any bands he wishes had the same longevity? John pauses for a moment and then replies, “I wish the Pixies were still around. The whole saga of that band was such an enigma to me,” he elaborates, “seeing them go from being just like the babiest of baby bands to being actual stadium-filling, you know, stadium-rock. You know, arena-filling arena-rockers.”

They Might Be Giants never exploded like the Pixies did, but it’s been a wild twenty years nonetheless. And will John and John be making music for another twenty years? “Yeah, I do, actually. I think we’ll probably be together, you know, ‘till one of us dies .”

My mom can’t argue with that.


Rocker invents new type of run-on sentence; scientists baffled.

Interview with John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, Nov 6, 2002

By David Brackeen

The phone rang about 10:30 that morning, which is something it usually doesn’t do. I had just woken up and was getting ready to start the day.

” Hello. Is this David Brack-in?” the voice on the other end of the phone asked. The typical mispronunciation of my last name gave him away: a telemarketer.

” Yes,” I replied hesitantly, the answer itself almost boring me back to sleep.

” Hi, this is John Flansburgh.”

It was John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, a band that I’ve been a fan of for quite a while. My High School Self would piss his pants if I could go back in time and tell him in a booming voice, “sometime in the future you will receive a phone call from one John Flansburgh, slightly before 10:30 in the morning!”

High School Self: “Dude, how’d he get my number?”

” Oh, hi!” my voice responded, in the completely new I-wanna-talk-to-you tone John had yet to hear.

This actually was no mystery call from a rocker to a fan via some VH1 show - my house had not been redecorated. Actually, I was scheduled to interview John for Under the Radar that day, but not until later that afternoon.

I thought the anticipation prior to interviewing John would make me slightly nervous, but it turned out he wanted to do the interview early, which means no anticipation, no nervousness.

” Yeah let’s do it now,” I replied. “Let’s me just turn on my CIA-type phone recording equipment here.”

He was pleased, and ready. “Great, I’ll go get a cup of coffee.”

Here’s the verbatim transcript of the conversation I had with John, complete with all the “um"s, “you know"s, “I mean"s, and words I think he made up.

Don’t call them “aging nerd rockers”

David Brackeen, Under the Radar (UTR) : [Alone, coughing.] Testing. Okay, we’re going.

John Flansburgh, They Might Be Giants (JF) : [In background, talking to someone else.] So we now have ‘till 7, plenty of time to get there, so that’s good.

JF : [At phone, with coffee.] Hey.

UTR : Hi John. Okay.

JF : So, uh, what are the soft-hitting questions?

UTR : All right, well, uh, the first one is, uh: so I hear you guys are in a rock ‘n’ roll band?

JF : That’s right. We’ve been rocking and rolling for twenty years.

UTR : Yeah it’s pretty amazing you guys have been, uh, around for, uh, twenty years and have such a longevity, um.

JF : I know, I actually just read a review in a newspaper that referred to us as ” aging nerd rockers”.

UTR : “Aging nerd rockers.”

JF : Which, I have to say, like, you know, the only thing, you know, the only thing that could heighten the shittines of being called a “nerd rocker” for me would be… would be being called an ” aging nerd rocker.” I really, I felt like saying like, dude, ev erybody’s aging.

UTR : [laughs]

JF : We’re all aging.

UTR : That’s right; you even have a song about aging.

JF : Yes, exactly.

Pixies: arena-filling arena-rockers

UTR : So, uh, if there, if there were any bands that formed in the eighties, uh, are there any bands that formed in the eighties that you wish were still around?

JF : Um… you know, I… it’s… I wish the Pixies were still around. You know, I mean the Pixies I guess formed in ‘89.

UTR : Yeah. [Actually they formed in ‘86]

JF : But you know I think that… they sort of, you know, they burned really brightly and, you know, obviously just kind of, you know, crashed into the earth, you know, very quickly. I mean, they made, you know, that - the whole saga of that band was such an enigma to me. I mean, having, I mean the Pixies actually opened for us in Boston, you know, before they were signed and sort of seeing them go from, seeing them go from being, you know, just like the babiest of baby bands to being, you know, actual stadium-filling, you know, stadium-rock, you know, arena-filling arena-rockers.

