MGMT is an American psychedelic rock band founded by Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden. After the release of their first album, the members of their live band, Matthew Asti, James Richardson and Will Berman, joined the core band in the studio. Formed at Wesleyan University and originally with Cantora Records, they signed with Columbia Records and Red Ink in 2006.
On October 5, 2007, Spin.com named MGMT “Artist of the Day.” On November 14, 2007, Rolling Stone pegged MGMT as a top ten “Artist to Watch” in 2008. The band was named ninth in the BBC’s Sound of 2008 Top Ten Poll. They were also named as Last.fm’s most played new artist of 2008 in their Best of 2008 lists.
MGMT’s first album, Oracular Spectacular, debuted at No. 12 on the UK album chart, No. 13 after 34 weeks in the New Zealand RIANZ charts, number six on the Australian ARIA Charts, and hit number one on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart. It has also been named the 18th best album of the decade by Rolling Stone magazine. It was named the best album of 2008 by NME. MGMT also appeared prominently in Australia’s Triple J Hottest 100 2008, coming in 2nd with “Electric Feel”, 5th with “Kids” and 18th with “Time to Pretend”. MGMT was nominated for the 2010 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and their track “Kids” was nominated for Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals. These are the first Grammy nominations for the band. At the 2009 Grammy Awards, the Justice remix of “Electric Feel” won the Grammy Award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical. Their second album, Congratulations, was released on April 13, 2010. In January 2011 they began work on their third album, MGMT. It was released in September 17, 2013, and was released as an early exclusive on the Rdio music service on September 9, 2013.
MGMT at La Route du Rock 2008, 23 February 2008, 23:59. Photo by Bertrand from Paris, France.
Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden formed the band while attending Wesleyan University during their freshman year. “We weren’t trying to start a band,” remarked Goldwasser. “We were just hanging out and showing each other music that we liked.” They experimented with noise rock and electronica before settling on what Paco Alvarez of Spin calls “their current brand of shape-shifting psychedelic pop.” They graduated in 2005 and toured extensively in support of the Time to Pretend EP, opening for indie pop band Of Montreal.
The band first started with the name The Management, releasing various demo albums including Climbing to New Lows, but since this name was already being used by another band, they later changed it to MGMT. This abbreviation stands for Management.
In the autumn of 2006, Maureen Kenny signed the band to Columbia Records. When they got a phone call from the A&R department of Columbia Records saying they were interested in their music, they thought it was a joke. The duo recorded with Flaming Lips/Sleater-Kinney music producer Dave Fridmann in 2007 for their major label debut, Oracular Spectacular. MGMT opened for Of Montreal on tour in autumn 2007 as a five-piece touring band including Matthew Asti (bass), James Richardson (drums), and Hank Sullivant (guitar). In November 2007, they performed for the first time in Europe, supporting the band Samantha and The Courteeners at Koko in London, England. After March 2008, Hank Sullivant left the band to pursue his own band, Kuroma. Will Berman joined as the new drummer, James Richardson switched from drums to guitar, and Matthew Asti remained on bass.
In January 2009, MGMT demanded compensation from the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Party. The UMP, headed by Nicolas Sarkozy (the former President of France), used the song “Kids” without permission at a party conference and in two online videos in 2008.
In an official statement, MGMT remarked that “the fact that the UMP used our song without permission while simultaneously pushing anti-piracy legislation seemed a little wack.”
The UMP initially offered a symbolic compensation of €1 to MGMT (about $1.34), but the band refused that offer. Finally, in April 2009, the parties settled out of court, and the UMP agreed to pay MGMT around €2,500 for legal fees and €30,000 for copyright infringement. MGMT donated this money to an artists’ rights organization.
The band supported Radiohead on the Manchester date of their world tour and went on a headline tour of the UK during November 2008, playing at venues such as Manchester Academy and Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
MGMT opened for M.I.A. on the Vassar College date of her 2008 tour, and also played several shows with Beck while he toured in 2008. They appeared at the 2008 and 2009 editions of the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Bruce Springsteen was in attendance during their 2009 Bonnaroo late-night set, which followed his headlining appearance on What Stage. They also toured Australia with a headlining spot on the Meredith Music Festival line-up.
They also played a show at the Virgin Music Festival on the Toronto Islands on September 6, 2008, playing nine songs off their Oracular Spectacular album. They also played the 2008 Street Scene festival in San Diego, California. On February 27, 2009, MGMT performed alongside Spectrum at The Dome in Finsbury Park. MGMT also played another show in Australia at the 2009 Splendour in the Grass Festival. MGMT headlined this music festival along with other well known bands such as Bloc Party, The Flaming Lips, Happy Mondays, and Jane’s Addiction.
MGMT opened for Paul McCartney, an admitted fan, at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 5 and 6, 2009.
