That’s right, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, vanguards of the Wesleyan Scene, grace the cover of this month’s Spin as harbingers of the “New Psychedelia”. A good week for this school’s collective ego, at least that part of it which relies on mainstream media coverage.
Here is an objective evaluation of MGMT’s charmed career, for those of you still bewildered that your younger cousin uses “Kids” as a ringtone:
What’s considered typical for MGMT is changing by the minute. The group began as a joke designed to annoy their college classmates, then scored a major-label deal without even trying and played Letterman before their debut album, Oracular Spectacular — a spacey cycle of catchy psych pop steeped, sonically and aesthetically, in a world they call “future ’70s” — was released. Since then, they’ve played every big festival around the world, toured with Radiohead, sold nearly 200,000 albums in the U.S., and become unlikely fashion-world icons. At a time when a band’s cultural cachet is often exhausted before their album even comes out, MGMT’s steady rise, a full ten months after Oracular‘s release, feels suitably anachronistic.
Aside from some fairly typical “oh no we’re huge, does dating Kirsten Dunst and eating crème brûlée mean we sold out” anecdotes, there’s also an evocative history of the band, complete with annoying description of Wesleyan:
…VanWyngarden and Goldwasser met in 2001 as freshman music majors at Wesleyan, an out-there liberal arts university in Middletown, Connecticut, that encourages absurdist self-expression the way MIT encourages studying. They lived in the clothing-optional, artist-populated dorms known as WestCo, where minutes of student meetings are chronicled in a journal called “The Book of Love.” As president of his building, VanWyngarden organized parties and concerts, including ones for Zonker Harris Day, the annual bacchanal at which, as Goldwasser puts it, “People who wouldn’t normally eat mushrooms eat mushrooms.”
…Though their parents were progressive, the pair’s formative years were spent in conservative towns — Goldwasser grew up in Westport, New York (population 1,287), and VanWyngarden in Memphis — so Wesleyan was a place they could unfurl their freak flags. “We bonded over it suddenly being cool to be weird,” Goldwasser says. Christening themselves the Management (they later changed the name to avoid confusion with another band), they started writing ridiculous-by-design songs in different genres and singing karaoke-style to an iPod at unhinged campus shows, the first of which saw them play a 45-minute instrumental of the Ghostbusters theme.
“We were less about quality, more about absurdity,” VanWyngarden recalls. “We were trying to be obnoxious, but somehow people got into it,” adds Goldwasser. They had other outlets: Goldwasser played various instruments in classic-rock and blues, prog, and indie bands; VanWyngarden dabbled in an ’80s monster ballads band, a Patsy Cline cover band, and a hip-hop group. But it was their infectious, sharp-witted songs like “Kids” and “Time to Pretend,” a potentially prophetic ode to the hedonistic, rock-star trajectory (“Let’s make some music / Make some money / Find some models for wives”), that made others take them seriously, even if they themselves didn’t.
Wesleyan students began circulating CD-Rs to friends at other schools along the Eastern seaboard, so MGMT took their show on the road. At Princeton, guys in pink polos and seersucker shorts sang along from the front row. An a cappella group at the University of Virginia added “Kids” to their repertoire. Two NYU students, Will Griggs and Jesse Israel, became hooked and wanted to manage them. “The first time I saw Andrew, he was frolicking on a field around a giant inflatable bear,” Griggs recalls. He and Israel joined forces with a high school student from L.A., Nick Panama, who felt similarly compelled, scrounging up $800 each to form Cantora Records and, they hoped, record the first MGMT EP. But it took some convincing.
“We were shocked,” Goldwasser says. “They were the first people who thought of us as a real band — we definitely didn’t.” After releasing the Time to Pretend EP in January 2005, they celebrated their graduation that summer by touring with fellow glam oddballs Of Montreal. But rather than capitalize on this momentum, MGMT simply ceased to be — Goldwasser stayed in Middletown for six months before spending a summer building eco-friendly straw-bale houses near the Catskills, while VanWyngarden landed in Brooklyn, living with a girlfriend and only sporadically looking for jobs on Craigslist. By fall 2006, Goldwasser moved to Brooklyn as well, but pursuing the band further wasn’t a priority.
Of course that changed pretty fast, the rest is history, and now you’ve moved on to vaguely wondering what this Amazing Baby is all about. Read the full article:
Spin: MGMT: Head Games