UTR : Right.

JF : You know, um, and in Europe, it was really quite amazing. I mean, I felt like it was sort of the opposite - you know, their experience was kind of the opposite of ours. You know, everything that we’ve done has come, has come in such doable, manageable doses. You know, I mean our reality has never - it’s never been that - it’s just, you know, I mean we’ve had lots of good thing happen to us, we’ve had, you know, some bad things happen to us, and - but none of them were, like, beyond our, you know, um, you know kind of like where we were at emotionally. And I feel like if even half of what happened to them happen to us we would just be in pieces on the ground.

The next twenty years

UTR : So do you think you’ll be together for another twenty years?

JF : Um, yeah! Yeah, I do, actually.

UTR : Yeah? That will be pretty interesting.

JF : I think we’ll probably, you know, basically be together, you know, ‘till we - one of us dies .

The last twenty years (on CD)

UTR : Wow. So, um, the Dial-a-Song CD, that just came out.

JF : Yep.

UTR : Tell me a little bit about that.

JF : Um, you know, it’s a compilation, it’s like, sort of a career, uh, you know, it’s kind of like that Decade album by Neil Young. You know, it’s like a career-overview, um, and, you know, in some ways, you know, disc one kind of functions as a greatest hits record and disc two is kind of like, um, you know, They Might Be Giants at their They-Might-Be-Giantest.

UTR : [laughs]

JF : Um, you know, um, I think, you know I was actually - I was really grateful that Rhino let us, um, uh, sort of, um - what would the term be - curate the album because I think there’s… I mean we write different kinds of songs, you know, there’s a wide range of songs in our repertoire, I mean I think one of the reasons we even still exist is that there’s actually more for us to do, um, musically. But, um… I think it would have been very easy to fill up the second disc with kind of, likeable… mid-tempo… pop songs… by us… that were almost as good as the songs that were successful in rock videos or indie, you know, alternative rock, singles. Um, but I don’t think it would be nearly as interesting on a collection. I think, you know, what’s nice about this - the sequence of this collection is that it really gives you the full, the full span of what we do.

UTR : Kind of the overall feeling of They Might Be Giants.

JF : Yeah, yeah. I think it’s really true to the spirit of the band in that it includes the fringiest, um, impulses of our work. And, and I think, you know, if we had not been involved, it probably would have gone in a much safer direction. You know, I mean this compilation includes “Fingertips” and includes, um, you know, “Minimum Wage.” And, you know, songs that aren’t even really songs.

UTR : [laughs]

JF : You know, and it includes “I can hear you”, you know, which was recorded on an Edison wax cylinder. And I don’t think, you know, people are thinking, like, “that’s it, man, that’s the sound, that’s a hit,” you know. “People are gonna love that,” you know. “That wax cylinder sound.” But, you know, it’s, it’s kind of what we’re about. And, um, I’m just glad that it all got, um, put together in a, you know, in a good package. And the actually package is really interesting.

UTR : Yeah, it’s a neat cover.

JF : Yeah.

UTR : Um, would you, uh, would you say this is a good entry point for, maybe, new fans?

JF : Well that’s, you know, that’s actually the best thing about it. You know, I think, you know, having grown up with the Beatles we have this kind of, um, almost orthodox view of - of the way albums should work, but, you know, as we’ve grown order and sort of seen, you know, become more worldly, um, like, we realize that there’s this practical thing about a compilation album - especially when they’re done with care - that they’re incredibly powerful, sort of advertisements for the band, and I think, you know, the Dial-A-Song compilation is - it’s a really good example of that. I mean I - I remember buying that album, um, Singles - what was it? Not Singles Going Steady, that’s the Buzzcocks one, which is also good, but uh, Singles on - what was it? [Voice heard in background.] Singles On 45? [Actually it was “Singles - 45’s and Under”] Is the Squeeze one - the Squeeze Greatest Hits record was an amazingly good record, you know, and you know, you might have a hard time convincing your, you know, your friend at work that like, Squeeze are worth checking out, but, you know, when you have an album that’s sort of as concise as that record, or just as strong as that record, um, you know, it kind of makes the argument for you. I found that I gave that record as a gift to a lot of people who were kind of on the - who weren’t really up with the, uh, the punk rock.

