The key to They Might Be Giants’ longevity? Not repeating itself.
John Linnell, one half of the pop-rock band's founding duo, said it’s key to bring something new to every song he and band partner John Flansburgh write and record. But more than 35 years into the group's career, he admits that goal is getting harder and harder to meet.
“It’s easier said than done, obviously,” Linnell said. “It’s a big challenge, but we’re not just blowing smoke. We feel like in a way that is the job — say something new. We’ve already written all these songs. There’s absolutely no call to write the same songs over again. One of the reasons it gets harder and harder is we’ve written so many songs. And it’s always been hard, and we’re getting older, so we maybe have to work harder to reach the same goal.”
The challenge to stay fresh musically isn’t stopping the two Johns in their quest. Last week, fans got 15 new songs via the new studio album, “I Like Fun.”
Louisiana fans will get a taste of the new (and old) material when They Might Be Giants performs Wednesday at the Varsity Theatre in Baton Rouge. Doors open at 7 p.m. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 the day of the show.
“I Like Fun” is the 20th studio album since Linnell and Flansburgh started They Might Be Giants as a duo in 1982. Along with those albums, the duo has contributed many songs to television and film as well as released a slew of popular children’s albums. A number of other songs have been used on the Dial-A-Song project, which debuted in 1985 as a telephone service giving fans access to new and unreleased material.
The group’s music has been distinctive from the start — a catchy and quirky brand of wide-ranging pop accompanied by clever and sometimes brainy lyrics. Fans caught on by the late 1980s with songs like “Ana Ng,” and “Don’t Let’s Start.” By 1990, the band had a full-blown hit with “Birdhouse in Your Soul” from the platinum-selling album, “Flood.”
That general blueprint of quirky pop-rock remains intact on the excellent “I Like Fun.” “McCafferty’s Bib,” “The Greatest” and the title track found the duo returning to their early mode of recording, where songs were mainly studio creations using a variety of instruments and recording techniques.
On other songs, such as the bouncy piano-driven “I Left My Body,” the ultra-hooky surfy rocker “An Insult to the Fact Checkers” and the punchy power pop-ish “All Time What,” the approach is more in line with the post-1992 full band-oriented albums, giving these songs a more muscular sound.
However, Linnell feels the band met its goal of not repeating themselves musically.
“Most of the songs on the album don’t sound like retreads of stuff we’ve already done,” Linnell said.
Live shows will feature fan favorites, some deep cuts and a healthy selection of songs from the new album. Linnell knows emphasizing new material is a bit of a risk, but he hopes the show will please hard-core and casual fans alike.
“It’s a challenge for people to go see their favorite band and be subjected to a whole bunch of new material that maybe they’re not that into,” he said. “We have to make the case, basically. We’re trying to make the argument that the new stuff is good.”
AN EVENING WITH THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
WHEN: Wednesday. Doors open at 7 p.m. The show starts at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Varsity Theatre, 3353 Highland Road, Baton Rouge
COST: $25 in advance at ticketweb.com, $30 the day of the show