It was great to chat recently with John Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants. Our conversation ran longer than the allotted time and we managed to cover a lot more than could fit into a proper published piece. So here are some quotes from the cutting room floor.
On the mechanics of Dial-A-Song and releasing a song a week this year.
We had a big plan to be super organised about it and, for a while, it held. We’ve been able to map it out for a couple of months at a time. We do have to do a lot in advance because you can’t just get a song up on iTunes overnight. So if you want to make it available you have to be organised to some extent.
That being said, this week's song we finished last week. And the video we’re posting tonight, I finished working on this morning.
We don’t enjoy being stressed out. It’s not he the He-Man songwriting challenge part of it that we find interesting; it’s more the idea of working freely and needing to be light on your feet. It’s music easier to write a song if you’ve already just written a song.
On working to constant deadline.
The fact that it’s a year long meant it was something we felt up for. It would feel like a strange chore to have to do this in perpetuity. Although if you are a songwriter, that’s kind of what you do anyway.
We’ve done a lot of incidental music jobs and those are even stranger because if you're writing for a television show, they don’t want one song, they might want ten, twenty unique tunes a week, essentially each one a song. There’s a trick to that too, but it’s very very tough work.
On the importance of the running order in creating an album from Dial-A-Song songs.
We're just compiling the third album from Dial-A-Song now for release early next year.
I grew up with albums, so for me the album format is still important. It’s very odd to have this split use reality: songs that have to work on their own that then have to work within another context.
For a song like 'Let me Tell About My Operation', the sonics are kind of startling. It as recorded much like a song from the 1950s, a much more organic recording, a small number of microphones. It has a different quality to other songs we've done this year. And I imagine in a album context where you hear a lot of electronic stuff throughout, to suddenly find yourself listening something so different and organic, I imagine it comes across as something of a fresh breeze. That was kind of the idea behind the sound of that song.