By Dan Kimpel
MGMT: Well Deserved Congratulations
Resplendent in their garb and glib in their gab on the red carpet at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, the two founding members of MGMT - Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarden - say they were less secure than they might have appeared. “We were thinking people would be watching and wondering ‚”Who the hell are these guys?” laughs Goldwasser.
Honored with a Best New Artist nomination, MGMT also had their song “Kids” nominated for Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals. It caps a remarkable cycle for the Brooklyn-based duo. The success of their major label debut Oracular Spectacular coincided with a monumental string of live shows including The Glastonbury, Bonnaroo and Coachella Music Festivals, supporting dates for M.I.A., Beck and Radiohead plus opening for one self-proclaimed fan of the band, Sir Paul McCartney, at Fenway Park in Boston.
As they toured, a series of high concept videos delivered the band directly into viewers’ media rooms. “When people saw our video ‘Time to Pretend’ they’d think that was how we were all the time - dressed like Lord of the Flies beach savages, and wearing headbands,” says Van Wyngarden. “Now that we know how much a video can mold people’s perception of the band, we can play with that.”
For MGMT’s forthcoming release, Congratulations, the Brooklyn band temporarily relocated to the Southern California beach communities of Venice and Malibu to write and record. Says Van Wyngarden, "I've read articles saying we're not going to release any singles. We didn't intend for it to come off like that, in some pretentious way. We were thinking of it as a cohesive album, concentrating on how it flowed."
Uniting the studio craft with the live version of the band was also a consideration says Goldwasser. "When we appeared with a band, jamming the songs out, people who had listened to the album and expected more of an electronic thing were disappointed, but there were people who latched onto the psychedelic side of the album who were pleasantly surprised. Our writing and recording processes go hand in hand; the song is written as the sound develops. We knew we wanted Congratulations to be more of a band sound, so it would translate into a live context." Van Wyngarden adds, "Some of the songs on the new record are faster with more dance grooves, like surf beats, something to drive people into a frenzy."
The two members met at Wesleyan University during their freshman year. Graduating in 2005, they toured behind their inaugural Time to Pretend EP, and shortened their name from "The Management" to "MGMT." SESAC was their PRO choice for a number of reasons says Goldwasser. "We had never dealt with large entities in the music business before. SESAC seemed like a very personable choice, we liked the people we met and it felt like a more intimate environment." Van Wyngarden adds, "Our other main reason was Bob Dylan is there - if it's good for Bob Dylan it's good for us."