On August 15, 2009, MGMT played in Hamburg, Germany, at the Dockville Festival and performed several songs from their upcoming album.
MGMT was one of the headlining bands for the Treasure Island Music Festival on Treasure Island in San Francisco, California, on October 17, 2009.
MGMT’s Congratulations album was released on April 13, 2010. The band, including Matthew Asti, James Richardson, and Will Berman from the live band, spent the summer of 2009 in Malibu, California, recording the album with Pete Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom) — formerly of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum – serving as producer/guru, and long-time friend, Billy Bennett (also an NCAA record holding kicker for the University of Georgia), as engineer.
MGMT originally suggested that they might not release any singles from the album. By July 2010, however, four single releases from the album had been confirmed. The album cover art for Congratulations was created for MGMT by Anthony Ausgang and the overall design of the packaging is by Josh Cheuse of Sony Entertainment. On March 9, 2010, MGMT released the song “Flash Delirium” for free download on their official website. On March 20, the band allowed users to stream their new album from their website.
MGMT started their Congratulations Tour on April 12, 2010, in San Francisco, California, at The Fillmore. They performed on April 23 at Brown University’s Spring Weekend; on April 27 at Yale University’s Spring Fling; on April 30 at the University of New Hampshire’s Spring Climax; and on May 1 at Fordham University’s Spring Weekend.
They performed on Saturday Night Live on April 24, 2010, and on the Late Show with David Letterman on May 12 to promote their new album, and on June 11, MGMT played their largest headlining show anywhere in the world with a sold-out, 9,500 capacity gig at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. On June 25, MGMT performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and on July 23, they were the musical guests on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
On August 25, MGMT released a music video for “Congratulations”, the third video of their second album. MGMT was one of the third tier bands for the 2010 Coachella Festival in Indio, California. The event draws nearly 120,000 attendees annually. On October 31, 2010, the band performed for the Voodoo Experience in New Orleans, Louisiana. The band decided to dress as the main characters from Scooby-Doo for Halloween; Andrew dressed up as Daphne and Ben dressed up as Velma. They headlined at Fun Fun Fun Fest which was held at Waterloo Park in Austin, Texas on November 6, 2010. The performance was the last show in the US for MGMT in 2010. Their first 2011 gig was at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in front of a crowd of more than 40,000 on the beach in a free event which they headlined.
MGMT began their first Asian tour on February 22, 2011.
On September 22, 2011 MGMT performed the Pink Floyd song “Lucifer Sam” during Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’s “Pink Floyd Week”.
On March 30, 2012, the band premiered a new song, entitled “Alien Days” [for their self-titled album), at a show in Bogotá, Colombia. The band performed on August 3, 2012 in Montreal, Quebec at Osheaga, and on August 5, 2012 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, US at Musikfest.
On April 20, 2013, the band released the studio version of “Alien Days”. The band then embarked on a spring tour, followed by fall/autumn and winter tour dates for North America. Following VanWyngarden’s shoulder surgery in mid-2013, former touring member Hank Sullivant rejoined the band to play live guitar for the remainder of 2013. Sullivant played with VanWyngarden when they were in high school and is in the band Kuroma, whose next album is produced by Goldwasser.
In an interview that was published on September 11, 2013, VanWyngarden provided some insight into the songwriting process for the third album:
“With pretty much every song on this new album, we were like, ‘This time we’re gonna write a pop song.’ But at this point in our careers, we can’t write a pop song. If we tried, we’d either get bummed out, or we’d change it enough until it was something that we actually liked.”
The self-titled album was released September 17, 2013. An exclusive early release of the album, along with a full-length music video called Optimizer, was available from the Rdio music service on September 9, 2013.
The Optimizer (Trailer)
They have collaborated with the rapper Kid Cudi, and are featured on one track – “Pursuit of Happiness” from his album Man on the Moon: The End of Day. For the 2010 MTV VMA’s Kid Cudi was nominated for Best Hip-Hop video for “Pursuit of Happiness” a track which features MGMT and Ratatat. They also collaborated on the track “Worm Mountain” on The Flaming Lips’ Embryonic.
On September 4, 2009, Beck announced his second Record Club covers album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. MGMT contributed, alongside Devendra Banhart, Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother and Binki Shapiro of Little Joy. Andrew VanWyngarden chose the album.
Lead singer: Andrew VanWyngarden (2002–)
Members: Andrew VanWyngarden, Benjamin Goldwasser, Matt Asti, Will Berman, Hank Sullivant, James Richardson
Record labels: Sony Records, RED Distribution, Columbia, Sony Music Entertainment, Cantora Records
Origin: Brooklyn, NY, Middletown, CT
Oracular Spectacular (2007)
MGMT awards and nominations
Sources: Wikipedia, MGMT website, David Letterman Show