There are things to be expected from M83: sweeping synths, heavily processed vocals, an overall cinematic quality. But the one-man act, comprising French multi-instrumentalist Anthony Gonzalez, took things to a new level with last year’s Saturdays=Youth, obsessively crafting a melancholy epic that leans heavily and unapologetically on ’80s Brat-Pack film scores. Before M83’s current Stateside tour with The Killers (both groups play tonight at Magness Arena), Gonzalez spoke with Decider about Spike Jonze, shyness, and the freedom of being young.
Decider: Why does the theme of youth pop up so much in your music?
Anthony Gonzalez: I’ve always been fascinated by youth, especially by teenagers. I don’t know why. Certainly I have a lot of great memories from that period of my life, and it’s been one of the best decades of my life so far. I like the innocence of teenagers. You feel free to try whatever you want to try, do whatever you want to do. You don’t think—and that’s what I like.
D: What was your own youth like?
AG: Pretty much what I just described. I liked to try things and to experience things. My head was really focused on music, actually.
D: Is this where you thought you’d be at age 28?
AG: I don’t know what else I could have done. I’m not really good at anything except making music. And I don’t always think that I’m that good at it. I’m quite lucky to be doing it. It’s such an odd thing to try to make money with music. It’s really, really difficult. When I started making music, I had to have another job, so it’s much easier now in that way. But it’s also more difficult, because you have to surprise people with your music. You have to try different things and not bore people. You have to renew yourself in your music all the time, and that’s stressful. Sometimes I quit music for a week or two weeks, and I don’t touch any instruments. Sometimes making music is so abusing, but I can’t live without it.
D: You sing a lot more on Saturdays=Youth, which is still kind of a new thing for you, right?
AG: It’s still very difficult. I don’t consider myself a real singer. I like to sing in the studio and to process my vocals with a lot of effects. I like to experiment with my voice. I don’t really have a good voice. That’s why I like to have guest vocalists on my albums.
D: You’ve said in past interviews that you’re very much influenced by visual things like movies.
AG: Yes, I love watching movies. Even bad ones. I think movies are as important as music, even more.
D: Do usually have your own visual ideas for what you want your videos to look like?
AG: Sometimes. But also the good thing about working with someone you like is that you trust him, you know? You give him space, and you don’t really focus on anything else, because you know what he’s capable of and that he will work really well.
D: Spike Jonze used your song “Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun” in the skateboarding video Fully Flared. How did that come about?
AG: I heard that he wanted to use my music for something. I didn’t try to know anything about the subject or the product, because it was by Spike Jonze. I have a lot of respect for him, and I just said yes. And I loved what he did with it. The pictures fit perfectly with the music. It’s such an amazing work. I wasn’t expecting it.
Fully Flared (intro)
D: You don’t seem to talk a lot about yourself in interviews. Even in your songs, you seem to relate your personal experiences through fictional stories and narratives, as opposed to other musicians who use the first-person in a lot of their lyrics.
AG: In some ways I talk a lot about myself in my albums. When you make an album, there’s always a part of yourself that you reveal. Because I’m very shy and not very talkative in life, it’s difficult for me to talk about myself. So for me, making music is a good way to express that, and to express my feelings and my fears.
D: And yet musicians are expected to open themselves up publicly more than others people.
AG: I know. It is weird. [Laughs.] I should change my job.