With the release of last year’s Saturdays = Youth, Anthony Gonzalez’s M83 project reached new heights of both critical acclaim and popularity. The electro-shoegazer act’s album of poppy, John Hughes-inspired music not only made several year-end “best of” lists, but also found its way to radio airwaves and MTV2. Now, with a performance this evening on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and an opening slot on the Killers’ national tour, Gonzalez is poised to reach a new, mainstream audience.
Taking a break from Brandon Flowers & Co., Anthony and the band performed a special solo show at New York’s Fillmore at Irving Plaza this past Saturday night. We got the chance to talk to Antony about Conan O’Brien, the Killers, John Hughes, and more.
Flavorwire: So you’re going to be performing “Kim & Jessie” on Conan… this is your first national TV performance in the US, right?
Anthony Gonzalez: I think so, yeah… we’ve done this kind of stuff in France, but never in America.
FW: Are you going to be approaching the performance any differently than you would a typical live show?
AG: Well, yeah, TV is very different from a live setting. It’s more stressful I’d say… more scary, but I’d say it’s also a really great opportunity to promote the music and the single. It’s going to be very exciting.
FW: Are you planning on any more visual elements, anything like that?
AG: Not really, we’re just going to play the song like we usually do, you know? It’ll just sound like tonight, a normal gig.
FW: Aside from your solo show tonight, you’re touring with the Killers. How did that come about, and how have you felt about the tour so far?
AG: It’s a great thing to play with such a big band, a band that’s so big here in America. It’s like the TV show, a great way to touch people with the music, a different kind of audience. It’s a great opportunity to play with them… they are really nice and kind with us. We did a UK tour with Kings of Leon in December, which was pretty similar… they’re massive in the UK, so this is definitely the same.
FW: How have the audiences been treating you?
AG: Yeah, they’ve been really great. They seem to know the songs, they seem to know us, they seem to know the name M83. And I mean, the Killers are a rock band that also plays with electronic instruments, we have the same setup, so we’re not that different from them.
FW: We’ve read a few interviews with you where you’ve stated that you wanted to do something different after Saturdays = Youth. We’re wondering if you’ve become distracted from that goal in any way given the positive reception of the album; has it made you rethink things at all?
AJ: I don’t know if it has… I mean my head is so focused on the tour right now, I don’t really have the time to write new music. Especially for me, it is very difficult to write music on the road. I definitely have plenty of ideas in my head for the next album, but it’s too early to say whether it’s different. But each time that I’m making an album, I’m always trying to reach a new audience, to make something different.
FW: Would you say those differences are reflected in the crowds that come to your live shows? You know, the type of person that listens to Digital Shades or Dead Cities is probably going to be different from the type of person that listens to the new record…
AG: Yeah, yeah for sure… I mean, I’ve noticed a lot more young people at our shows now, maybe because it’s easier to listen to, and it’s of course been on the radio a little as well, which helps bring a new audience to the show.
FW: Speaking of Digital Shades, it’s something that we wanted to ask about since you’ll be opening tonight’s show with an ambient set… is that project something you’re still going to continue on, even though it’s sort of separate from your other music?
AG: Yeah, I think so, although I’ll still keep the name M83 on it. It’s not that different from my other albums, I think. The main difference is that I can just make an album at home, in my own studio, and I’m not obliged to use a professional studio or hire producers. I can do everything on my own, by myself, which is great because I love doing ambient stuff. It’s perfect… just me and my keyboards in my own studio.
FW: And you’re also teaming up with Pitchfork right now for a video contest for “We Own the Sky.” Is that kind of fan interaction important to you?
AG: I haven’t seen the results yet, but I can’t wait to see the videos. I think that nowadays we have more of an opportunity to reach out to the fans, it’s good that they can also experiment on my music. It’s a great thing for the music industry nowadays to be able to share things like video contests with fans all over the worlds. It’s endless, really cool.
FW: We wanted to touch on your John Hughes/’80s obsession a little bit… Pretty in Pink is your favorite Hughes movie… what is it about that movie that speaks to you more than other Hughes movies?
AG: I don’t know… I think the story itself is very moving and very touching, and also very romantic. I also love the soundtrack… the music that he picked for it is much better than his other movies. I like his connection between music and pictures. It’s what I’m trying to do with my own music.
FW: So maybe it’s the aesthetic he’s creating more than the story perhaps?
AG: Well I love both of them really… that’s what I like about these movies, that you can have plenty of different feelings about why exactly you like them.
FW: Aside from your own album, there have been a lot of creative people reimagining the ’80s, giving their own vision for it. Do you feel a lot of connection to artists and musicians that are doing similar things?
AG: Yeah, I think so. I mean I’d especially like to do some film soundtracks like that, to work with different directors. That’s why I think music is great — that you can make not only albums, but also things like music for movies or commercials.
FW: You’ve done one movie soundtrack so far, right?
AG: I’ve done one, but unfortunately the movie has not been released yet. It was a great experience, you know, getting to fulfill a dream like that. It’s something I want to do more of.
FW: Do you feel like some of your albums or songs have been practice runs in that, like how people describe Saturdays =Youth as a fake John Hughes soundtrack?
AG: Exactly, I think that because my music is influenced so much by movies and actors that my music becomes very cinematic. You could say I’ve been influenced more by pictures than music.