As Gonzalez explains to Spinner, 'Hurry Up' was very much inspired by childhood memories. The 22-track double album arrives three years after M83's 2008 breakthrough, 'Saturdays = Youth,' a collection whose swooning vintage synths evoked the teen angst of classic John Hughes movies. While the new disc retains the epic, emotional sound of its predecessor, its rooted in a different type of nostalgia.
In addition to discussing his latest batch of songs, Gonzales chatted with Spinner about life in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, his fascination with sibling relationships and his desire to write music for movies.
Did you know right away 'Hurry Up' was going to be a double album?
I didn't know it was going to be a double album, but I always wanted to make a double album. After three months or four months of composing music, I had enough material to make me think it could be a double album. After working six months, one year, it really started sounding like a double album.
You've cited Smashing Pumpkins' 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness' as a major influence. Are there any other double albums you grew up liking?
Yes, a few of them. 'The White Album' from the Beatles is a good example. 'Ummagumma' from Pink Floyd, too. But otherwise, besides those three albums, I don't remember being really struck by a double album.
Your last album, 'Saturdays = Youth,' was in many ways your breakthrough. Did you feel pressure recording the follow-up?
It wasn't pressure, because after 'Saturdays = Youth,' we toured a lot. We toured with big bands, too. But after that, I really didn't feel like I wanted to release a 'Saturdays = Youth No. 2.' I really wanted to create something different. I was scared people would think I would do 'Saturdays = Youth No. 2.' That's not what I did, even if there's some connection between the two albums. Every time I work on a new album, I want to try to experiment more and create something different. That's the main idea behind it. Touring with the Killers, Kings of Leon, Depeche Mode really makes me feel more confident about myself and about my music and my vocals. I feel there's a big improvement on the vocal side -- the music side, too. This album is probably the biggest album I've ever done in my life. So I'm really excited about it.
Since you're singing more on this album, do the songs feel more personal than they have in the past?
I just felt it was the right time for me to sing -- to really sing in front of the microphone. I was tired of being shy in front of the microphone. I didn't want to have regrets, like in 10 or 20 years. I just said to myself, "OK you have to be the leader of this project, and you have to make people understand it's you."
How long did it take you to write the songs?
This album took me one year to make, with some rests in between. But it was a long process, probably the longest I've ever spent on an album. But it was needed. When you're creating a double album, you want to make sure it's eclectic enough for the people to not get bored. It's a long process. It's a long album -- a lot of music, a lot of elements, a lot of information -- so the idea was to do something very eclectic. That's the reason I always use a lot of different instruments: The acoustic guitar, saxophones, flutes, some instruments I've never tried before.
There's a great '80s-sounding sax on 'Midnight City.' Was there any particular band you were trying to reference?
Not really. When you're working on a song, and you say, "OK, we have the song, but we're missing something," and you start thinking about crazy stuff. The sax on the song is kind of crazy, and people are going to think it's super kitsch, but it was needed for the song. It wasn't a question of should we add it or not. "Let's go for it. Let's do it. We don't care what people are going to think of it."
On the last album, you made it your goal to not use any computers, only vintage synths. Was that the case with this one?
Oh no, we used a lot of computers [laughs]. It was such a challenge not to use computers on the last one. We used a computer for the recording, of course, but everything was live -- instruments from the '80s. It was kind of challenging. It was too much. I could never do that twice. Now we have the technology to make things look easier, and we have to use it.
Did you write the first song, 'Intro,' before all the others? Do you generally write in sequence?
It's funny, because this is the first song I wrote for the album. For me, it was always the intro for the album. It never moved places. The idea was to have an intro and outro for each side of the album. Once we have that, it's always easier to change the spots of the song, try different track listings. The most important thing was the beginning and end of the album, and then it's kind of easy. It's like a puzzle. It's not that difficult.
Do the two discs have their own themes?
The concept of this album is a brother and sister, so one side is for the sister, and one side is for the brother. Somehow it's connected, but different. The first song of the first disc sounds like the first song on the second disc. I was always fascinated by relationships between a brother and a brother or a brother and a sister. I think there's nothing more beautiful than two humans being blood-connected. This is a huge source of inspiration on this album.
Watch M83's 'Kim & Jessie' Video
Do you have any siblings?
I have an older brother. We're very, very close to each other. He writes lyrics for me. I just wanted to recreate this feeling of sharing something with someone really close.
The song 'Raconte-Moi Une Histoire,' about people turning into frogs, is rather unusual. How'd that come about?
The story behind the song is when I was a kid, I had this magazine in France called Raconte-Moi Une Historie. This magazine had a cassette, where you'd read the story with the cassette. My mother used to buy me this magazine every week. I was in love with it. I couldn't stop listening to the cassette. I wanted to recreate this feeling with the track. We wanted to start with something really childish, but it grows into something more grown-up. It's simple and almost ridiculous, and it grows into something more human and very moving at the end.
You've talked about how 'Saturdays' was influenced by John Hughes movies and being a teenager. Is this latest album more about adulthood?
No, not really. I was looking back even further. This album reminds me of my childhood and when I was a kid, not a teenager. When I first moved to L.A., I was feeling very lonely, because you're in a new city, a new environment, a new space. The only thing that really kept me happy was memories of my childhood. I even remember some of my dreams I used to dream when I was a kid, which doesn't make any sense, because I don't remember any of of my dreams nowadays. This album is more a tribute to my childhood but also a retrospective about my 30 years as a human being. It's a mix of all my albums but with some new stuff in it.
Besides causing homesickness, did L.A. influence the record in any way?
When you're moving to a different place, it influences your music, for sure. I remember sometimes when I was feeling down, driving my car to the beach or the desert for two or three days by myself, with my computer, and trying to work in a different environment. It's something I could have never done before. I feel like L.A. is asking for it, with so many different landscapes. It's so easy to do it. It's the American dream, the American road trip. So I did that three or four times on this album, where you start having doubts about stuff, you just go away, and it suddenly clears your mind and you can start fresh after that.
You've said you want to do film soundtracks. Do you have any on the horizon?
The reason I moved to L.A. is because I really want to do more film stuff. It's not going to be easy. It's a very tough world, but I have an agent now that's going to help me achieve that. Hopefully one day I'll make a soundtrack.
Listening to 2005's 'Before the Dawn Heals Us,' I used to try to imagine what type of films you'd score. Some of those songs would work in, say, David Lynch films, while others seem suited to Wes Craven horror flicks.
Wes Craven, I was watching his movies when I was growing up. Same thing with David Lynch. Gus van Zant, Terrence Malick -- all these directors, it would be a dream for me to one day work with them. It's probably never going to happen, but who knows? There's a ton of new directors nowadays with plenty of great ideas and maybe they have a concept that can fit with my music.
Do you ever think about doing sequels to your songs -- maybe giving people 'Kim & Jessie Pt. 2?'
I don't know. Nobody really asked me that before. Some songs on this album remind me of 'Kim & Jessie,' definitely, but this album was very different for me. But it's still connected somehow.