Should you care about getting perfect recordings? No – MGMT’s debut album was recorded using a “really bad” interface with signal bleed between channels, and still sold millions of copies

Oracular Spectacular has sold well over a million copies since its 2007 release.

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Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser of MGMT

Credit: Anthony Pidgeon / Redferns for Getty Entertainment

While there’s still strong demand for a more imperfect vintage-style sound, these days, the recording industry idealises perfect-quality recordings, free of artefacts like tape hiss and signal bleed.

Naturally, the cleaner the signal, the easier it is to mix among other elements/instruments, but should producers really be that preoccupied with obtaining pristine recordings?

MGMT’s 2007 debut album Oracular Spectacular is evidence that perfect recordings may not be as important as we think, at least from a commercial standpoint. The LP has sold well over a million copies, but its recordings are far from perfect, Andrew VanWyngarden and Benjamin Goldwasser recall in a new interview with MusicRadar.

They remember recording rough demos for the album with Dave Fridmann using a “really bad” digital interface, and ending up using some of them on the record’s final masters.

“When we were making our first record, we had rough demos recorded on a RadioShack microphone and a really bad digital interface that had signal bleed between the channels,” says Goldwasser. 

“We thought, surely Dave’s going to want to redo all of this, but he said, no, there’s a character about it that we’ll never be able to recreate if we try it any other way. That’s stuck with us alongside the same irreverence we had when we very first started the band.”

Imperfection is often the very lifeblood of some of the most well-known and revered tracks. While MGMT’s example above generally refers to low-quality recording equipment, there have been innumerous of actual mistakes making it onto record, and consequently contributing to the life of the songs.

The Police’s Roxanne is one such example; as the story goes, the atonal piano chord and subsequent laugh during the track’s intro was the result of Sting sitting on the piano and finding himself amusing. It added such character it was kept in, and the song is far and away one of the band’s biggest hits regardless.

So by all means strive for the best recordings you can, but don’t be so hasty to delete or write off takes if they’re not conventionally perfect. You might just be onto something.


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