In unison with the drastic transcendence into psychedelic Sixties, surfer sounds, MGMT has matured. As a result their appearance has evolved from funky tie-dye to thrifty dress clothes. Before their sophomore album, the band had been labeled as hippies creating indie, synth-pop music, but after their latest album, Congratulations, was released on April 13, 2010, it became clear that these shape shifters of sound won’t be condemned to a specific genre.
MGMT was formed in 2002 by Andrew VanWyngarden and his college roommate, Ben Goldwasser. Their first album, Oracular Spectacular, propelled them into the spot light. Since then they have been touring all around the world and practically nonstop. Their travels brought them to Santa Cruz where I had the opportunity to interview the lead singer of the band.
VanWyngarden is stationed a couple of feet away nonchalantly messing with his already wildly disheveled brown hair. His black sunglasses contrasting with his ivory skin. He stands in a completely relaxed fashion, despite the fact that in less than an hour he will be playing a sold out venue for thousands of ecstatic screaming fans.
I saw your concert in Avila Beach yesterday. Was last Friday your first time in San Luis Obispo County?
“Yes, we had never been there, so we wanted to go.”
Do you have any say in where you perform? Can you ever play were your friends live, or choose an area that you like?
“Yeah, sometimes we can play where are friends are. We like to play at the beach so we can go surfing.”
You’ve played at a lot of unique venues all around the world, do you have a favorite?
“Tokyo… Osaka, Japan.”
Was there anything specific that you liked about that venue?
“It was a small venue, but really cool. It was like a different world.”
What aspects of fame do you like and which do you not?
He hesitates, glances over his shoulder, then returns his focus, “We don’t like when people don’t treat us like normal people. But we like being able to travel the world and meet all our favorite musicians.”
In the interviews I’ve read of MGMT it seems there are a lot of intentional contradictions and you seem to mess around with the reporters. What percent of the things you say would you consider sarcastic?
Andrew’s expression transitions from lighthearted to one of seriousness, with a slightly misconstrued tone, he replies, “When it’s clear a journalist already has a set idea of who we are and makes the interview reflect what they want to hear, or some days we will have like eight hours of press and after seven hours we will just start to mess with their heads.”
I know it’s a common question, but I have to ask, who was your greatest musical influence?
“Brian Eno… and Neil Young.”
What effect do you want your music to have on people?
“We want to teleport them to another world. Let them meditate and take them out of all the chaos.”
Do you still get nervous before you perform?
You went to Wesleyan University. What made you and Ben apply to that college?
“I wanted to go somewhere on the Northeast.” He presses his lips together, but pulls back and politely says, “And it was the only one I got into.” Recovered and smiling slyly again, he goes on to speak for his reserved band mate and friend, “I don’t know about Ben, I think he met some crazy people at orientation.”
So I’ve heard you want to live in a castle–
“The castle dreams are dying.” He sighs as nodding. “We want to have a beach house.”
Is the beach one of your favorite places?
“Yeah it’s one of my favorite places… One of the three.”