Movie soundtracks used to be big events, a fact that the members of Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark must drunkenly lament to anyone who will listen at the local pub. The music that accompanied teen movies from the 1980s, particularly those of John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles), became iconic in their own right, a fact that is not lost on M83’s Anthony Gonzalez. His latest album, the new wave-leaning Saturdays=Youth, evokes a number of the bands that made it big through film, while paying tribute to his teens.
“I wanted to recreate the feeling of those years,” he says. “I want this album to remind people of that period when you start to go out with friends and discover new things. Those were certainly the most beautiful days in my life.”
The opening notes of “Kim & Jessie” immediately call to mind the Psychedelic Furs and Tears for Fears. The sound wasn’t easy to achieve, Gonzalez says, but he did have expert help from producer Ken Thomas, who once manned the soundboard for Cocteau Twins. Ewan Pearson also pitches in on the more modern-sounding tracks, like the eight-minute anthem “Couleurs.” Vocalist Morgan Kibby of the Romanovs sings a number of these teen tales with the perfect level of angst and wonderment.
It probably goes without saying that Gonzalez wasn’t interested in evoking the aspects of this era that stand as beacons of its tackiness.
“A lot of people, when they aim for ’80s music, they do it with irony,” he says. “But there is no irony at all in my relationship with music from the ’80s. I’m not just playing it because it’s kitsch. I really tried to capture the musical essence of artists like Kate Bush or Simple Minds. I wanted it to be personal.”
In the five years that have passed since M83 debuted with Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, the one-time duo has become a one-man band. (Nicolas Fromageau left to pursue solo work; it doesn’t appear that he’s found a home with any labels yet.) Gonzalez continued on his own, dropping Before the Dawn Heals Us in 2005 and, just this past September, the ambient side-project Digital Shades, Vol. 1.
Though it arrives hot on the heel of Digital Shades, Saturdays=Youth has been two tears in the making (one year of composing, then another year of recording and mixing). When we ask if he’s a workaholic, Gonzalez is quick to assert he hasn’t been slaving on his weekend tribute the entire time. “I like to take days and play video games and watch sports,” he says. “I can be a really lazy guy.”