RealAudio Interview with John Flansburgh

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Bar/None Records Press Release for It's Fun To Steal

John Flansburgh's
"It's Fun To Steal"
Song per song

CREEPY "was recorded mostly at home," says Flansburgh. "This song is based on a couple of true stories, only one of which, I am happy to say happened to me."
IT'S FUN TO STEAL "I'm a big fan on New Orleans soul, which is so different and so under-acknowledged compared to Motown or Atlantic. We tried to incorporate that feel into this track."
POISON FLOWERS "Nobody had any hearing left by the end of this session. I've never recorded this loud before."
MR. HUGHES SAYS "A love song and a list song combined. The lyric in the chorus quotes a poem by Langston Hughes."
IMAGINARY FRIEND " about the comfort found in an insular existence..."
TASTE THE BASS "Hal Cragin put this track together. It's our Quiet Storm track"
EXTRA KRISTY "Sister Puff sings most of this. It's a tribute to New York and that original Van McCoy version of disco. The rap group Double Dong did the human beat box and the dropped in vocal lines."
DEDICATED "DJ Five Star Spicy lets his freak flag fly on this track. In the interest of name-dropping, Joe McGinty is playing Donald Fagen's electric piano - without permission I might add, which we uncovered while working at Fagen's studio."
BACKSTABBING LIAR "is also a strange composite of true stories, but everybody knows some story like this."
HILLBILLY DRUMMER GIRL "is a cover. I first heard this song at a Pussywillows show, and took about a year before I found out it was written by Scott McCaughey. The combination of reckless fun and total dullness reminds me a lot of my life on the road."
DASHIKI LOVER "My father is a Modernist architect, and I grew up around a lot of dashiki wearing hipsters. It's such a wild kind of dress - it always amazed me it was mainstream fashion."
PRETTY FLY "Sister Puff takes it outside. We first heard this song in the film "Night Of The Hunter." If it has ever appeared on disc before is an open question, but it's haunting beauty made it an irresistible cover."
NIGHT SECURITY "I used to park cars as a teenager. I always liked it. I was the guy in the little booth. That's where I learned how to play the guitar"

Video Guy

Besides Flansburgh's working as a musician with Mono Puff and They Might Be Giants, Flansburgh has found something of a second career for himself as a rock video director: "I was looking for a job that would sound more unlikely and dubious than "I'm in a band," and "I'm a video director" wins hands down."

Flansburgh just completed "Song for the Dumped" for the Ben Folds Five, and has directed Edwyn Collins' "A Girl Like You", Soul Coughing's "Soundtrack to Mary", Frank Black's "Los Angeles" and "Hang on to Your Ego". He is currently directing They Might Be Giants' "Doctor Worm"

It's time to dim all the lights, dig your painted toes into the shag carpet, and turn up the strobe. It's Fun to Steal, the second full-length disc from Mono Puff, is as velvety smooth as a Dove ice cream bar mixed with the mischievous crunch of an Eskimo pie. It's seventies-centric, which, given the current passion for the me-decade, means it's totally today, but it's more Shaft than Saturday Night Fever. The mood is funky, color-coordinated, loungy and sexy - and there's some bad-ass rock music in there too. The subject matter tackles timeless issues like heart-breaking, petty theft, bomb-making, love-making, and the mysterious allure of the dashiki. There's even a heartfelt ode to the night watchman.

It's Fun To Steal was recorded in New York City by John Flansburgh, best known as half of the duo They Might Be Giants, and an all-star cast of his Mono Puff syndicate of sound. Unlike Mono Puff's debut, Unsupervised, which grew out of Flansburgh's solo musings, this is a saga of a band at work and play. "We experimented a lot with rhythm," says Flansburgh from his Brooklyn apartment, "in about every way we could think of. We had DJ Five Star and Mauro (Refosco, latin percussionist) and sampled ourselves banging stuff. I wanted to make an album that conveyed the spirit we made it in. Not that the song topics are all so light, but my personal all-time favourite records - whether it's Rocket to Russia or 3 Feet High and Rising - you can tell the people making the music were grooving to their creation. We wanted to make a party album - of a really interesting party."

Flansburgh had put the "puff" in the pop world well before Sean "Puffy" Combs. For Unsupervised, Flansburgh compiled tunes he'd recorded for his other, hyper-indie entrepreneurial side project, the Hello CD Of The Month Club. Hello provided lucky subscribers with a year's worth of original EPs from artists Flansburgh likes and admires, including Andy Partridge, Mac from Superchunk, Freedy Johnston, Soul Coughing, the Residents, Magnetic Fields, and Flansburgh himself, under the moniker Mono Puff. In 1995, Flansburgh mounted a showcase for Hello artists and put together a one-off Mono Puff line-up with drummer Steve Calhoon of Skeleton Key, Hal Cragin of Iggy Pop's band and Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers. That spectacular gig led to a record deal and the release of Unsupervised, in between TMBG projects, a year later. With Cragin and Calhoon on board and a mission to "spread sunshine and long-term hearing loss into the world," Flansburgh took Mono Puff on the road.

This time Flansburgh has enlarged the Mono Puff crew into a veritable groove collective. "Playing in New York, we keep the line-up loose, take advantage of all the great talent that's out there," says Flansburgh. On the album Cragin, Calhoon and Flansburgh are joined by keyboardist Joe McGinty, creator of Losers Lounge, the twisted cabaret series that plays to wall-to-wall hipsters during its irregular runs in downtown Manhattan; DJ Five Star Spicy on the wheels of steel; and vocalist Sister Puff, who can bring a Lilith-like lilt to a creepy cover like "Pretty Fly" as easily as she can belt a Betty Wright song on stage.

Rock critic Richard Gehr called Mono Puff "a skippy pop combo" that "sucks in the seventies and spits them out in tightly crafted polyester nuggets." These days Mono Puff is more soulful than skippy, but they're still expectorating. They'll be coming to your town, or somewhere nearby, this summer. Look for regional Mono Puff tour dates and guerrilla in-store appearances around They Might Be Giants' never ending road trip.

Mono Puffs
A classic dessert, known in the 19th century as Floating Island, is a favourite among rock bands and audiences alike. This recipe is:

4 egg whites (room temperature)
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 c. plus 2 T. sugar
1 t. almond extract
2 c. of milk, scalded
1/2 pint of heavy cream
1 T. vanilla extract

The Puffs:
Put 4 egg whites into a mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt. Gently beat to a froth. When mixture is stiff enough to hold peaks, add 1/2 c. sugar a little at a time, and continue beating until lustrous and firm. Add almond extract.

In a skillet, bring water to a rolling boil. Reduce heat, and drop egg-sized mounds of meringue into simmering water. Let each merinue poach about 3 minutes before flipping. Remove to plate.

The Custard Sea:
Put 4 yolks, 1 whole egg, and a pinch of salt in the top bowl of a double boiler. Beat well and slowly add the remeaining sugar. Continue beating and add the scalded milk and cream. With low heat under the double boiler, stir until mixture has thickened to a custard consistency. Stir in vanilla.

Pour into a punch bowl and chill.

Float the Puffs on the custard. Drizzle with caramelized sugar.