Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. But for MGMT vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden, it was the other way around.
He says you can hear it in the breezy lyrics and undulating rhythms of the band’s 2007 debut, “Oracular Spectacular.”
“I’d never surfed, but for that album, I was dreaming about surfing a lot,” VanWyngarden says. “So there’s this strange part of my brain that’s been dreaming about surfing for a long time.”
So in January, while recording the upcoming “Congratulations” in Malibu, the Brooklynite was compelled to grab his first longboard and hit the Pacific Ocean.
Now, VanWyngarden is living the dream. His Treasure Island Music Festival gig this weekend — the band plays Saturday, the first in the two-day event — also represents an opportunity to explore Bay Area beaches.
VanWyngarden was afraid of the ocean initially, he says. “Because I’m from New York, where you can go surfing but it’s more of an excursion and you have to go all the way out to Rockaway or Jones Beach. But I finally did it, I’m happy I did, and Malibu’s where I figured it all out.”
He already has tested the waves in Waikiki and Australia’s more challenging Maroubra.
But all hasn’t been calm. MGMT just won a legal battle with the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose Union for a Popular Movement party used the band’s song “Kids” in Web site videos without permission.
“What made us decide to act was the fact that France was trying to pass this strict anti-piracy legislation at the same time that would punish illegal downloaders,” says VanWyngarden, who turned down Sarkozy’s first offer of a single token euro. “It was pretty blatant of them to do that, so we tried to make a point of taking action.”
Still, the guitarist and his keyboardist partner, Ben Goldwasser, have the winds at their back. MGMT just opened for Paul McCartney, who wants to collaborate with them.
At the home studio they’ve set up in Malibu, Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember from Spacemen 3 is on board as producer and Royal Trux vixen Jennifer Herrema just laid down vocal tracks.
“The song ‘Congratulations’ itself is pretty dark,” VanWyngarden says of the record, due in early 2010. “It’s us trying to deal with all the craziness that’s been going on since our last album took off. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel natural.”
But VanWyngarden knows where to go when the pressure builds.
“I feel so relaxed and happy if I go surfing,” he says. “It’s the greatest thing for stress relief!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Bridge Stage, Treasure Island Music Festival
When: 9:25 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $65 single day; $115 advance two days
Note: No parking on the island, but free shuttle service runs from Lot A at AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco
Treasure Island Music Festival at a glance
Bridge Stage: MGMT, 9:25 p.m.; MSTRKRFT, 7:15 p.m.; Brazilian Girls, 6:05 p.m.; The Streets, 4:25 p.m.; Passion Pit, 2:50 p.m.; Murs, 1:20 p.m.; The Limousines, noon
Tunnel Stage: Girl Talk, 8:35 p.m.; LTJ Bukem featuring MC Conrad, 6:55 p.m.; DJ Krush, 5:15 p.m.; Dan Deacon, 3:35 p.m.; Federico Aubele, 2:05 p.m.; Crown City Rockers, 12:10 p.m.
Bridge Stage: The Flaming Lips, 9:05 p.m.; The Decemberists, 7:10 p.m.; Beirut, 5:30 p.m.; Grizzly Bear, 4 p.m.; Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, 2:30 p.m.; Thao with The Get Down Stay Down; 1:15 p.m.; Sleepy Sun, noon
Tunnel Stage: Yo La Tengo, 8:10 p.m.; The Walkmen, 6:20 p.m.; Bob Mould, 4:45 p.m.; Vetiver, 3:15 p.m.; Spiral Stairs, 1:55 p.m.; Tommy Guerrero, 12:10 p.m.