Photo by Shervin Lainez
You can count on They Might Be Giants; for more than a quarter century, they’ve been making smart and quirky albums. Engineer/co-producer Patrick Dillett has worked with them since he was the assistant engineer on Flood (1990). Over time, the group developed a system where the Johns (Flansburgh and Linnell) make song demos in their home studios, and then bring them to Dillett to record with the rest of the band: guitarist Dan Miller, bassist Danny Weinkauf and drummer Marty Beller.
“The band will play them live multiple times, and we’ll do drum comping or other fixes as we go. These are very much band records, but the songs have been laid out first in skeletal form by John Flansburgh and John Linnell.”
TMBG’s latest, Nanobots, was made using this general approach: a great rock ’n’ roll band adding to, and subtracting from, the frontmen’s computer-realized song ideas. The album is amusingly varied, with more conventionally shaped songs accompanied by what Dillett calls a “song suite” of mini songs that range from 6 to 42 seconds in length. But at the core of their sound, of course, is the warm but ironic sound of the Johns’ vocals.
“I have a Neumann U 48 that sounds good on them,” Dillett says. “They both have a midrange-y vocal tone, especially when they really dig in, so it’s nice to have a warm mic and some warm limiting. I used the U 48 with a Neve Kelso pre and a Summit TLA100.”