During an appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert last month, MGMT dusted off their classic 2008 hit “Electric Feel”. For many viewers, myself included, it seemed like a nice yet rare acknowledgement of what most consider to be their best album, Oracular Spectacular. Despite the popularity the duo found through that LP — and the impact it’s had on music in general — it’s long been rumored that MGMT themselves weren’t fans of it and purposely left its songs off their setlists.
Now, in an interview with Kyle Meredith of 91.9 Radio Louisville, the band’s Andrew VanWyngarden has cleared the air regarding this storied misconception. When asked how he and Ben Goldwasser view their debut album, VanWyngarden explained that they not only “celebrate” it, but also recognize how much it has informed them as artists 10 years later.
“It will never not be some sort of impossible thing that happened… Without us really focusing much attention or intention on trying to make something popular,” he told Meredith. As the story goes, Oracular Spectacular initially came together as something of a joke, but eventually took on a life of its own.
“It sustains us now,” he added. “We would never want to deny that. We try to celebrate it and keep that as an important part of who we are.” For longtime listeners, that should be a relief to hear. As MGMT progressed in their career, each subsequent album seemed to find them moving farther away from the sound of their first album — which fans took as an obvious sign that MGMT wanted to leave that era behind them. That maybe “Kids” was to MGMT like “Creep” was to Radiohead.
VanWyngarden also disputed the narrative that the band no longer enjoys playing the songs live. “Unfortunately the couple times we didn’t play those songs were highly visible moments, like Coachella 2010. The song ‘Kids’ was actually on the setlist, but we ran out of time. We didn’t play it and the whole thing people took away from it is that ‘we don’t play it anymore.’ But, honestly, I think at 90% of the shows we played, we played three popular songs from our first album.”
That said, don’t expect MGMT to ever stage a full performance of Oracular Spectacular. “I don’t even know I’d want to go see a band doing that, I’d rather to just listen to the album on headphones. If we’re going to go a concert, I’d like there to be an element of surprise,” VanWyngarden explained.
Elsewhere in the discussion with Meredith, VanWyngarden talked about legendary artists MGMT hoped to record with. We already heard the story in which Lou Reed turned down a collaboration with them and even suggested they fire their managers. VanWyngarden divulged that Brian Eno was another icon they reached out to, but ultimately received a rejection from. MGMT are still holding out hope they can someday book studio time with him. “We wrote a song about him… maybe it will happen.”
Check out the full interview below. MGMT’s latest album, Little Dark Age, is out now.