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Interview:
They Might Be Giants find better living, and music, through brevity
 

By GARY GRAFF
For Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

They Might Be Giants's latest album, "Nanobots," populates 25 tracks in just 45 minutes. It's an old TMBG trick, but people still wonder how they do it.

"It's an amazingly common question, and I respect it -- and I would ask us the same question," says John Linnell, who co-founded TMBG as a duo with John Flansburgh during 1982 and subsequently expanded it into a full band. "From early on, we kind of felt like we couldn't add more to a song without it just getting repetitive. So why make it longer when you don't have to.

"We just tend to think it's actually harder to write a long song and have a rationale for it. I don't know why you need to hear the chorus five more times at the end of the song, or why you need to hear it break down to just the drums for 30 seconds. To me that seems like filler. We'd just rather make our point and get out."

Linnell says that there's "no overarching theme" to "Nanobots." But the title, and the title track, beg the question of what he and Flansburgh had in mind.

"A lot of people assume it's this geeky science fiction thing, but to me there's something, in a way, more ordinary about the topic," explains Linnell, 53, who has a 14-year-old son. "In a general way, it's about things that reproduce and also about children and they way they very quickly are out of your control.

"All humans on the planet start out as someone's little twinkle in their eye, and they very quickly become this autonomous being that may completely contradict or countermand whatever their parents had in mind. It's this cycle that keeps going, and if you're at all successful they're going to break away and reject some of what you're giving them, because they have to be their own people. It's an alarming process, and that's what the song is about."

They Might Be Giants and Moon Hootch perform Tuesday, March 19, at the Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $19. Call 313-833-9700 or visit www.majesticdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.majesticdetroit.com

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