Saturday, August 25, 2012

The 49ers, #6: John Flansburgh

In early 2010, Rob Trucks began a series of conversations with 49-year-old Americans. For eighteen months, until the eve of his own 50th birthday, Trucks interviewed over 200 men and women. This is one of those interviews:

John Flansburgh stands as the younger, more bespectacled half of They Might Be Giants, a Brooklyn-by-way-of-Boston band he has been playing in for more than half his life. Their most recent release is the aptly titled Album Raises New and Troubling Questions.

We spoke in late April, 2010, one week before Flansburgh’s 50th birthday.

* * *

I think because I’m musical partners with someone who’s 50 [that’d be TMBG cohort John Linnell], I’ve thought a little bit about where we land generationally. Both John and I are younger brothers, and I think, having been born in 1960 or 1959, which is really the tail end of the Baby Boom, and being a younger sibling, it’s a very singular place to be in American culture, because you saw the entire melodrama of the ’60s and ’70s as kind of a passive observer. You know, you were just the kid in the back of the car listening to the yelling. The babysitter who saw Easy Rider and then hitchhiked to San Francisco was in your life. And everything about the Vietnam War and rock music exploding and the Yipees, all this stuff of hippie culture was very tangible and very real. Even Mad magazine or Roadrunner or Bugs Bunny or all these kind of anti-authority type cartoon characters. Even Peanuts, to some extent, had this kind of anti- quality to it. All this mainstream culture with all this heavy, heavy anti- stuff was happening in your childhood, and I think it informed the way we approached the world. We didn’t go through a lot of changes in the ’60s. We were just kids. But we saw it all. And I think that that really changed the way we approached culture and culture-consuming and culture-making, and it just made us different. I feel like we were sort of media literate in a way that people before us weren’t.

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