Children’s songs vs. the day job

UTR : Right. Cool. Alright so, um, the other album that recently came out was No!, that was the children’s album.

JF : Uh huh. Yep.

UTR : So what inspired you guys to do a children’s album? I know Linnell has, uh, one kid.

JF : You know, it would be - it would make so much sense if that had anything to do with it, but it actually doesn’t. Um, uh, you know, the idea of doing a children’s album had been kicking around pretty much since we started the band, and I think, um, one of the nicest things about being around as long as we have is that we finally become self-defined. You know, we’re not - nobody accuses us of wanting to be like anybody else, or - you know, it’s like - or the people they compare us to are so in everybody’s rear-view mirror - that we get to kind of stand up on our own as a band and, uh, so you don’t run the same risk of being really misunderstood if you - when you make a children’s album after, you know, making records for 15 years or whatever. You know, um, as you would if, you know, if we had made - even if we - even if our, you know, forth or fifth album had been a children’s album, I think people would’ve been really confused as to where - as to what the direction of the band was going in. I mean, I remember when we made my first Mono Puff album a lot of people just immediately assumed that the band was breaking up, which would have been, you know, which obviously was not the case, but it was just kind of a drag , you know. It was like a side-effect of doing, like, an outside project, that I had not anticipated at all . Um, uh, so I think, you know, we’ve actually been able to do this kid’s album and kind of expand our audience without alienating our core, you know, alcoholic, swear word loving crowd.

UTR : Right. So do you think you’ll, uh, continue - maybe do more children’s albums in the future?

JF : Yeah, we’re actually doing a children’s - we’re doing a book with three new songs and uh, like a book that’s gonna accompany it for a publisher and it’ll be out next fall [2003].

UTR : Oh, neat.

JF : Yeah.

UTR : Great. Yeah you guys have had, like, a busy 14 months.

JF : Yeah, it’s - well, you know, I mean, in a - a lot of stuff that’s happened has actually been in the pipeline for a bunch of years. I mean, we actually finished No! before we finished Mink Car.

UTR : Okay.

JF : Um, but it wasn’t, it didn’t have a - it didn’t really have a home for a while. Um, so, you know it was a, I mean, in a lot of ways, like, doing the No! - we did all the No! sessions while we were recording incidental music for Malcolm in the Middle, and um - which was kind of our day job for like a year and a half - and it was - the Malcolm in the Middle job was really difficult. Like emotionally, it was really taxing. And um, you know, just - it was like serious work and really like um, you know, we were dealing with like deadlines on a, you know, on a pretty much on a daily basis, which, you know, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to people who work in offices , but, you know, we’ve - we’ve had kind of a, you know, Peter Pan existence for a long time. And uh, you know, it’s just - it just wasn’t where - we just didn’t have the kind of skills that, like, your average work-for-hire incidental music writer does. I mean, we kind of write music in a, you know, it takes time. It’s very hard. I mean, we - doing the job actually changed the way we write because we’ve figured out ways to write much, much faster which was, interesting. But, um, the thing that was cool about the No! project was that it was kind of our personal work between sessions for our day job so there was a lot of, uh, a lot of good feeling about the project. You know, it was kind of that guilty, you know, secret pleasure that you could kind of get away with doing your personal work at your job. Um, ‘cause we were doing these big, you know, these big sessions with the band doing incidental music in a studio, and then we’d actually be able to just kind of address, like, a really simple children’s song and do it kind of like on the side.

UTR : So it was a nice little thing to relax to after -

JF : Yeah, yeah. I mean it was just also - it was like a purely artistic thing.

UTR : I see.

JF : You know, as opposed to, like, trying to make somebody else happy with something, you know, that had been edited and modified and, you know, revised a few times. I mean, the work-for-hire thing is tough on your - is tough on your soul.

UTR : So, uh, what all is involved in making music for a show like Malcolm in the Middle? Does some one just come up to you and say, “Okay, we some, you know, happy music for this scene,” or how does that work?

