, June 4, 2010
By Andrew Dansby

MGMT's drummer talks about touring behind Congratulations


Two years ago Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden released Oracular Spectacular as MGMT. The album was something of a surprise hit behind two unavoidable singles. With the new Congratulations  the two multi-instrumentalists brought their touring band -- James Richardson, Matt Asti and Will Berman -- in on the recording process, with each member playing a rash of guitars and keys and basses and percussion.

Congratulations was hit with bad buzz -- much of it about what was deemed as uncommercial content -- before it was even released. Admittedly the album is missing the sort of sugary singles that end up in movie trailers, but Congratulations is the better recording. There are big melodies and lushly orchestrated instrumentation along with lyrics full of confusion and befuddlement that suggest two guys trying to make sense of their success. Berman, who handles drums for the band on tour, answered a few questions about the album and tour. The band makes a stop in Houston to play the House of Blues Monday night.

Q: It seems like there are dozens of instruments layered on Congratulations. Has it been difficult to transfer that to the live show?
A: Yeah, we're still working out which parts are the most important to play live. There's lot of stuff on album we can't possibly reproduce at live show. It's actually mostly up to Ben and James, who handle all keyboard stuff, to figure out how to spread all those parts across their four hands.

Q: Was it difficult to get into a recording process with Andrew and Ben since they made the first record on their own?
A: No, it went really well. It was kind of like whoever came up with an idea on whatever instrument got to work on it. Everybody was free to lay down what was going through their heads. Andrew and Ben had written these skeletonized versions of the songs, and once me, Matt and James came into the studio, that was the fun part. Everybody felt free to do whatever to dress it up.

Q: Is Siberian Breaks in the set? It's my favorite on the record, but it seems like it would be tough to pull off.
A: We're doing it. That is the most fun song to play for me. But it's also probably the toughest with a lot of jarring transitions. (Pauses and laughs.) The other night I saw a girl in the front row, she had a permanent yawn on her face through the entire song. I almost felt bad for her.

Q: Was it frustrating to have the album judged so harshly before it was even released?
A: Yeah, it's funny, even before the album leaked, we'd just released the album cover art and people were (ticked) off about that alone (laughs), calling it the worst atrocity of an album cover ever. Even before the music people were ready to jump on it. It grew into this crazy critical beat-down. But as far as the album reviews and stuff like that, we're trying not to let it get to us. It's not something we have any control over.