The touring career of They Might Be Giants might be summed up as drum machine and post-drum machine.
When band members John Flansburgh and John Linnell first started, they sang and played guitar, keyboards and accordion but used a drum machine to back them up. As they progressed, they used live drums and a backing band.
“Now we’re more like a regular band where we can do one loud song and then rock on into another song,” Flansburgh said.
But he added that some fans are purists who prefer the original drum machine set-up.
“Some people miss the old way we worked when it was just me and John and the drum machine,” Flansburgh said. “Because it was a very chatty show, you know, we would actually talk a lot between songs. And it felt more inclusive to the audience. I think the audiences really liked the fact that we were a band that addressed the crowd.”
One drawback to the old drum machine sound was that fewer fans would return to see more than one show.
“A lot more people started coming back to shows when we started with the live band because when we were doing it with the drum machine band, I think people suspected they’d seen everything they needed to see the one time they’d seen the show.”
And Flansburgh noted a new twist that has come about due to the live band.
“One weird side effect of having a live band is that people started dancing at our shows much, much more. Which we weren’t really thinking about too much beforehand. But the celebratory aspect of what we do as a band really came out.”
A movie about the band, “Gigantic,” has begun showing in selected cities.