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M83 Albums

For most of us, our teenage years were an awkward time full of embarrassing moments we'd rather forget. For M83's chief stargazer Anthony Gonzalez however, his adolescence turned out to be the most important period of his life, one he looks back upon with great affection. Since 2003, Frenchman Gonzalez  has been bringing his luscious blend of shoegaze aesthetics, ambient pop, and progressive textures to the masses under the guise of M83. 


“I was really young when I chose the name,” the now 28-year-old musician told Dish when we caught up with him during sound check for his Killers opening gig in Nashville, TN. “I just wanted something simple and I saw M83 on a star chart. It’s the short name for the Messier 83 Galaxy.” It’s a name that, despite its less than auspicious beginnings somehow fits not only the music, but its steely eyed cipher as well. “Growing up in Europe most of what I listened to was American music,” Gonzalez explained, “I never really listened to a lot of French music, but there were a great deal of British bands I was into.”


Having issued their self-titled debut through the tiny French label Gooom in 2001, the success of their second release Dead Cities, Red Seas brought attention not only to M83, but also to the Gooom label, which helped fuel the popularity of other vaguely psychedelic artists. Co-creator Nicolas Fromageau took his leave from the project after the second album in pursuit of solo work, after an emotionally charged tour took its inevitable toll. “I don’t really see that the music changed much from when we were together on the first two albums,” Gonzalez commented about his former collaborator, “Even then I was doing the majority of the composition so things really stayed about the same.” 


Gonzalez returned to the studio for a follow-up record which resulted in M83’s most cohesive yet, adding vocals and more rhythmic consistency to the album’s already heavily textured orchestration. Now on Mute records, Gonzalez teamed up with producers Ewan Pearson and Ken Thomas to produce Saturdays=Youth, a Brian-Eno inspired tribute to Gonzalez’s teenage years. The idea of youth – wasted, gilded or otherwise – has featured prominently in M83's music. 


From early fumblings like "At the Party" on 2001's self-titled debut to the bliss-fuzz of "Teen Angst" from 2005's breakthrough album Before The Dawn Heals Us, the French producer's dramatic space-rock tends to evoke the innocence and wonder of this hormonally charged time. Saturdays=Youth is his most explicit celebration yet of how it feels to be dazed, confused and 15 years old. "Saturday is definitely the coolest day of the week for a teenager and that's the reason Saturday is in the title," he says, "Saturday always reminds everyone of their youth." 


That disc most recently caught the ears of  Kings of Leon and the Killers, who both asked Gonzalez (plus his backing band) to open up their string of recent U.S. arena dates and according to Gonzalez that is a whole new frontier for M83. “There is a real difference between my albums and the live show,” said Gonzalez. “The 

M83 - Gonzales

sound on stage is much more direct and more Rock & Roll in feel because we have to focus more on the audience than just on ourselves playing the music. For me, it is almost like a whole new band every time I tour. The fans who come to the show are expecting an experience that someone listening to the music on a disk may not be. There is a distinct difference.”


If the synthetic romance of his earlier work hinted at a fetish for Eighties goth staples such as Sisters of Mercy and the Cure, this album's chiming astro-pop finds Gonzalez taking a stroll on the sunnier side of the decade. Serene numbers such as "Kim and Jessie", "Graveyard Girl" and "Up!" are haunted by Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins. The dulcet female voice on the album belongs to Morgan Kibby, singer in an LA band called the Romanovs. Gonzalez was introduced to Kibby by his film-director friend Eva Husson, for whose forthcoming feature, Tiny Dancer, he has composed the soundtrack. "I went to Morgan's MySpace page and I got a crush on her voice – it's very soft and clear. So I asked her to sing on my record," he says. "You can hear that she has Eighties influences as well – this record is all about Eighties influences."


He's serious, too. The red-haired Molly Ringwald lookalike on the sleeve? That's intentional. Gonzalez says his main influences for the album are English bands like Tears For Fears and Cocteau Twins, as well as classic John Hughes teen movies such as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. "On this record I wanted to have the feeling of a teenager mixed with this period of the Eighties," he says. "I also wanted 11 different-sounding songs on the record – none of the songs sound the same.


In March, Gonzalez follows in the footsteps of Indie darlings Belle and Sebastian and The Decembrists in order to team up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing a set of M83 tunes. Gonzalez is still working on details but according some sources he hopes to collaborate with the Philharmonic on older pieces like the 10-minute-plus epic “Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun.” “It’s really exciting to have this kind of mix between orchestral music and modern music from a band,” said Gonzalez, “I have so many ideas I can’t begin to talk about them all.”


Despite his current popularity and cross-genre recognition, Gonzalez is quick to point out his own shortcomings. “These days you don’t have to be a good musician to produce good music,” he explained of a recent interview where he said he was a terrible musician. “I know how to play guitars and keyboards and drums but I’m really bad at it. I’m really a much better composer than musician. I have a real strength with melodies and stringing those together.” 



There is a lot to be said for giving up childish things, but perhaps the case of Anthony Gonzalez being caught up in his youth is just the thing to make his work the success it has become.


For more about Anthony Gonzales and M83, check out their page at / Issue 107 - September 2018
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