Insect wings, dimmer switches and ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba are not the usual inspirations for bonafide hit singles, but for MGMT, it worked. On the latest episode of the excellent Song Exploder podcast, Benjamin Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden from MGMT detail how they crafted ‘Time To Pretend’, which appeared on their debut album ‘Oracular Spectacular’ in 2007, beat-by-beat and synth-by-synth.
In the 17-minute interview, which you can hear below, the pair detail the initial recording process of the track in college, before it morphed into an indie-disco staple across the globe. They also reveal how the band were inspired heavily by The Flaming Lips and the production of Dave Fridmann, who would eventually work with the band on all two of their three albums.
Surprisingly, the band name check Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ as a key inspiration behind the track. “We wanted it to be the exact tempo of ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba, which it is”, said Goldwasser, before he revealed that there was in fact a hidden tribute to the Swedish pop group, with the group subtly ripping off the piano riff for the song’s outro.
There’s more startling revelations in the podcast, including how they composed the infectious opening riff and how Friedman manipulated the squealing synth pitch in the outro with a light dimmer switch. Not quite what we were expecting, but either way, it still bangs.