For Throwback Thursday we dial the clock back to 2011, when we talked to M83’s Anthony Gonzalez about his ambitious double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, which was regarded as one of the best albums of the year. Here we talked to Gonzalez about the ambitious album and how ’90s alt-culture informed the now-classic album.
When you hit play on disc one of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the new album by M83, you know you’re in for something big. The album’s intro opens with a rising ambiance intercut with an arpeggio of synthesizers. A frail monologue can be heard among the rising action before we hear M83’s mastermind, Anthony Gonzalez, yell out “I carry on!” His voice sounds like it has never before – a commanding lead that wails into the night sky. The rest of that opening track is handled by Zola Jesus whose chilly tenor gives the album a stately and memorable intro. Speaking with Gonzalez about the collaboration, it was apparently a mutual desire to work with each other. “I just wanted to do something with her for a long time. I’m a big fan of her music and for me it was almost obvious I needed her for the album. She was a fan of M83 as well. It was cool. We were both very fond of each other.”
The size of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is a large factor in the listening experience. M83 songs are always aimed skyward but this record also packs in as much lengthwise. At two discs, totaling at a length of 72 minutes, it’s their longest and perhaps best work to date. The inspiration for such a large scale structure came from a few different places, one of them being from ’90s alternative heavyweights, the Smashing Pumpkins. “When I was a kid and I first bought Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, I remember I was so excited about it. I mean I skipped school to be able to go to the record store, and waited in line in the morning and then went back home to listen to the album like ten times in the same day. I was just excited, and I feel my new album is kind of a tribute to this era of music where we used to go to the record store and wait for the album of our favorite band.”
“I feel my new album is kind of a tribute to this era of music where we used to go to the record store and wait for the album of our favorite band.”
Aside from the ballad “Wait” borrowing a little bit of Billy Corgan’s guitar tone from “Thru the Eyes of Ruby,” the Pumpkins influence is more in the vein of size, not sound. Continuing the nostalgia-fest started on Saturdays = Youth, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming relies heavily on 1980’s style production, an age of gated reverb and squeaky clean sonics. “The sound of the ’80s is a big influence. The way they used to mix the albums at the time and the way they used to produce albums was definitely a huge influence on this album. You know sometimes when you listen to an ’80s album and it sounds super clean and bright sounding. We wanted to achieve the same thing in terms of soundscape.”
Helping Gonzalez achieve that sound was one of the unsung heroes of the ’90s and 00s, Justin Meldal-Johnson. Best known for his work as Beck’s bassist, Meldal-Johnson has performed with dozens of seminal artists since the early ’90s such as Air, Goldfrapp, and Tori Amos. Meldal-Johnson came into contact with Gonzalez when he was touring with Nine Inch Nails in 2009.
“Justin is one of the nicest guys on the planet and I felt like because we shared this same vision of music, it was like really easy to work with him, you know, he was flawless. And we never had any issues of communication. We were always getting along very well…He came to me very genuinely, in a very sincere way saying that he wanted to work on this album with me. And I trusted him and am really happy with the results.”
Those results are pretty spectacular. Tracks like “Midnight City,” “Reunion” and “OK Pal” are all mountain sized anthems that pull at the heartstrings and your dancing feet at the same time. Breathy ballads like “Wait” and “Splendor,” the latter which features Brad Laner from Medicine, are lovely dreamscapes that wash over with a heavy euphoric feeling.
While Gonzalez had reportedly set out to make a dark record this time out, he ended up making his most accessible and varied and one that asks the listener to hurry up and join in the fantasy.