The career trajectory of M83 – from post-rock outsiders to supporting the likes of Depeche Mode and Kings Of Leon on stadium dates around the world – has been interesting to observe.
Originally a duo comprising Anthony Gonzales and Fromageau, in 2004, between the release of breakthrough album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and its consolidating follow-up, Before The Dawn Heals Us, M83 effectively became the solo project of Gonzales. After 2006’s makeweight ambient work-out Digital Shades Vol.1, Gonzales signed to Virgin and released the album Saturdays = Youth (2008), his most song-oriented, self-consciously epic offering to date, produced by Ken Thomas, Ewan Pearson and Morgan Gibby. A more accessible sound coupled with major label distribution helped Saturdays = Youth achieve impressive sales and establish M83 outside of the indie ghetto.
“I realised I needed to be more confident about myself.”
But instead of following it with a safe, flab-free album of straightforward pop songs – something he would’ve been eminently capable of – Gonzales instead delivered a sprawling double-album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, inspired by the example of Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
“I realised I needed to be more confident about myself,” he tells Red Bulletin, the culture, music and sport magazine produced by Red Bull Media House.. “This time now could be the peak of my career, and I don’t want to look back at some point and wonder why I didn’t have the heart to come out of myself.
Though you’d hardly guess it from listening to the gushing, arena-ambiitious songs of M83’s recent years, it’s taken Gonzales some time to become comfortable with being a fully-fledged frontman, on record as well as on stage. “I’m really not a performer,” he says. “I’ve slowly been growing into the lead-singer role and I don’t have to hide behind my synthesizers any more.”
“I’d often just put two synthesisers, some weed and a computer in the boot, rent a cabin and go.”
The Frenchman headed into the Mojave Desert to write Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, a change of scenery that proved freeing. “I’d often just put two synthesizers, some weed and a computer in the boot, rent a cabin and go. It was so inspiring. When you play music out there at night, you can see the stars, you’re by yourself and you’re scared of the coyotes. I really felt a connection with my music out there, for the first time in ages.”
But the spur to push himself vocally came from someone far scarier than a coyote. “When I’m working on my studio, I often have a film on for reference. Once I had Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, with Klaus Kinski, playing. I could see him screaming, the anger on his face, and I thought, ‘God, I should sing,’ which is how it started. I wanted to do what I felt like doing regardless of what people thought of it.”
You can read the full interview profile in the new issue of Red Bulletin, which is out on Monday, 2 April. Visit redbulletin.co.uk for a list of stockists, subscriptions and information about the Red Bulletin iPad app.