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MGMT SPIN magazine cover story

MGMT SPIN magazine cover story

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Published by: Victoria De Silverio on Jan 26, 2011
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01/26/2011

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ANDREW VANWYNGARDEN AND BEN GOLDWASSER ARE TALKING IN HUSHED, HURRIED TONES TO A STUFFED BORDER COLLIE.
Crouching low, noses to snout, they take turns mumbling into a BlackBerry and then holding it up to the puppls left ear. Their furrowed brows and tender pats suggest concern. The puppy's state of mind, however, is inscrutable-sunglasses conceal his eyes, and his furry tongue danglesjauntily. A leafy sprig hangs from the scarftied around his noggin. Perhaps he be tripping. Ten yards away, barricaded in ftont of Toronto's tony department store Holt Renfrew for the Toronto International Film Festival kickoffbash,papatazziand camera crews grow visibly anxious. They've been told that MGMI the party's main attraction (and stars ofsponsor Converse's new ad campaign), are on their way. "There they are!" yells a woman, pointing her microphone. The 25-year-olds stroll toward the black carpet, possibly addled stuffed pooch in hand. They stop in front of the logo-laden backdrop, and an onslaught of flashbulbs and questions begins-"How do you like Toronto?" "Are you going to see any films?" "Are you excited to be here?"-none of which they answer. Then, finally, a howling voice gets through: "Who are you with?" "Chauncey," VanWy'ngarden replies, walking away. The reporters are not amused. "!Vhat, no interview?" one man cries. "This is ridiculous!" Chauncey and his handlers leave without another word to take refuge in the store's makeshift greenroom. VanWyngarden removes the dog's shades to reveal two amber plastic globes. "He's thinking about decorating his ioftwith Lebanese furniture," he says to no one in particular, giggling. VanWyngarden-the shaggy, Marc Bolan-esque dandy-is in good spirits, despite beingexhausted from the previous evening. MGMTperformed at aNewYork Fashion Week party, complete with attendant Olsen twin, but he doesn't remember actually playing. He does remember drinking a 1ot of Maker's Mark and "trying realiy hard to stay in control" but not throwing piliows at security or fleeing into the streets or stumbling into a homeless shelter. "I guess I was pissed off at the party," he says. He recalls getting thror.tm out of the shelter, whiskeybotde in hand, and being picked up on a sidewalk by two ladies who gave him water; he woke up at 5:30 in the moming on their futon. Goldwasser-intense, dark-eyed, and mercurial-look at his partner in disbeliefand sheepistrly offers, "This is not typical for us." trVhat's considered rypical for MGMT is changing by the minute. The group began as ajoke designed to annoytheircollege dassmates, then scored amajor-label dea-l without even trying and playedlettermanbefore their debut album, Oracular Spect(lcular-a spacey rycle of catchy psych pop steeped, sonically and aesthetically, in a world they call "future '7Os"-was released. Since then, they've played every blg festival around the world, toured with Radiohead, sold neariy 200,000 albums in the U.S., andbecome unlikelyfashion-world icons. Atatimewhen aband's cultural cachet is often exhausted before their album even comes out, MGMT's steady rlse, a firIl ten months alter oraculafs release, feels suitably ariachronistic. Picking at the vegetables and hummus in the greenroom are the duo's longtime fi:iends enlisted for their fve band: guitarist James Richardson, bassist MattAsti, and drummerWill Berman. In the corner are three of Chauncey's pals----or, as specified in the standard MGMT rider, an "assortment of puppies." Aside from playing a live set, theyve all agreed, their two managers included, to moonlight as DJs at the partv, taking turns in pairs. "I want to DJ with Ben," VanWyngarden says. He beams goofily toward Goldwasser, who smiles shyly back. Goldwasser slides headphones
on and scours his laptop for a playlist. Pizza is ordered, drinks are made, and Kirsten Dunst, who's been linked to VanWyngarden, flickers on a nearby TV. 54 NOVEMBER

ll

2OO8 WWWSPIN.COM

"We were shocked," Goldwasser says. "Theywere the first people who thought of us as a real band-we definitely didn t." After releasing the Time to PretendEP 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 VanWl.ngarden landed in Brooklyn, lMng with a girlfriend and only sporadically looking forjobs on Craigslist. By fall 2006, Goldwasser moved to Brooklyn as well, but pursuing the band further wasn't a priority. Meanwhile, Maureen Kenny, an A&R rep at Columbia Recordsr was trying to track them down. An intern had slipped her the EP, which Kenny couidn't stop listening to. When she finally found them and brought them to Manhattan's Peninsula Hotel for some old-fashioned wining and dining, Kenny recalls, "They ordered the most expensive drinks-$24 Bellinis-and Andrew asked if they'd get fur coats. And then they e-maiied me a dream list of producers that included Barack Obama and'not Sheryl Crow."' Their sincere choice was Dave Fridmann, who sprhkled similar stardust on the Flaming Lips. VanWyrrgarden and Goldwasser spent the winter of 2007 writing new runes and recording demos, which Fridmann passed on to the Lips'Wayne Coyne. ("We listened thinking, '\A/hat do they need a producerfor?"' Co;me recalls. 'They already knew what they wanted.') lVhen it came time to record at Fridmann's Tarbox Road Studios in bucolic Cassadag4 New York, the duo played every instrument, as they later did on the recently released 14-minute single "Metanoia." "They have this twin-sryle communicationbetweenthem," Fridmann says. "Theirmusical discovery is happening really quickly; they're just piowing through."

The process wasn't without bumps, however. Lines like "We're gonna keep you on the run,/ We got the handshake under our tongue" on "The Handshake," one of Oracular Spectaculqr's darker songs, betray reservations about even signing with Columbia. "The handshake is the deal," VarrWyngarden says. "I was thinking about a mental asylum, when a patient tricks the nurse by keeping the pills under

r
coaxed

his tongue, then spits them

outwhen

she walks away."

he day after the Holt Renfrew party, under steely gray skies, MGMT and company leave the hotel in a van for their gig at Toronto's Virgin Festival, driving past clusters of locals with digital cameras who hope to catch a glimpse of movie stars. \r'y'hen the guys pass, the looky-loos point duelessly-the scragglyhak and half-open eyes make themseem famous. After an hour, they reach a woodsy lake-island where the festival is under way; by the timeMGMTpiaythe main stage, thelate afternoonsunis shining.Amanonstilts in a red tuxedo and top hat chopsticks through the dense, largely female masses. Vi/hen the band exits, the crowd screams like an encore is possible. (It is not.) Just after sunset, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser gather twigs to build a bonfire in the backstage compound, the pressure of performing before some 20,000 people giving way to casual mischief. Musicians venture out of their trailers and flock to the flames. Sir Richard Brarson glides by as if he's just trimmed his sails. Then Jason Pierce of Spiritualized approaches, and VanWyngarden's and Goldwasser's eyes widen. Pierce says hello, tells them he loves their record, and asks about their upcoming tours. \A/hen he bids farewell, they are vibrating like tweens who've just
a Jonas

Brother to part with his purity ring. "Oh my God, he's our

idol"

says

55 NOVEMBER

2OO8 WWW.SPIN.COM

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