Sneak Peak: MGMT on the Cover of Relix
Ben Goldwasser on how MGMT’s live show has progressed
We started out as more as a live band. We didn’t have any recordings that were actually out that we released to the public. Our live show was singing along with prerecorded music, but that’s pretty much how people knew us. They didn’t know us from our demo tapes or anything like that. We see live shows more as a way to communicate directly with our audience about who we really are and what we mean, with what we’re doing and less about trying to figure out how to deliver exactly what people expect from us. I think if that was our goal we would have a very different live show.
Will Berman on leaving MGMT in 2005 and not rejoining until 2008, despite a major label deal
After [a disastrous tour with Of Montreal in 2005] I think we were all pretty depressed. It was like the second or third tour with Of Montreal and it didn’t seem to be doing all that much for the band. For two years I got a job working at a music distribution company called The Orchard cutting 30 second ringtones out of their music catalog for sale online. It paid the bills and allowed me to rehearse and play shows with my two other bands, Stylofone and Standing Nudes, every night. A few months later, I heard that Andrew and Ben were signing a deal with Columbia, and looking to put together a live band. Feeling loyal to my two bands at the time, I couldn’t bring myself to abandon them and dedicate myself to MGMT. Of course, soon after that, the two bands fizzled out, discouraged by constantly treading water in the NYC club circuit and not always agreeing musically. I got three of my friends from dissolved bands (Simon O’Connor, Will Roan, and Rob Laakso) hired at the Orchard to fill out the ringtone staff and we started getting together after work at my apartment to mess around with recording. Then on New Years Eve 2008, I got a call from Andrew. Hank Sullivant was leaving MGMT to work on Kuroma, and that left a spot open for me again. This time I accepted, leaving me two months before leaving for a massive tour. Simon and I agreed to keep working on music until I had to leave for tour, and the five songs we made with Will and Rob eventually became Amazing Baby’s first EP, “Infinite Fucking Cross”. After I left for tour, Amazing Baby signed a record deal, added a live band, and recorded and LP. MGMT and Amazing Baby toured together for a few shows in the UK last year, along with Violens. In the break between tracking Congratulations and the current tour, I co-wrote and produced a new Amazing Baby album.
The current version of MGMT is more calculated and challenging than it was in 2005. I think before, a more spontaneous and loose style suited how they felt. There is now a lot more attention paid to the individual parts that make up a song and how they work together I think have an ability find use in musical styles and forms that are not immediately obvious.
Andrew VanWyngarden on not playing “Kids” live
We toured for a long time before we started playing it, and then kept it up for a while. But that song is selfish because we’ve tried and it never felt right doing it as a live band, but that song has been around since the beginning. Kind of the spirit of the band in our college days, just kind of karaoke and doing weird shit on stage, and people don’t really get that.
Ben Goldwasser on how the live MGMT influenced the sound of Congratulations
That was the first thing we recorded when we started playing with a live band so it was definitely more influenced by the sound we were getting live. And with this album we definitely wanted to involve the band from the start. I think we still had trouble transitioning between our style of working with just the two of us, and bringing three other people into it. What ended up happening is we wrote the songs and kind of did pretty much all the arrangements. But I still think the band added a ton during the recording process and just their attitude and their approach to playing. If they really weren’t into doing something a certain way we wouldn’t do it.