Not everyone is suited for fame. Just ask MGMT.
Having sold more than a million copies of their 2008 breakthrough album, Oracular Spectacular, and found an unlikely mainstream audience, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser became overwhelmed by it all.
“Ben and I are really kind of quiet,” explains VanWyngarden. “We like mellow times. We’ve had a lot of fun, but we definitely weren’t prepared for that, we didn’t know what was going to happen.”
After all the Grammy nominations, album of the year honours and bona fide commercial radio hits, MGMT did the only thing they could — they wrote about it.
Over the phone en route to Coachella, VanWyngarden makes the new MGMT album, Congratulations, sound as though it was written as a stress reliever.
“A lot of this new album is expressing that feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated to the point where the media is portraying you in ways you don’t want to be portrayed and you can’t do anything about it,” he says.
Congratulations, it’s safe to say, is not the album most people were expecting from MGMT. Co-produced by their mutual hero Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember (Spectrum, ex-Spacemen 3), the album’s whimsical forays into British folk, psychedelia and prog rock have almost entirely replaced the hooky, electro-glam-pop of their debut.
VanWyngarden and Goldwasser have spoken out about how it was written as a full-length album without any anthems like Kids and Time To Pretend in mind.
But VanWyngarden is also quick to say that Oracular Spectacular is “still very much a part of them.” He just feels Congratulations is a better representation of where MGMT’s creative interests currently lie.
“I think we were always bigger fans of weird psychedelic and folk music,” he explains. “I don’t think this is the ultimate album or our big statement. It just reflects who we are and what we were listening to last year. The next record we make will probably be very different from this one.”
For the time being though, VanWyngarden is unfortunately still trying to convince some naysayers that Congratulations was completely intentional. “This album is more sweet, pretty pop music to us, so we don’t really get why people accuse us of career suicide,” he says with slight frustration.