The psychedelic rock duo MGMT are back with new music, and we talked to band member Benjamin Goldwasser about first impressions in college, music that changes your life, and the theme from ‘Ghostbusters’.
We met Benjamin Goldwasser from MGMT when him and his band mate Andrew VanWyngarden played in Stockholm. Right now they are touring intensively in support of their latest album, MGMT. Benjamin describesMGMT as pretty different musically in comparison with their previous records. “We’ve been trying some different ways of writing songs. We’ve been more patient with ourselves, and worked on something for a longer period of time until we got this feeling of something happening, instead of forcing it. It’s getting back to the spirit of how the band was when we first started making music together” he says.
Q: You and Andrew met during your freshman year of college. What was your first impression of eachother?
A: We hit it off right away. We were hanging out with the same group of friends and we had both come to college as musicians who were looking for other people to play with. We played in lots of different bands, separate from each other, and started writing music together just for fun. We didn’t really think of it as a band at that point, we were just kind of hanging out and gradually we realized that we were actually in a band. We were pretty close friends from the beginning and went on a lot of road trips together, driving around the United States, going to visit friends from college out in the mid-west somewhere. It was the first time I ever really saw the country. The first tour we did was just the two of us in his pick-up truck, just driving to all of these crazy places. It was cool.
Q: When your debut album came out, it was an instant hit. What was it like to have that major success with your best friend?
A: We didn’t really expect anything like that. For a while, we didn’t even believe that it was happening. We thought it was just a dream and that we would wake up from it. After a while, a lot of the fame and that side of things started to wear on us, we’re not really the kind of people who care about things like that. It’s great to be recognized for what you do and have people like it, but for people to expect us to be rock starts all the time… It’s not who we are and I think we care more about making good music and giving people something meaningful to listen to. That’s the main priority for us, so we were kind of relieved when a lot of the hype died down and we could just go back to making music.
Q: Tell us about your first gig!
A: It was a talent show in our dorm, we performed the theme from Ghostbusters for twenty minutes. It ended with Andrew laying down, rolling around on the floor telling everyone to leave. That was history.
Q: Oh wow. Had you prepared that or was it just in the moment?
– We had prepared a little bit. We had a loop with the chords forGhostbusters, but that was about it! I think some people liked it and some people really hated it, which hasn’t really changed for us. Except that there are more people listening now. I think we’ve always gotten mixed reactions, but people react strongly to what we do, and to me that is the best compliment.
Q: Have you ever gone back to your college and played?
A: Yeah, we’ve been back a few times. We’ve actually kind of overdue for another visit, it’s been a long time. We still love going back there. It’s a pretty special place and a cool crowd of people. It’s a cool combination of really smart people and creative people who like to have a good time.
Q: Are you a legendary band there?
A: I don’t know what it’s like for them now. When we went to college there, there were a few kind of famous bands or filmmakers who had come out of that school. We heard about them, but we were kind of over it at that point. We wanted to do our own thing. I kind of hope that it will be like that for people there now. Maybe they’re proud of the fact that we came from there, but at the same time they won’t try to replicate whatever we did.
Q: What would you say is the ultimate goal with your music?
A: Mostly to capture the feeling that we get when we listen to music that we really like. People listen to music because it gives them kind of this visceral feeling that they can’t get from anything else. We just want to make more of that for other people and try to make something different from what is already out there. Maybe expose people to new ideas, new ways of listening to music, or paying attention to the world around them.
Q: Do you remember a song from when you were younger that had that effect on you?
A: One of the first bands that I heard in high school that really got me to start thinking about music differently was King Crimson. I know that for most people it’s not a cool band by any means, but I remember hearing it and at first I couldn’t stand it. It sounded awful to me, I couldn’t understand why anybody would make music like that. Then I decided that I was gonna listen to it until I figured out what was going on, and try to appreciate it because I could tell that whatever they were doing, they meant it. To me, that was an important lesson. If somebody really means something by what they’re doing, it’s worth a try to get into it.
Q: What is next for MGMT?
A: Touring is gonna be one of the big things right now, and we will hopefully be doing some festivals next summer. We really want to come over to Europe and do festivals again, because we kind of missed out on the last tour. We are also talking about how much we want to start working on another album already. Hopefully we will be able to do some work on that while we’re touring. We’re already excited to put more music out.