When Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser met at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the duo sensed a musical kinship and decided to start a band.
By the time the musicians graduated, they’d developed MGMT and had a deal with Columbia Records. Now the band’s innovative sounds and throwback feel have sparked an interest among fans and critics alike.
Who: MGMT, with Tame Impala
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison
The group’s never looked back, and MGMT today is one of the hottest indie acts on the road. Friday night, the band makes its headlining debut at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
“When Andrew and I met in college, we were just hanging out and playing music,” Goldwasser said in a recent interview. “We were just messing around with songs and we didn’t take it seriously.
“We shared musical tastes and we listened to a lot of our parents’ older stuff. We listened to punk rock, psychedelic stuff from the ’60s and underground music.”
The members of MGMT spent their time experimenting with electronic sounds before the band came upon its shape-shifting brand of psychedelic pop.
“We never really figured out our sound,” Goldwasser said. “We’re not true to any one particular style — and that probably gets us into trouble. We have so many musical interests.
“We started out playing mostly rock and electronic music on laptops. It just happened and it was easy, but now we use real instruments and we have a completely different approach to our songwriting.”
By the time MGMT graduated from Wesleyan, the band had an EP under its belt and an opening slot for the band Of Montreal.
MGMT released its debut, Oracular Spectacular, in 2007. Word got out about the band’s inventive music and entertaining live shows, and by 2010 the act was playing events such as the prestigious Coachella festival.
“Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time writing songs in the traditional style of guitar and piano,” Goldwasser said. “I think there’s a tendency for us not to discriminate between what’s retro or modern.
“We don’t make music that’s influenced by personal references, but we do listen to a lot of different kinds of music.”
That philosophy inspired MGMT’s new release, Congratulations. The band created its own complex musical world for the record and beckoned listeners to explore its retro-meets-modern pop sounds.
“We were really excited to work on Congratulations,” Goldwasser said. “We started from nothing and built the whole thing up. When we made our first record, the songs were already old for us.
“That’s why we started fresh and wrote these new songs. It was a cool experience to start something together without a reference point.”
The duo didn’t set out to create concept record, but Goldwasser and VanWyngarden did pay homage to some of their musical heroes on Congratulations. The new CD even features a tune called “Brian Eno” in honor of the veteran musician and producer (U2, Coldplay).
“When we set out to write the lyrics for this record, we didn’t want to do the typical band thing and write about life on the road,” Goldwasser said. “But we ended up writing about a lot of that. We couldn’t experience it and ignore it.
“We also wanted to write about things that the rest of the world could relate to. The song ‘Flash Delirium’ is all about the confusing state of the world — and the confusing state in our own heads. We just made a video for the song and it has this really freaky party vibe.”
Wasserman said the new record also reflects MGMT’s sonic discoveries.
“There hasn’t been a big change sonically, but we’ve gotten better at making the sound we want to hear,” Goldwasser said. “It’s still a learning process for us. On our first record, we had no idea what we were doing.
“This record features badly recorded with well-recorded sounds, and lo-fi and hi-fi sounds combined. You might hear a melody that comes out of nowhere — and you never hear it again on the record.”
MGMT’s unpredictable sound fusion is attracting fans, and now the band’s headlining major venues such as Red Rocks.
Goldwasser said the band’s taking it all in stride.
“We’re really happy to get all this attention, but we are a little nervous about this being such a big deal,” Goldwasser said. “We’re just happy that people are responding to the music and that we’re playing the music we love to make.
“It is crazy to be on our first headlining tour. We’re getting to visit all these cities we haven’t played for a while. We’re going to have a pretty cool show for Red Rocks with a light show and all these projections — this all feels really good.”