JF : [sighs] Well, you know, I mean all shows are different. I think, you know, the Malcolm experience, I mean, was very different, um, than… most… um - in some ways I don’t think we had a very realistic idea of what was going to be asked of us. In other ways, I think there was kind of - it was kind of an inefficient setup, um, because we working out of New York and the show was working out of LA, and I think the communication breakdown was pretty immediate and really at the core of a lot of our problems, but, uh, you know, they were nice people, you know, and it was like a very ambitious - it was just a very ambitious show, and the role of incidental music doesn’t necessarily have to - you know, it is almost designed to - it’s complicated , but it’s like we recorded so much more music for that show than any other, um, show. I mean, you look at an episode of, you know, The Brandy Bunch, and they’re using the same cues from the pilot, you know, in the forth season, you know, and - I mean, we basically were, you know, creating an episode, you know, an original episode’s worth of music a week if not more because a lot of stuff just got rejected. So, it was strange.

UTR : Wow.

JF : Um, but, you know, we’ve done lots of other work for advertising and for television as well, and um, you know, it’s - people, you know, people - it’s actually - some of it’s, you know, very straightforward, and um, and pretty pleasant. Um.

UTR : Like the opening for The Daily Show.

JF: The Daily Show, um, The Daily - we did all these different - all the incidental music for The Daily Show.

UTR : Okay.

JF : And, um, that was, you know, very interesting just because it was so genre-specific. You know, doing this kind of bombastic news music was um, was kind of an interesting change, you know. Um, and - but, you know, that show’s a perfect example. We did like one - we did one week’s worth of work for The Daily Show and it’s been, you know, on the air everyday for three years.

UTR : Right.

JF : Um, we’re using all, you know, our music and, you know, it’s - actually, I mean, I was watching the show last night and I have to say, you know, we gave them a really good package. There’s a lot of different stuff that they draw on, and um, I think it still sounds really good, you know.

UTR : Yeah.

JF : It sounds - it’s like their cool recording, and it’s pretty varied, and the tone of the show, it’s so strange, it’s so specific ‘cause they’re really - they’re walking this very thin line between “legit” and “humor”. Um, I mean, obviously, you know, it’s a comedy show, but they want the form of the show to be very serious. So, you know, I think the music kind of supports that.

UTR : Actually it’s funny, when I first saw The Daily Show, I heard the song, and I felt like, “I know that band”. I just - I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and of course I didn’t find out till later. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out you guys did it.

JF : Mmm hmm, yep, sounds good.

Gigantic documentary

UTR : So, um, you guys actually have a documentary written about you.

JF : Um, a film about us, yeah.

UTR : That’s right, “Gigantic”.

JF: It’s was, um, this, um, this friend of mine, AJ Schnack, uh, we actually - he was my video rep - he’s a producer. And um, he, uh, had this crazy idea, and, you know, I mean I think people hear, like, oh you know, a friend of your made a documentary about you, and they think [coughs] and they immediately think like, oh, it’s, you know, it’s um, an inside job. You know, actually this is like - this is just the opposite. It was um, I was really taken aback when he told me that he wanted to do this project in part because - even though I had worked with him on lots of videos, even on videos for They Might Be Giants, um, I never really, you know I knew AJ was a fan of my directing and I knew he liked the band but I didn’t think of him as a fan of the band. Um, I mean, he certainly never - he was very professional about, you know, his, you know, his interest in working with me. Um, and uh, and also you know AJ is a really - he’s a very successful person in the rock video community. He’s done, you know, Bonfire Films is like a really, um, A-list video production place. Um, and you know, I mean they do videos for, you know, people who are hot, you know what I mean? It’s like they do - they did the Blink-182 videos with - when the guys were naked . And they did the Papa Roach videos when they’re singing to all the people in the crowd . You know, they did - they do videos that are like in the Buzz Bin. You’ll go, “like wow that video’s fucked up , man.” You know, so, like, I sort of never, you know, I mean the stuff we’ve done with They Might Be Giants with them - I always sort of saw it as me calling in a favor , you know. So to have them kind of turn around and - to have AJ and Shirley, his wife, who’s also the producer of the film, turn around and say, “We wanna make a feature-length documentary about your band! ” I was like, “huh?”

