Singer and guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden is an excitable puppy in human form. Bearded keyboard-player Ben Goldwasser is reserved. Sardonic, even. Together they are MGMT, pronounced ‘management’. The 25-year-olds met in 2002 on the campus of Wesleyan University in Connecticut. United by a love of mysticism, psyche-rock and Technicolor, they plugged in some computers, threw on some fluorescent tunics and started making “strange music to confuse people” at college shows – one of which involved a 45-minute instrumental reworking of the Ghostbusters theme. Now signed to Columbia and headlining tours, MGMT’s anthemic power-pop is beginning to hit the big time. Happily the Brooklyn-based duo are showing no obvious signs of taking themselves seriously.
What do you listen to in the morning?
Andrew VanWyngarden: Bob Dylan is good as anti-groggy music. I don’t like to listen to anything too energetic first thing.
Ben Goldwasser: I listen to Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain album. The first song’s not good for getting fired up to, but the rest of it is.
What music was playing in the house when you were kids?
AVW: I listened to the stuff my sister was into. Pearl Jam, The Grateful Dead, Spiritualized, Smashing Pumpkins. I heard a lot of classic rock through my parents – Neil Young and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young… all that big stuff.
BG: Progressive rock like King Crimson and a little bit of Yes. Some jazz, like Charles Mingus.
AVW: You make it sound like you were six years old and listening to Charles Mingus!
BG: When I was really young I was listening to Talking Heads…
AVW: Talking Heads is great for kids.
BG: So is The Incredible String Band.
If you could teach the world to sing, what would you teach them?
AVW: I think about this a lot. I have this weird dictator fetish. I’d like to take a group of a hundred 50 to 75 year olds and trap them in a gymnasium until they learn every lyric to a Jay-Z album. I’d have to be really mean – like starve them. I like Jay-Z but it wouldn’t be pleasant for septuagenarians.
BG: Remember we saw that show on MTV where they were teaching a choir of old people to sing “Welcome To The Jungle”?
AVW: That was kind of similar… but it wasn’t a torture thing. They were taking it pretty well.
Where would you be without music?
BG: I’d be living in the woods somewhere. Going feral.
AVW: I’d be a Marine Biologist. That’s what I wanted to be when I was a kid. It’s still the coolest job. I’d live by the ocean just researching squid or something. With a decent-looking wife and dog.
BG: You’d be like that guy we saw on TV who was teaching seals how to paint at Colchester Zoo.
AVW: It’d be awesome to teach some seals to play in the band.
BG: Dogs would be cool.
AVW: There was a Swedish prog-rock group from the late 60s who had a dog in the band. I don’t know what instrument he played.
Photography: Ben Rayner
Words: Ben Cobb
A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #15, October/November, 2008