Every university has its fair share of start-up bands. Playing in a band is the thing to do if you are a musician and in college. Everyone's making new friends, has time on their hands, is accustomed to pulling all-nighters, and possesses a youthful optimism. All this creates a perfect formula for band formation. This is exactly how MGMT got started: a couple of friends in a dorm room were messing around on a laptop. Luckily, they happened to be talented musicians and before you know it a band was born. As one journalist puts it:
"This is the story of two crazy kids who wrote some deliberately obtuse songs while getting high at college, before going their separate ways, moving to different cities and forgetting all about their pop dreams. The twist is that, by total accident, they end up signing to a major record label a year later and then have to relearn what they have unlearned before their triumphant appearance, confusing America, on David Letterman. If this was a movie, it would star Aaron Carter and Stifler from 'American Pie' and you'd want your money back afterwards. In real life, fortunately, it stars likeable cosmos cadets Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser and it's all good."
— Eddy Lawrence, Time Out London
The duo met at Wesleyan College in Connecticut in 2002. The guys were music majors and played live shows around campus. They recorded a bunch of tracks, but never really had the intention of starting a band. Though they went their separate ways after graduating, they did manage to release the "Time to Pretend" EP on an indie label, Cantora Records. Even though the EP was released on such a small label, it caught the attention of prominent producer Steve Lillywhite of industry giant Columbia Records. Through a fortunate series of serendipitous opportunities and accidents, MGMT ended up getting signed to a major label. As Goldwasser told an interviewer:
"We never really could believe what was happening. We wouldn't have been able to handle it if we'd taken it seriously, so we had to treat it as a joke early on. At first we thought it was a prank at first that somebody had gotten in touch with us. We hadn't shopped around at all for labels because we didn't think anybody would be interested. We were pretty much ready to move on from the band as a career choice. There was an intern who worked for our A&R at Columbia who was friends with a couple of our friends from college. He just dropped it off on her desk or something. So it was really random. We weren't expecting to hear from any labels at all."
Now, just three years later, MGMT has taken off into the stratosphere, gaining worldwide praise and attention. Yet the two guys at the heart of it still maintain their original quirkiness. After concerts, they tend to linger onstage after their set to play an encore of covers that they hardly know. They want to play a concert only for dogs. When asked the question, "If MGMT is a corporation and you two are the CEOs, what do you make?" Andrew replied, "Alien space discos." They have one, "Metanoia," which is fourteen minutes long and designed to cause the audience's eyes to "glaze over halfway through it" and another that they believe exists in four dimensions. In one of their earliest gigs, they played a weird electronic loop while inflating a giant lawn-ornament snowman. When it was done inflating, they stopped what they were playing and did a wacky cover of "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. Once, during an outdoor festival, there was a high school cheerleading competition and the boys invited the winning squad onstage to perform their number during "Kids." MGMT have come a long way from the guys who would just screw around onstage during college. Through all of their experimentation and crazy stunts, they have become true artists. And for those fans who refuse to accept their metamorphosis, we'll leave you with two final thoughts:
Ben: "It's kinda funny to see people try to figure out where we're coming from or try to pin us down one way or another. We're just kind of f*cking around; we don't really know what we're doing."
Andrew: "We still have that mentality where we wanna wear fur coats and always be making the music we want to make and being good dudes. No one likes assholes. It's annoying when people turn into assholes, we never want to be like that."