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September 11, 2007

Yet another They Might Be Giants chat that uses the Q-word

They Might Be GiantsFriday, Sept. 14John Flansburgh is talking like a victim. Over the last 20 years, he and John Linnell, who together form Brooklyn kitsch pop group They Might Be Giants, have grown quite annoyed with a certain word.“We often get pinned with this quirky label,” Flansburgh says. “The Wikipedia entry for the band actually includes the word ‘quirky’ in the first two lines.”It’s a tag they haven’t been able to shake since their first album dropped in 1986. “When we actually had props in our show, it would be hard to defend ourselves from Carrot Top-ism, but no one accused us of being quirky,” Flansburgh says.The birdhouses in their souls have stayed intact, however, and a new album, The Else, co-produced by Beck collaborators The Dust Brothers, finds the Giants as potent as ever.The Dust Brothers came on board because TBMG wanted to explore more of their electronic personality.“We’ve always had an electronic component to what we do,” Flansburgh says. “In the past, we’ve always worked with producers who … would always favor organic instruments over anything programmed. At first, that was an interesting conversation to have. The Dust Brothers, they are completely comfortable in the world of electronica. There’s no dividing line; it’s a fluid horizon.”If there’s an end in sight or even a fallow period for the group, they wouldn’t see it coming.“We might be the worst judges of that,” Flansburgh says. “As a songwriter, you kind of break through this notion of running out of nouns. Say you wrote a song about the color of somebody’s eyes. It’s gonna be a while before you write another song about the color of somebody’s eyes. You try to reach out for other topics. But somewhere in the middle, you realize there’s another interesting song about the color of somebody’s eyes in you, and you free yourself from the notion that you can only write one song about that. That’s actually quite liberating.”The Giants’ were one of the first acts to try to market its music online. The Else, which came out July 13, was released on the Internet before brick-and-mortar retailers got it. But that doesn’t mean the band has forsaken liner notes.“Actually, The Else has the most deluxe packaging of any album we’ve done in recent history,” Flansburgh says. “We’re pro-landfill. I recognize this is a really bitchy thing to say, but when I hear rock superstars with careers much bigger than me, I often think, if they just stopped making music, think about all the landfill that would be saved.”They Might be Giants plays Friday at the Kentucky Center (501 W. Main St., 584-7777) as part of the IdeaFestival. Showtime is 9 p.m., and tickets are $22-$28.Saturday, Sept. 15LEO picks the brain of Heavy Trash singer Jon Spencer:Heavy TrashLEO: How did you come across the band Tremolo Beer Gut?JS: They’re great. Maybe the first time I came across them I was touring with Boss Hog in Europe, probably around ’95. I think, maybe, the two bands played together, and I just really dug their music. And I don’t go for surf bands very much.LEO: Any specific goals you wanted to achieve on HT’s new album, Going Way Out?JS: I didn’t have any kind of laundry list planned. The first Heavy Trash record is a studio experiment. That record’s mainly just me and Matt (Verta-Ray) at his studio. When it came time to make a second record, we talked about working with live musicians.LEO: People often reference the blues when they talk about you. Do you ever feel like you’ve been pigeonholed?JS: I don’t have anybody else to blame but myself. I still think (The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) is a great rock ’n’ roll name. A review from The Onion’s A/V Club made some references to irony. That kind of stuff really bothers me. I was in the Blues Explosion, I still am. The blues has been a huge influence on what I do. That doesn’t bother me. There is a connection and a deep connection, but I don’t play blues. I don’t say I do.LEO: This is kind like asking which kid is your favorite, but is there a song on Going Way Out that you listen to and think, ‘I got that right’?JS: I like the way “You Can’t Win” came out. It went through many changes and came out of very loose numbers. I like that kind of song, sort of talking blues. All the other songs in the album, we’d been playing them live, but “You Can’t Win” slowly rose out of the mist.Heavy Trash takes the stage at Headliners (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) Saturday night. Powersolo opens, then backs up Spencer and Verta-Ray. Showtime is 9 p.m., door is $12. Contact the writer at mherron@leoweekly.com