UTR : [laughs]

JF : Um, and also, you know, just - like, John Flansburgh and John Linnell aren’t really the subjects of They Might Be Giants, in like the most - in the most essential way. I mean, I think Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are kind of the subjects of the Rolling Stones and that’s fine, because there is something sort of super-human about them as a topic. I think, in some ways, They Might Be Giants, as an idea, really resides very far into our imaginations and it’s a very abstract, projected kind of reality for us. And we’re really trying to figure out ways to make rock songs that are completely singular, um, and so we have a very different approach to what we do, than, I think, a lot of musicians do. I don’t think there’s like a big social component in what we do. Um, you know, it’s like even though I think over the years we’ve become a very effective par ty band as a live act , um, I don’t think that’s our natural inclination. I think we’ve just come to realize that that’s kind of a good strat egy for doing a live show. But um, but you know, at the core of it, you know, our ambition - our ambitions aren’t really wrapped up in, you know, con fes sional song writing or um, you know, anything more personal than like what your average, um, kind of, um, creative writer would be involved in. You know, it’s like, I mean it’s - it’s a weird thing to say because I think obviously ev erything’s per sonal on some level, but it’s like - it’s more about your orientation. I don’t think our orientation is that - is that much about ourselves or our feelings or our biographies or our politics, you know.

UTR : Yeah.

JF : Which is what most, you know, most creative people sort of have something they need to get off their chest. I think for us, it’s like we kind of approach it in a more experimental, kind of, exploratory way. This sounds incredibly pretentious.

UTR : [laughs]

JF : But you know, I mean, I think [laughs] ultimately we probably are incredibly pretentious [laughs].

UTR : [laughs] So, in other words you were kinds taken aback when -

JF : I didn’t think - I just didn’t know what - it’s like, there’s no story there. It’s like, you know, the story of two guys who get along.

UTR : [laughs]

JF : You know, see the drama of people who, you know, learned how to, you know, communicate and, you know, find common ground. You know, it’s just you know, it’s not the thing that movies are made of, you know. And I think we sort of felt like we didn’t know, you know, how to - I mean we sort of didn’t know how to break it to AJ that there was no “Behind the Music” there. There was no sensational story there. But I think that’s what actually makes the movie so interesting is that it actually shows, you know, a band that works, you know. Like a creative project that actually keeps on going. And um, you know, it’s sort of artistically successful on its own terms. And um, and it shows our friendship, you know, which is fine - which is good, I think. That was the biggest surprise for me, actually, is that, you know, it makes you realize, like, it’s not a surprise that we’re still working together. You know, there’s something very easy about our setup. You know. And it kind of complements our personalities.

They Might Be Giants deny a Tetris addiction

UTR : Right. Yeah it seems like I have a vague, uh, recollection of a piece from The Onion about uh, how they were - how there was going to be a They Might Be Giants “Behind the Music” -

JF : Oh yeah, about Tetris addiction.

UTR : Yes, except uh - but most they could find out about you guys was that you were addicted to coffee and Linnell might have been addicted to Tetris for some certain time.

JF : Yeah, yeah. Well that’s a funny, like, sort of generational thing, ‘cause I don’t think, um, you know, we’re kind of, I mean, the reality is we’re actually like too old to be gamers.

UTR : Yeah.

JF : You know. We’re of that generation, you know, we’re pre- George W. Bush where we - we look, uh, we look a scant at gaming.

UTR : Yeah. So, uh -

JF : Are you a gamer?

UTR : Um, I uh, occasionally dabble but not as much as I was when I in, like, junior high, and stuff.

JF : Which one? “Ultra Violent Super Death”?

UTR : No, I, uh, play “Ultra-Violent Super Death 2: The Sequel”

JF : Uh huh, right. “Severed Head”?

UTR : Yeah. [laughs].

JF : I can’t believe, you know, like sometimes, like you know, there are a lot more game commercials on TV now. And I really - I can’t believe the level of, uh, you know - to call it “fantasy violence” is sort of an understatement. You know, it’s really, uh, pretty vivid .

