Music: MGMT + RTG

JON BREAM , [email protected] | Updated 8/17/2012

Rock the Garden headliners MGMT may try to freak you out with their music, but they're really just softies at heart.

Ben: We talk about that a lot. It's not as extreme as that sounds. I think we enjoy pushing the boundaries of good taste and not thinking of the music in terms of what will sound pleasing to the most people. It's more like we like to play with people's expectations and do something that we know is generally going against good taste but we do it anyway.

Andrew: I think a lot of the music we listen to does that. Ben and I like moments where music makes you feel simultaneously disgusted and also really happy and wanting to listen to it again. We're not going to serve music on a platter that's easy to take in. But we're also not going to be making a drone record anytime soon, or experimental piano pieces. It's not like we're avant-garde musicians. We're making pop music with a little different thinking.

Q: I saw a comment from you guys that suggested that maybe the success you had with your first album was a fluke. Do you feel that way?

Andrew: For us to get picked up by a major label for some songs we'd written for fun and hadn't played in front of a lot of people, it was kind of like a fluke. It happened at a time when it was uncertain if we were going to be in this band or go our separate ways and get jobs.

Q: In the Twin Cities, the fans' take on MGMT is that people loved the first album but your concerts here were disappointing. And now they're saying, "The new album is confusing; you have to listen to it many times before you get it. And what's the show going to be like?" How do you react to that?

Andrew: We have definitely improved as a live band. This is the first time that we've really felt confident in our live show. Completely. Also, I think when we put out our first album, people didn't come to the shows expecting to see a rock band that was more influenced by the Grateful Dead than a lot of other things. Maybe it threw people for a loop. Hopefully this time around people will kind of know what to expect. What we're playing live kind of sounds a lot like the album.

Q: I get the impression that it's more of a five-piece band now rather than a duo.

Andrew: It's been that way for two years now, but it's been hard to get that across.

Q: Let's talk about a couple of the songs on "Congratulations." What is your single "Flash Delirium" about?

Ben: It's about mental breakdowns and being around and being friends with people who are actually legitimately schizophrenic or crazy, and thinking about the process of when does that person stop realizing what's happening instead of going all the way. It's a scary thought.

Q: Why do you love Brian Eno so much?

Andrew: The song ["Brian Eno"] isn't necessarily all about worshipping Brian Eno. We started it as a joke as poking fun of this image that he has as this kind of master of musical alchemy. We do love Brian Eno -- from Talking Heads albums he worked on to his own solo albums to stuff with Cluster, Roxy Music, Devo. We heard from his manager that he likes the song.

Q: What did the Grammy nomination this year for best new artist mean to you?

Ben: It's confirmation that we had some mainstream recognition, which we weren't shooting for necessarily. It was a weird experience, the whole Grammy thing. Of course, it was a big deal growing up, artists getting Grammys. I don't think we felt that comfortable in the Staples Center [where the Grammys were held]. I don't think we felt we belonged there. I don't think the Grammys were a highlight for us.

Q: Andrew, please give me five adjectives that describe Ben.

Andrew: I'm going to say "kittens," which can be used as an adjective. Then I would say he's very nice. He's humble, he's talented. And stylish.

Q: Now tell me one thing about Ben that might surprise people.

Andrew: His pinkie on his left hand -- right hand? -- is permanently at an angle.

Ben: Ring finger.

Q: Now, Ben, you give me five adjectives to describe Andrew and then something people would be surprised to learn about him.

Ben: Andrew is colorful. He has good hair. [Andrew laughs.] I don't know an adjective to describe that. Spontaneous, gifted and charismatic.

Andrew: What about puppies? I thought you might describe me as puppies.

Ben: Sure, if you'd like that. The one thing that would surprise people is he's growing a mustache.

Andrew: No, I shaved it this morning.

Ben: You did? Oh, darn it.

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