Friday, November 14, 2008

Interview: M83

This feature appears in Washington Square News.

Brian Eno called his watershed ambient album “Music For Airports.” By that logic, M83’s fifth album, “Saturdays = Youth,” is music for high schools.

From the album cover’s “Breakfast Club” teenager doppelgangers to its ’80s synth-pop sound, “Saturdays” is a celebration of being young. But M83’s leader Anthony Gonzalez isn’t from America, the land of angst-ridden teen movies. Instead, Gonzalez resides in Antibes in southern France, where American culture has bridged the Atlantic most prominently on the silver screen.

“I’m a big fan of movies,” Gonzalez said. “Cinema is a big influence for me and also soundtracks.”

Fittingly, the album includes vocals from Morgan Kibby, the lead singer in Los Angeles-based band The Romanovs, who has also appeared on soundtracks for M. Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water” and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

“Saturdays” was produced by Ken Thomas, who has worked with Sigur Rós and dream-pop primogenitors Cocteau Twins, and Ewan Pearson, who has remixed countless artists and produced Tracey Thorn, The Rapture and Ladytron. A live guitarist and drummer complete M83’s touring quartet, but Gonzalez is as much a producer as a member of a band.

Prior to “Saturdays,” he released “Digital Shades Vol. 1,” an ambient release indebted to Eno but created with a program that wasn’t available in 1979: Pro Tools.

“For the ‘Digital Shades’ project, I can do pretty much everything alone,” Gonzalez said. “I’m free to do anything that I want to do.”

He says that he worked alone as M83’s primary composer even during its early existence, when Nicolas Fromageau was still a member of the band. The two formed M83 in 2001 after meeting — where else? — in high school. But Fromageau left after the group’s second album, “Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts.”

Despite an affinity for electronic music and a common home country, don’t mistake Gonzalez for the bottom-heavy crunch of Paris’ Ed Banger Records, home of Justice.

“I love their music, but I think my music is really different from them. I never met those guys,” Gonzalez said. In what was perhaps a telling sign, Gonzalez moved to Paris but quickly came back to his native Antibes.

M83 is signed to Mute Records, but despite the financial woes of parent company EMI, Gonzalez’s stance on illegal downloading is laissez-faire.

“I don’t mind. I’m downloading music off the internet as well,” he said. “It’s not a problem, as long as people love my music.”

The generosity seems to have paid off. The band is currently on their second American tour in support of “Saturdays,” playing Webster Hall tonight with School of Seven Bells. Gonzalez says that the stateside audience even surpasses his home turf.

“The crowd in America is a bit more attentive to the music, and I think they’re more passionate,” Gonzalez said.

Then again, there are a lot of movie buffs here.


MP3: M83 - Kim & Jessie
MP3: M83 - Teen Angst
MySpace: M83
Official Site: M83

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