UTR : Yeah, very realistic and bloody violence.

JF: Yeah. I’m kind of confused that there aren’t more, um, kind of, um, surreal and kind of mod video games. Like so many of them have this kind of you know, sort of, uh, not Dungeons and Dragons but sort of like gothic quality. I don’t see where there isn’t more that like, look like, you know - bloops and bleeps! Oh hold on one second, I got another call.

UTR : Oh, no problem.

JF : [click]

UTR : [sighs]

JF : [click] Hello.

UTR : Okay.

JF : So, um, oh yeah, I’m just surprised that there aren’t cooler games. It seems like there could be, you know, like where’s the - where’s the Hello Kitty of games? You know, or not even Hello Kitty. Like - I’m trying to think what the weird, mod, like, where’s the Powerpuff Girls of games?

UTR : I think, uh, I think, uh, The Sims is one of those non-violent sort of, uh, slightly quirky games.

JF : Yeah, but The Sims has got that ug ly interface. Like, like, I guess the thing is, I just find games ugly. Like, they’re so ugly. Like they are these complete - they are 100% graphical. You know, which seems like an open invitation to do something that would be, like, an interesting, aesthetic dreamscape kind of a thing. And instead, it’s just like purely the domain of like these weird, kind of icky surfaces. I don’t know, I just think it’s a weird direction that it’s going in. I don’t think it necessarily has to be that way.

UTR : Yeah. There are some games that have kind of a cartoon look to them instead of the more realistic, gritty look.

JF : But like, you know, think of like, uh, I don’t know. I mean, what’s weird is that there are all these games that are based on real-life scenarios, but they still have that kind of, uh, you know, gothy , contoured shadowed look. Like, why does the surf game look like, uh, the dungeon master game? You know the thing about the surfers? You know, like, think about surfers and the way like, like surfer logos are, and like, how everything like, you know, like all surfer guys wear like really cool shaped sneakers and everything kind of got that weird, morphing, futuristic, you know, very 2002-and-a-half look to it, you know? Like why can’t - why can’t - why doesn’t the surf game look like a surf logo?

UTR : Right. That’s a good point.

JF : I’m not satisfied.

UTR : [laughs] I think you need to call up some people.

JF : I actually - I have called up people.

UTR : Yeah?

JF : They have no explanation for me.

UTR : [laughs]

Top ten albums of …?

UTR : Alright, so, uh, I got some questions from the editor.

JF : Okay.

UTR : For this next issue, we’re kind of doing a look back at 2002 and look forward to 2003.

JF : Uh huh.

UTR : I don’t know if you were like, warned of these questions in advance or not.

JF : Well there was something about, like, a top ten.

UTR : Yeah.

JF : And I don’t have that available to me at all.

UTR : Yeah, like a top ten favorite albums of 2002. Do you have like a top three, or…?

JF : Uh, no, off of the top of my head I couldn’t even say.

UTR : Oh really. Okay.

JF : I mean, I don’t - I don’t listen to music in, like, a linear way. It’s not like I go pick up the new record and listen to it ‘til it’s old. I mean, for me, most music is about, you know, listening to, uh, you know, stuff from forty years ago, and just checking in with it.

UTR : Okay, so -

JF : You know what I mean. So I mean - but I could cook up a list for ya. Is it - do you want comments ? Or do you want a list ?

UTR : You could just have a list.

JF : Okay.

UTR : Or, if you didn’t want to do 2002, just how about, uh, ten albums maybe you bought in 2002, or you started listening to in 2002 or something like that.

JF : Okay. How about the best ten albums of, you know, 1968 that people should check out?

UTR : Sure.

JF : I’ll do something. I’ll cook up something for ya.

UTR : Okay. Um, and then there was, the bands you recommend to keep an eye on, or you think are going to be big in 2003.

JF : What do I know about that stuff?

UTR : [laughs] You could just make up band names if you wanted to.

JF : Right, right. The, uh, the High Integrity Name-Check Band.

UTR : Right. [laughs]

JF : The Phony Vibe Band.

Highlights of 2002

UTR : Okay, the next question is more about the band, or just personal questions.

JF : Uh huh?

