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Our first inklings of MGMT amour happened last September, when we stumbled upon “Time to pretend” by a then-unknown band of Wesleyan alums and could not stop listening to it. Ever. “Kids” and “Electric feel” had the same effect on us. And on others obviously… Since then, we saw them play that infamous sold-out show with Yeasayer at the Cat, release “Oracular Spectacular” on a bigger, badder label, play Letterman, wear capes, not wear capes, show up at Coachella and every other festival worth playing, be courted by Miuccia Prada, and now, not even a year after that first MP3 leak, are playing a sold out show to a Monday night 930 Club audience. Nicely played you guys.
So, naturally, we sat down with Andrew and talked a little.
Or a lot.

Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT
Interview Conducted Wed 7/23/2008 1:30pm

BYT: Andrew this is Patrick from BYT, Can you Hear me Ok?
I can, yes

BYT: OK Fantastic, Umm so where can I begin? Well, first and foremost, congratulations on the tour, it seems like things are going quite well for you guys right now.
Oh yea, we’re having a lot of fun

BYT: Nice. Well, you guys started as a college band. Have you guys burned your diplomas yet?
Ummm. You mean like our life diplomas?

BYT: NO, no, from university!
Oh, we majored in music.

BYT: Never mind, you guys actually got to use yours. It’s not the same as if you’d done philosophy or something like that!
Well I think we’re using our majors just as much as, maybe less than a philosophy major would. I guess as a philosophy major you do learn a lot of life lessons. We were both music majors, and we’re putting it to use, all over the world!

BYT: I’m very envious. But I ask because, you know, a lot of college bands break up. At least the ones I was in broke up. So what’s it like to go from playing the occasional coffee house or radio station to playing festivals and large concert halls?
Well the main reason we didn’t break up is because we weren’t really a college band. We were just, you know, two dudes who were messing around with music. We never played off-campus except for once or twice. We never had any ambitions to make it as a band after college, or anything like that. So that probably worked in our favor. We never took anything seriously, we still don’t!

BYT: So you’re keeping a sense of humor about it. That’s good. So, is the first time that you’ve worked with a full backing band, as opposed to you and Ben on laptops?
Number one what’s it like? And, number two: are you benevolent dictators or bloodthirsty tyrants when it comes to dealing with your touring band?
Well it’s not the first time we’ve had other musicians playing with us. When we were in school we played once with a medieval folk. There were like 7 of us! We played with a 9-piece rock band. We’ve played as a trio. There’s probably a conception of MGMT that some sort of duo. But really it’s always about changing it up, changing it up.

But now that we have 5 people in our band. When we were starting out, when we trying to learn the songs we’d just recorded for the album, I think Ben and me were kind of, well not dictators, but trying to get everyone to learn their parts and figure everything out. And now it’s much more like we’re a band. It definitely feels like a five-piece band. We’re really good friends, we’re ’round each other all the time. It feels really good live to play without having to deal with backing tracks. And I’m sure they’ll be working with us on the next album, at least during the recording part.

BYT: That’s great! Now, back to big shows and festivals, who’s the biggest star that you’ve seen backstage?
Well, we opened up for Radiohead in Manchester. And we talked to Thom and the rest of the band. They were really nice, and I’ve been a Radiohead fan for a while, so that was pretty cool. And then in Amsterdam, we went and saw Radiohead again, and after the show Thom Yorke introduced me to Michael Stipe. That’s probably the biggest star I’ve seen after the show.

BYT: What about people hanging around in the crowd or on the side of the stage? Has anyone made you nervous?
I was nervous during Radiohead, we thought that they would hate us. I think when we played in LA, one of the dudes from Entourage was in the audience, and that was kinda weird. If anyone would make me nervous it would be David Bowie, Neil Young, someone like that.

BYT: Well you guys are based in NY. Do you think that you’d be intimidated if David Bowie or Lou Reed showed up at one of your gigs and then all the blogs picked up on it? I feel like that sort of thing kills a lot of bands! Because the way I see it, everyone just focuses on “OH well David Bowie was there!!!”
Well I think we’ve been lucky that neither David Byrne nor David Bowie has showed up to one of our shows. I think it would be great to meet them no matter what and I don’t really give two hoots what blogs saying about us anyway.

BYT: Now your videos, they’ve very beautiful, really well shot. Conceptually, very intriguing. As far as I’m concerned the music video is a dead art. I mean MTV doesn’t show videos anymore. And YouTube, yea we all watch it at work…but don’t you think that the money would be better spent building a studio, being crazy self-indulgent and buying a bunch of really obscure and expensive equipment?
I think it’s unfair to say it’s a dead art because… I mean you wouldn’t’ got as far to say as cinema’s a dead art because these things aren’t broadcast on the internet? I love movies and I think that we wouldn’t ever stop making videos just because people aren’t watching them. I think that’s just kinda sad. It would be cool to spend a lot of money, but we’ll always make videos just for ourselves.

