MGMT on Aliens, Drugs and 'Congratulations'

April 21, 2010 3:10 PM ET

MGMT's Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden let Rolling Stone's Vanessa Grigoriadis into their private Brooklyn world in our new issue, where the band appears on our list of 40 Reasons to Get Excited About Music. Their second disc Congratulations has listeners split, but after the overwhelming success of their debut Oracular Spectacular tested their friendship, the duo are once again very united. Here's more from Grigoriadis' interview with MGMT: Goldwasser and VanWyndgarden on aliens, generation lazy and Congratulations' early leak.

Did your parents introduce you to music?
Goldwasser: They both play a little piano. They listened to a lot of music, a lot of the stuff they grew up with, like the Stones and Beatles and Incredible String Band and Traffic. Incredible String Band was basically the children's music I listened to. People think of them as a psychedelic folk band, and when I was younger, I had no idea what "psychedelic" was at all, I just thought they were cool songs to sing, songs about caterpillars and whatever, weird shit.
What kind of music were you into in college?
VanWyngarden: Sophomore year, I was really getting into vinyl and took this record player my great aunt had given me and had that in my room and had a ton of records, a lot of my mom and dad's records, and things I'd find at thrift stores and stuff. I was listening to T. Rex a lot, Murray Street by Sonic Youth, and more recent stuff from back then, like Blonde Redhead, and Black Sabbath. I was really into Black Sabbath.
What are people are taking from your music and your ethos that's jarring to you?
Goldwasser: I don't want to be seen as a band that's just another messenger of a generation that doesn't really care about what's going on in the world and just wants to party, which I think we sort of belong to. There are definitely a lot of people who care, but it's almost like it's enough just to care about it, and you don't really have to change your life to do anything about it. I'm not a political activist, but it's just funny to see how many people there are who are like, "Yeah, I would buy organic food and I would buy American-made products, but it's just too expensive so I'm not going to do it."
Were there aliens around when you were doing this record?
VanWyngarden: Yeah, I don't know. I had some dreams, and in the January before we started recording, I was out in New Mexico and I first saw... I don't want to call it a UFO, but a very strange phenomenon in the sky, and had some dreams after that about some interesting things. I don't think it's Martian alien dudes in UFOs with laser guns, it's just that there's something out there, or even if it's just a change in our view of the world or the way we use our brains, I think that can be an alien force, too. It's more of a universal knowledge, a universal kind of spiritual presence that's there that we're not really getting to.
Is "It's Working" about drugs working in your system?
Goldwasser: In some ways. It's also about surfing in some ways. It's pretty vague, but I think we were pretty self-conscious about there not being a traditional structure to the song. It's definitely a pop song, but as our A&R pointed out, it takes two minutes for anything resembling a chorus to come in, which is not what radio stations are looking for. That's OK with us. So it's weird, it's a super poppy song, but it's not a pop single, I guess.

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