UTR : This is just kind of open-ended: what was the highlight of 2002 for you?

JF : Oh, well…

UTR : And it could be anything, like you taught your dog to catch a Frisbee or just whatever.

JF : Um, no, there are two very specific highlights. Um, they kind of rival each other and they’re - you know, one was - we uh, we actually, uh, we won a Grammy in, uh, February. And uh, that was just a very, uh, unreal kind of experience. And really quite exciting, you know. It was as unlikely as anything that’s ever happened to me. Like, we really didn’t think we were going to win. We were surprised when we were nominated and just downright confused when we won. So, you know, it was great. It was a really, you know, fun moment. And uh, the other really big, you know, uh, thing for, uh us as a band was, uh, kind of watching the odometer flip to twenty at - doing the Central - we did a big pre-show in Central Park with like 8,000 people there. And uh, we actually did our very first show in August of 1982. Um, and so, to actually be back in the same place where we started, playing for a gigantic crowd of people, on a beautiful summer night, was just like a, you know, just a really - it was a special time, you know.

UTR : Wow, yeah.

JF : It just felt really amazing.

The demise of the Republican Party

UTR : Wow, cool. Alright so, um, and what are you looking forward to in 2003?

JF : I’m looking forward to the demise of the Republican Party.

UTR : [laughs] That’s right, they pretty much took over the Senate yesterday.

JF : Yeah, well, you know, it’s um, they’re um, now that they’re in control, um, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do when stuff still doesn’t come together, you know?

UTR : Right.

JF : I think it’s going to be an interesting period, ‘cause I don’t think things are going to turn out quite as rosy as they have planned. I think um - I’m afraid that our international policies, uh, make about as much sense as sticking your head in a hornet’s nest.

UTR : Yeah I’m one of those people that get embarrassed for America whenever George W. Bush gives a speech.

JF : [sighs] If he could just learn how to say the word “nuclear,” that would be fine.

UTR : Yeah, that would be a big step.

JF : Yeah.

UTR : Yeah.

At the end of the interview I gave him some contact info to send the top-ten list and proceeded to kiss his ass. I never received the top-ten list, so maybe I scared him off. Oh well, the world will have to wait for John Flansburgh’s “best of 1968.” But we still have the next twenty years to look forward to.


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March 9th 2012

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A.T. thru hiker
February 12th 2019

These guys are still relevant after all these years…

March 14th 2019

Keep up the good work.  House Painter

Landscape Design
March 23rd 2019

“JF : I’m looking forward to the demise of the Republican Party.”

That made me chuckle! ha thanks for the great interview!

Jeremy @

March 23rd 2019

I’m the master of run-on sentences and the master of talking without end even when sometimes I have no clue what I’m actually trying to articulate because I just keep talking until what I want to say actually comes out of my mouth. See. Master.


Digital Marketing Redding
March 23rd 2019

My top album of 2002- Usher or Nsync. No shame baby!

- Kari @

Deck Staining
April 4th 2019

thanks for posting and keeping everyone informed. Deck Staining

April 4th 2019

mattress removal  Couldn’t agree more with this post.  Second earlier comments N’Sync baby!

Retaining Wall
April 4th 2019

Many bands and retaining wall  come to mind when I read through this.  I can’t think any more under the radar than xraylight.

Boulder Walls
April 4th 2019

I can’t beleive you guys rocked it at Central Park retaining wall contractor  That is truly an amazing venue.

Landscape Retaining Wall
April 4th 2019

retaining wall design  These guys rock.  What an amazing influence these guys have had on their genre of music.

April 19th 2019

Thanks for the great post!

Frank L
May 22nd 2019

Great and interesting read while on my break.

Frank - carpet cleaners lauderhill fl

June 7th 2019

Keepin’ it real up in here…
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wedding photographers
June 7th 2019

Keepin’ it real up in here…

August 4th 2019

great interview

toby jojo
October 14th 2019

Gettin’ our grub on!

Fence builder
March 24th 2020

Thank you for the great article! lincoln fence builders

December 1st 2020

Great article. Thank you.

January 19th 2021

Funny story! I enjoyed reading this. Thanks!