we do. It seems as strange to me as it probably does to anyone else. I’ve been in this band for 35 years - I thought I’d be in the band for 15 months. D: In the mid-2000s, you shifted focus and started writing children’s music. What was the decision for you to start making this children’s educational music?
theme - he wrote the melody to Dog on Fire, which is the rock theme part. The producers felt like it didn’t transition to the news music part of the opening, which was very much a parody of the NBC Nightly News. So we put together a music package for them, and the people at the Daily Show said “Ah, here’s a rock band that has done these news cues.” We just replaced the guitar driven version of Dog on Fire by Bob Mould with a horn-driven version. D: What’s it like composing for media or writing for a cartoon or writing for a show as opposed to writing just a regular They Might Be Giants song? J: Sometimes writing for television is not that different from being a tailor you’re just trying to make sure it suits the vibe of the thing you’re doing. But the truth is it all happens so fast, I guess that’s the biggest difference. When we’re writing for They Might Be Giants,
it’s a very open-ended thing: I might start writing a song and get 90 percent of it done and put it up on the shelf and not revisit it for like two-years. But there have been many things we’ve done for ad agencies where we’ve gotten the call at 11 am and it’s done at 5 pm. D: After doing all these compositional pieces and having about 20 albums, how do you write new things? J: That’s a good question. I don’t know if I have a really good answer. We try to up the ante as we go. We’ve come up with a lot of different strategies to create tracks and create sounds, and I don’t think we have a set notion on how to make a song. That’s the thing about writing songs: it seems like an enterprise that has no limits. It’s not hard to keep going, and we’ve also been very lucky that we’ve found the level of success that we can make a living at it and we’ve found an audience for what
J: Everything was up in the air - we just left Elektra after 10 years, and were just trying to figure out how we’re going to fit into the whole post-major label deal, which is actually a place where a lot of bands just break up. One of the things that was possible with our new record contract was that we couldn’t do records for outside labels unless it was a children’s album, which was very odd. We somehow had a dispensation for that, so we were free to strike yet another record deal as long as it was for a kid’s album. All of a sudden not only did we have a regular deal, we also had the opportunity to do a kid’s project. When we started working on “No,” which was our first kid’s album, we thought it would be a one-off, like a Christmas record. John and I thought given the type of band that we are, given the opportunity to write for kids is sort of a privilege, and we wanted to make a record that had the level of imagination that our regular records had but somehow be suitable for kids. We made this record, and it was the exact right time to do it. It went from being a one-off to being a parallel career. Without really having any plan
to do it, we just kind of tripped into this very, very successful kind of work. D: That leads into “I Like Fun,” which comes out next month. What is “I Like Fun” going to be like? J: It’s a big set of songs. There’s some range to it. We probably recorded 28 songs in preparation for this record, and pulled 15 to be on this set. There are actually a lot of electronic sounds, even though the first couple of preview tracks don’t spotlight that so much. People who are familiar with the record, I’ve already heard a lot of people say “I really like how lo-fi this album is”, which is a little confusing to me considering it was made with some really amazing musicians in a really fancy studio. I think the reason it might seem lo-fi in 2017 is, in contrast to contemporary music production, it probably has more in common with records made in 1978 than records made now. D: As you guys are beginning to tour off of I Like Fun, what should people expect on this new tour and what should they expect at the Pensacola show? J: We’ve taken on a trumpet player, so there’s a whole new kind of sound incorporated into the show, so we’re basically reworking our whole live act. We’ll play a lot of the favorites, but it’s really exciting to play Birdhouse with the trumpet solo in the middle and play Istanbul with the trumpet. It’ll just be a super size show. DOWNTOWNCROWD.COM | 11
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