BYT: Well that means you’ve passed the test! You’re doing it for artistic reasons and not because it’s part of the checklist of things to do when you’re in a band.
OK now we get to play a life-or-death game of choices, are you ready?

BYT: Kool Aid with sugar or without sugar.

BYT: Lemon or lime

BYT: Best way to pass the time while on tour: Masturbation or picking your nose
I kinda stopped masturbating, so I always pick my nose.

BYT: Good choice, I woulda picked the same thing. Spike Lee or John Singleton?
Spike Lee

BYT: You fall into hard times with the band. Do you become a pimp or a drug dealer?
I would say neither…

BYT: A-ha, life or death!
ANDREW: I would definitely go with pimp!

BYT: Raekwon or Ghostface Killah
Raewkon. Right now I’d say um, Raekwon

BYT: For real?
Yea, spice it up a little bit

BYT: Come on! What about Ghostface’s consistency Man seriously son!
Reparations for slavery: 40 acres and a mule OR $50,000 hard currency.
(Laughs) I think that the land would be good. There are so many opportunities with it. I mean you can make money with it. I mean I guess you could just buy land with the cash.

BYT: But 40 acres is a lot
Then I would def. go with the land!

BYT: Ok that ends our little game right there. So when do you guys come to DC again, Monday?
I think it’s Monday

BYT: Have y’all ever been down here to play?
We’ve only played DC once and that was with Yeasayer. It was a very small room

BYT: Oh, was it at Black Cat backstage?
I don’t think so, it was a someplace else

BYT: Really? I can swear it was Black Cat! (it was, read our review here-ed)
It was a venue that had a larger room upstairs and a smaller room off to the side. … Maybe it was Black Cat.

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BYT: Yea, a lot of people were trying to get tickets to that show!
Yea, it’s crazy that now we’re playing the 9:30 Club.

BYT: Congrats. You know backstage service there is really good
Oh Yea?
BYT: I mean 930 Club actually has a washer and dryer! They really treat you good. Would you say that you’re enjoying this part of being a touring musician? You know, food, drink, and nice couches?
Showers and dryers are very much welcomed by our band. And we all love to eat! Radiohead was the best catering I’ve ever had. Just a total feast.

BYT: See but here’s the thing about Radiohead; they spend all this time and money trying to be environmentally sound. But how much of that food did they throw away? That’s what I really want to know!
Probably a lot. I mean, they’re doing a lot of stuff that’s not environmentally sound. I mean they have 8, 18-wheelers or something crazy. But they do have an LED light show.

BYT: A-ha!!! So do you think that Thom Yorke is giving us lip service about the environment? Or do you think his morals are genuine.
Well, after meeting him…. I think it’s probably just a case of people making him to be taking radical position. But really after talking to them, it sounds like people are just, elusive and secretive. Thom and I talked about it, and he thought it was so weird that it’s his job is to stand out in front of big crowds every night. They just seemed like such normal dudes. If someone analyzed my life, they’d find I was very anti-environment, I eat Burger King and I throw cardboard cups out on the highway. I feel like a rebel!

BYT: You’re allowed to indulge yourself. You’re at that stage in your career. Just don’t throw it on my lawn.
Yea! (laughs)

BYT: On the highway, there are guys who’ll clean it up. I don’t have that kind of luxury

BYT: Back to the music. You started off a little bit noisier, a little bit more experimental. I’m not saying that your sound has smoothed out, on the contrary it’s actually quite dynamic. Do you think that you guys will ever return to a time when you’re playing music that’s a little bit more abrasive?
I think we’re already doing it in our live show. Live we’re a lot louder and noisier on the album. I think for this album we took a lot of time for the songwriting and we wanted to make good pop music, and I think there’s plus and minuses to doing pop music and noise. When we were doing noisier shows, they were fun, but we were trying to be really obnoxious and it wasn’t like we were trying to make good music. I mean, I’m happier when we have smoothed out a little bit. I think that the spirit of the noise and experimental stuff is still there, but it’s easier to do when you’re a freshman in college.

BYT: You’ve smoothed out the rough edges, and you haven’t compromised your stuff.
We still listen to a lot of crazy, loud, noisy stuff. And for us we can still hear and infer it in our music, it’s just a little subtler. And at the same time when we were doing noise when we were younger were also writing songs that were the most awful pop songs too. There are always both things going on.

Publicist: Hey, Patrick. We have time for one more question

BYT: Alright, my final question is. What are you gonna play as your pre-show music at 9:30?
I think it’ll be Joe Meek. That’s what we’ve been playing. Nice little spacey, weird goblin music is good for pre-show.

BYT:Well thanks for your time man, keep up the good work and drive safely. Cheers

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