Much buzzed about alt pop-rock outfit MGMT's first major headlining tour is mainly about the music - not the spectacle, says lead singer and guitarist Andrew Van Wyngarden.
"We don't have a big production - no costume changes or wild sets," says Van Wyngarden, who makes his Atlantic City debut with the band this weekend at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. The band Violens opens for the band.
"It's inspired more by bands like the Grateful Dead or '60s bands where the shows were more about playing the songs."
The reference to The Dead is apt because the band's stylistically eclectic second album, "Congratulations" (Columbia), ventures into psychedelic territory that's a bit of a departure from its Grammy-nominated debut, "Oracular Spectacular."
Van Wyngarden, before coming to Atlantic City, spoke to At The Shore about MGMT's sonic evolution and the strong musical ties that bind him with co-founder (and fellow Wesleyan alumnus) Ben Goldwasser.
Question: Second records can be tough propositions for bands. How did you approach "Congratulations?"
Answer: We didn't really know what it was going to end up like, or what we were going to do with it. We started writing pretty quickly after we stopped touring with the first record. It developed from the mental state we were in, post epic-world tour.
At that point, we were a little overwhelmed at what just happened - that's how the songs started to take shape.
Q: Some critics consider the record to mine new musical ground. What's your take?
A: I think it's definitely different. It's not like we were trying to replicate exactly the sounds from the first album, but I understand why some are saying it's different.
We've never been a band that has a specific sound. We always like changing it up and trying different things, and we've continued to do that.
Q: You almost turned down Paul McCartney's offer to open for him last year at Fenway Park in Boston. What was your hesitation?
A: We were hesitant to book a lot of shows last year while we were recording. ... We wanted to stay in the creative mindset.
A show playing with Paul McCartney in a baseball stadium was a little nerve-wracking. Of course, it was really cool to meet Paul McCartney, but playing new songs at such an early stage of development was a bit strange.
Now it's nice to play new songs people have heard.
Q: Last year, you settled a lawsuit with French President Nicolas Sarkozy of France over his use of your track "Kids" without permission at a party conference and in two video clips. What motivated the lawsuit?
A: We're not really adamant about illegal downloading - we usually don't care if people use our music for things on the Internet without asking.
It was really more the fact that they were using it on the website that was promoting their political party. One of the things they were trying to pass was a law that was pretty harsh punishment for illegal downloads.
The hypocrisy of the situation made Ben and I feel like we couldn't just let them use it.
Q: At its core, the band is a duo, but you also have three other members - Matthew Asti, James Richardson and Will Berman. How do they shape MGMT's identity? Are they a permanent part of the line up?
A: They're permanent in the sense they've been playing with us since we started touring as a live band after the first album came out.
To me, the heart and soul of the band feels like it's me and Ben.
For the new album, the other guys were involved in flushing out things and adding parts, but the songs themselves were still written by me and Ben.
We have a pretty special connection musically with these guys. We're really great friends and love touring together. It's not like we're going to be changing the band up anytime soon.
MGMT with Violens
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21
WHERE: Event Center, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City
HOW MUCH: Tickets, priced at $39.50, are available at the
Borgata box office or
WEB SITE: www.whoismgmt.com