One member has Mexico ties
Alternative rock band MGMT has opened for acts such as Beck, Paul McCartney and Radiohead. They've headlined tours and played at the Coachella and Lollapalooza music festivals. The band has been nominated for two Grammys and two MTV Video Music Awards. MGMT's debut album, 2008's "Oracular Spectacular," has sold more than one million copies worldwide and was named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time. "Time to Pretend," the lead single off that same album, was named one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
And when millions across the country watch the band perform on "The Late Show with David Letterman" tonight, one Mexico family will pay particular attention to frontman Andrew VanWyngarden.
Andrew is the son of Bruce VanWyngarden, a 1966 graduate of Mexico High School and editor of the Memphis, Tenn. newspaper "The Memphis Flyer." Born in Columbia in 1983 before his father relocated to Memphis, Andrew VanWyngarden would visit Mexico in his youth to see his grandparents, Lucille and Wells VanWyngarden. Lucille VanWyngarden and her daughter, Laura Christenson, still call Mexico home. Christenson in particular is a fan of the band's music.
"I just love the way Andrew writes, he's an absolute genius," she says. "You really have to read the lyrics to understand what he writes about, but Andrew confronts the issues that a lot of young people are dealing with today."
Andrew VanWyngarden formed MGMT along with Ben Goldwasser while the two were freshmen at Connecticut's Wesleyan University. Music had long been a part of life in the VanWyngarden family: Bruce VanWyngarden played snare drum in the Dixie Gray Marching Band and later fronted the Columbia-based band Nuveau. Wells VanWyngarden had played trumpet in big-band ensembles.
"Andrew was musical from day one," Bruce VanWyngarden says. "He picked up a Les Paul in a used guitar shop and we got it for him as a Christmas gift later."
Bruce VanWyngarden spent six days touring with the band this summer in Milwaukee and throughout Canada. Christenson likewise has had the opportunity to visit Andrew VanWyngarden backstage when the band has performed in Kansas City.
"I think that was the first time I remember thinking the band had made it," Christenson says. "In 2008 they were opening for Beck in Kansas City and I when I asked a group of teenagers who they were there to see they told me MGMT. It blew my mind how popular they had become."
Despite the band's popularity, many in Mexico are unaware of MGMT's local ties. Lucille VanWyngarden recounts a time when "Time to Pretend" was playing over the speakers at a local gas station.
"I was there with my son-in-law and he asked the girl behind the counter if she liked the music," VanWyngarden says. "She said 'yes' and the girl was shocked when she found out I was Andrew's grandmother."
Christenson isn't surprised when people aren't aware of the band. The music of MGMT is psychedelic, and in many ways better compared to the Doors and Pink Floyd then modern pop-music. But Christenson says the experimental sound of the band shouldn't deter people from listening to them.
"The music grows on you the more you listen to it," she says. "The music has so many layers and every time you listen you can find something new."
Tonight's performance will not mark the first time MGMT has played on network television. They have previously performed on "The Late Show" twice, as well as "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," and "Saturday Night Live."
"I don't actually know if I'll stay up to watch it," Bruce, who will be visiting Mexico for a reunion with friends, says about the band's performance. "I've seen them perform so many times that I might just record the show and watch in the morning."
Christenson does not feel the same way.
"Well, you know, my brother is getting old," she says with a laugh. "I wouldn't miss it. And I'll definitely go see them when they play in Kansas City next month."
"The Late Show" airs tonight at 10:35 on CBS. MGMT will perform in Kansas City Sept. 7 at Crossroads KC and the band's self-titled third album is set for release Sept. 17.