MGMT cool sounds


POSTED: Friday, July 10, 2009

For the duo first known as the Management—now shortened to MGMT—they haven't done bad for themselves, considering they started out as a couple of art students at Wesleyan University fooling around with music.

Combining outsider art sensibilities with their baroque, psychedelic songs (with a bit of early David Bowie glam and Chic dance soul sounds), Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden have been riding on the critical and popular success of their 2007 major-label debut, “;Oracular Spectacular.”; Three memorable singles have been broken out from the album: the hip-blase archness of “;Time to Pretend,”; the retro-soul of “;Electric Feel”; and the album's latest track, “;Kids.”;

(The latter is supported by a great, bizarre video that includes scary monsters, a crying toddler and an ultrahip mom coolly played by the wonderful psych-folk harpist and singer Joanna Newsom.)

It's been quite the ride for Goldwasser and VanWyngarden, who make their Hawaii debut next week at Pipeline Cafe with local up-and-comers the Jump Offs opening (see sidebar). And speaking of opening acts, MGMT will be doing just that for a certain Mr. McCartney early next month in Boston.

“;That's pretty crazy,”; VanWyngarden said by phone June 29 from his home base of Brooklyn, N.Y. “;It's almost too much to stomach, playing in Fenway Park and opening for Paul McCartney. I guess in his attempt to hear some new music, McCartney heard our singles and chose us to open for his Boston concerts.”;

MGMT has opened for another big act before, namely Radiohead, but that seemed a more natural pairing than playing on the same stage with the iconic former Beatle.

“;We'll probably be doing five or six songs in our set,”; VanWyngarden said, jokingly adding that “;we might do 'Hey Jude,' but Paul McCartney's crew may cut off the sound immediately.”;

THE BAND plans to take some time off on Kauai while here, before heading to New Zealand for three shows. It marks a long way from MGMT's humbler beginnings.

“;Ben and I were originally just making songs to just humor ourselves and make cool sounds,”; VanWyngarden said. “;But once we signed the record deal with Columbia, we really focused on what's been shaped as our live sound. We had to learn that playing with a live band, and that sound has kind of influenced our new album.”;







That album, “;Congratulations,”; is scheduled for release early next year, and songs from that album, including the title track, “;It's Working”; and “;Dan Treacy,”; has been part of their concert set list.

With the help of Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann, MGMT's sound improved mightily on their major-label debut.

“;On 'Oracular Spectacular' he did the arranging, plus he has a great ear for mixing. With that first record, we were looking to David Bowie's 'Aladdin Sane,' a little bit of Queen, the Brothers Johnson's 'Strawberry Letter 23' and Kate Bush for inspirations,”; said VanWyngarden.

Looking back at their college days, VanWyngarden remembers “;it was a good environment to be as crazy as we wanted to be. We developed that psychedelic mushroom-taking side of the band, and by watching Alejandro Jodorowsky's 'The Holy Mountain' that's filled with images of mystical tribalism.”;

Considering that MGMT has shared concert bills with Of Montreal (who played an entertaining set here in February), and that their music videos are filled with colorful costuming, VanWyngarden emphasized that when they play on stage, “;it's not live theater like what Of Montreal does. What you will hear is our current fascination with '60s music, like garage and surf rock, and stuff from bands like the Electric Prunes”; (of “;I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night”; fame).