M83’s album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, has caught the imagination of all those who have heard it since its release at the end of 2011. Swide’s Ben Taylor caught up with frontman Anthony Gonzalez to discuss the music, sci-fi, family and the colour purple.
The release of 'Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming' couldn’t have come quickly enough and I was counting down the weeks until it came out. The record eventually got released on my birthday and it was definitely worth the wait. When was the last time you were impatient, waiting for something to happen?
Right now, I’m super impatient for the euro championship to start in June. I’m a big football fan and it has a very important part in my life; I watch football all the time and when I can I go to see games. And so I find myself very excited about this. But then I can get excited about tons of different things; an expo in a museum, a movie or book. It depends on the period of the year.
What was the last music project that excited you?
I’m still in love with a band called 'I Break Horses' and their album last year was one of my favourites. I am excited because they are going to tour with us in America in April.
How did that come about?
Well yeah, usually when I pick a band to open, for me, I have a choice of five or six bands and I just listen to the albums and when I first heard I Break Horses’ music I knew that it had to be them. It’s a great album and it’s their first. It has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to see how they develop.
This is the first double album that M83 have created. Following the commercial and critical success of ‘Saturdays = Youth’ did you feel expectation? and how did it feel to unleash it in to the world?
I felt a lot of pressure but I never expect anything from my albums. When I am making an album, of course, I want it to be listened to by as many listeners as possible but in the meantime I never know what to expect from with my music because you can't predict what is going to happen. But everything that’s happening right now is totally unexpected and completely amazing. I still don’t fully realise what’s going on and this is the first time in 10 years in my career that something is happening for me. It’s amazing, rewarding and satisfying.
Do you resent that it has taken 10 years?
I like the way that my career is going, like baby steps. There is nothing worse than a huge career for one album and then nothing… and I am lucky enough to have built a network of credible people around me to work with and who look at this project as our baby. We just want to make sure that our baby is growing up to be healthy and strong.
When you were creating this record do you think that the result was going to be of such anthemic proportions?
I’ve always been fascinated by ‘big’ sounding albums and ever since I was a teenager I was listening to heavily produced albums because I like the life of the making of an album. I like that; the experience of being in a studio, making sure that everything sounds big and epic and this is what I wanted for this album, I guess. Of course, it’s not like I woke up one day and said to myself 'I am going to make something huge today', no, it doesn’t happen like that. But I feel that after ‘Saturdays = Youth’, which was a very pop album and also very short collection of songs, I wanted this one (Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming) to be more like a journey, an adventure. It is almost like an imaginary soundtrack to film that does not exist. So, I just wanted to bring the listeners on a journey and when you go on a trip you go through different landscapes and multiple experiences.
Talking about the experiences that you’ve created on 'Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming', Steve McQueen is a stand out track for me personally as it is full of positivity. What state of mind were you in when you wrote this song?
Actually, this song is one of the first tracks that I wrote for this album but there have been multiple versions of it. We struggled on this one and I actually had Caroline Polachek from Chairlift come to my apartment to try some stuff with this track. It was great but in the end it wasn’t working, so I don’t know… I don’t actually have a great memory of this one but I am super happy with the final result. It is a track that is required on the double album.
Bathed in purple whilst playing live in Milan
And then, on the same CD as Steve McQueen you’ve got a track called One Year, One UFO and it has a completely different sound. Yes, there is continuity, but is this part of the journey you wanted to create?
It’s totally part of the journey I wanted to create. My main fear was that I was making a double album and I didn’t want to repeat myself or bore the listeners. For me, I love albums where you don’t listen to the same sound over and over again and, even if I feel like all the songs are very M83, it is like a tree with its branches and multiple directions.
For this record you collaborated with Zola Jesus and you also have Morgan Kibby in tow, who you have worked with extensively. Female vocals have become a prominent feature within your music, what do you need from them?
There is something fascinating about a woman singing. It is as simple as that. I’m a guy and I’m more attracted to a female vocalist than a male vocalist. When I was a teen I was in love with Kim Gordon, the singer of Blonde Red Head, Cindy Lauper and Kate Bush. There is something special about a female singing, you know, and I just feel very attracted to that and I feel that my music is demanding something from a female artist. It makes it more dreamy to have these vocals layered on top of the big sound I produce. And working with Zola Jesus is amazing, I feel very lucky to have had her be a part of this album. The making of this album was an adventure and being part of it was such an amazing thing; I moved to L.A. two years ago and started working with other artists and other people – Zola Jesus, Justin Meldal-Johnsen (my producer) and Brad Laner and tons of others. It’s funny as we didn’t have the budget to make a double album with strings, brass and expensive things. Everybody was asking ‘what are you doing’, but they just all did it for the love and the sake of music. Now this album is there album and it is like a family album for me.
Do you use found sound in your recordings? I have heard what sounds like old an French radio broadcast?
Ahhh, ok. We record everything ourselves and the woman we found is an old French actress living in LA, who we recorded specifically for the album.
Oh… I thought you were using found sound. Damn, you tricked me.
No no, but we wanted it to sound like that so I’m glad we tricked you.
Anthony was inspired by photography from E.T. The Extra-Terrestial
In other interviews, you are often asked about nostalgia and what you put into your music. But, what about the future? What is it you see?
I feel good about the future. It’s funny because music is the only way I’ve found to reconnect with my past and it is almost like a therapy and it has helped me be a better human being by remembering all these things. Now that I wrote 'Saturdays = Youth' and 'Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming' and that both albums are about childhood and melancholic teenage years, I feel more confident about the future now. It almost cured me from being scared of what’s going on and what’s going to happen next. Now I’m really looking forward to the future. Even like being 30 isn’t a problem anymore
Oh come on, it’s overrated.
Yeh, it is actually. Of course I’m scared of death and losing my friends, memories of family… but that’s life and there are more than enough amazing things that keep you distracted. I love my life right now and there is nothing that I would change about it.
Album sleeves and videos, focussing on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. I’ve noticed that there is a lot of purple through out the artwork, video for Midnight City and promotional photos. Why purple?
I don’t know. Well, we used purple lighting for the sets, etcetera. The inspiration for the cover was actually a picture of Drew Barrymore as a kid on the set of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial in a studio photo, in which she has a cat In her arms and are big halos of blue and purple light. For me these purple and blue lights mean science fiction, along with red, and they were popular in 80’s sci-fi movies. And this is what I wanted to do with this cover, I wanted to use this to create that nostalgia within the cover.
As a child were you interested in Sci-fi movies?
Oh yeh! I was obsessed with stars and galaxies, that’s why M83 is named after the spiral galaxy, Messier 83. I was obsessed. In France, where I grew up, I watched a lot of Japanese animation and Sci-Fi.
Earlier you spoke about family, something that is very important to the spirit of Dolce&Gabbana, what does family mean to you?
I’m a big family guy and there is nothing that is more important to me. I am lucky to still have my four grandparents and, no, I don’t live in the south of France anymore, not because I wanted to run away from them but because of a career choice. But when I was still living in the south I was going to my grandparent’s places and sharing lunch with them as a big family. It’s just very important to me as I am very close to my mother, father and brother (who is actually very involved with M83) and I couldn’t picture myself having no contact with my family. But that is something that will never happen.
Hurry up, We're Dreaming is available now on Naive Records
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Written and interviewed by Ben Taylor