INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Spinner MARCH 24, 2010 - by Liisa Ladouceur
MGMT DISCUSS BRIAN ENO'S SORCERY, SARCASTIC 'CONGRATULATIONS'
The word is out on the new MGMT album. Responding to the leak of Congratulations, the band posted a stream of the entire thing on its official site. Now the world can hear that Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden haven't totally lost the plot, they're just following some winding roads. The nine tracks of summery psychedelia may not bear much immediate resemblance to their crossover synth-pop smash hits Kids and Time To Pretend, but the experiments don't veer too far away from the pop pleasure zone, either.
There's no doubt that Congratulations is a priority release for MGMT's label, Columbia - the band's debut, Oracular Spectacular, sold more than a million copies worldwide, after all. If that's put any pressure on the lads from Brooklyn, N.Y., they're trying not to make a big deal of it. In fact, Goldwasser tells Spinner he enjoys the privileges of being a major-label superstar.
Were you deliberately trying to avoid making a pop record this time?
People who only know three of our songs, or are living under a rock, might expect us to do a straight-up pop record, but I don't think we need to. We want to broaden the notion of what pop music can be, so of course it's a kind of pop. But we're definitely not trying to fit in at all. I'm pretty ignorant of what is popular at any given time anyway.
One thing that hasn't changed about MGMT songs is that they are still very playful. Is making music a way for you to have fun?
Music is a way to be playful, for sure. We're not necessarily the happiest people in the world, but music does make us happier. I mean, we do take making music seriously; we just don't get hung up on categories. That's when music starts to sounds like a joke - when you talk about it too much. We're trying to be very clear - we're not trying to be ironic, and just because we're going for something different than that doesn't make us pretentious.
You've said this record is a reaction to the massive success of Time to Pretend. What's the most positive thing about fame?
We're really happy to be where we can play music for a living, which is something we love to do, and retain a lot of control. We have an opportunity to change something in the music business at a time when nobody knows what's going on. And I don't just mean about how to sell records, either. We are against what some people are doing in order to get famous, turning themselves into products and logos. Some people might think that sounds dumb because we are on a major label, but we are not a fake band. We're a hundred percent about music.
Tell us about the song Brian Eno. If I've got the lyrics correct, it's about you chasing him through Transylvania using his Oblique Strategies.
It's a master/apprentice story. Brian Eno is more of a sorcerer and I'm the student. Eventually, he turns on the student. As for his Oblique Strategies cards, we did have a deck in the studio but I don't know if we used them correctly. I'm not sure there is a correct way to use them, actually! We eventually started writing our own to use in notebooks, but I think they're pretty horrible.
What's the best thing you've learned from listening to Eno records?
It's OK to do something unexpected just for the sake of it. You don't need to have a good reason. If you look at Brian Eno, he often works on the most obvious things, but then he'll do something completely unexpected with it just because.
The title track comes at the end of the record. Why did you end on the sentiment Congratulations, and what does it mean?
It's a lot of things but mostly sarcastic. Like someone giving us a pat on the back and saying, "Good job! Now what?"