“Big drums, big guitars, big synths, big vocals,” is how Anthony Gonzalez describes his new live show as M83. For his first tour in nearly seven years (get tickets here), every note is meant sound huge. If you’re at all familiar with the French band, then you’ll know this is not a foreign idea in Gonzalez’ camp — since M83’s 2001 self-titled debut, Gonzalez and his collaborators have been in search of awe-inspiring sonics, climatic moments of pure emotion, and seismic displays of shoegaze, synth pop, and rock.
They reached the culmination of that grandiosity on 2011’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, and turned inward on 2016’s Junk (a wildly underrated album, for what it’s worth). Now on March 17th, M83 release their remarkable ninth studio album, Fantasy. Fantasy contains much of M83’s usual majesty, but perhaps the largest difference arrives in the influx of guitar and a deeper emphasis on the ambient-influenced soundscapes found in Gonzalez’ film scores.
Fans of the seminal Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming will certainly enjoy Fantasy — but there’s less of an homage to the new wave wonder of “Midnight City” and a more considerate effort to mirror the organic transformation found in songs like “Splendor” and “Soon, My Friend.” It’d be easy for M83 to cast a wide net and land only on the biggest, most powerful emotions. And yet, it’s littered with moments of complicated brilliance, finding a transformational power in the grey areas. For Gonzalez, the album is meant to be a combination of every M83 album.
“It’s really a synthesis,” Gonzalez tells Consequence, “But I think I really want to continue creating music without looking back at the past, because it’s kind of what I’m doing all the time, and I think people could get bored of me talking about memories, talking about nostalgia, talking about old stuff.” Fantasy, then, marks a major reemergence for Gonzalez: “To me, I truly believe that this Fantasy album is probably the beginning of the next chapter of my career, and I am truly excited about what’s next.”
Though the first half of Fantasy has been available to stream since February 9th, the sprawling second half continues M83’s exploration into a vast universe of sound. These songs patiently bloom into focus, with long intros and outros, sweeping washes of guitar, and vocals that build in harmony to anthemic heights. The vocals in particular were a challenge for Gonzalez; in our conversation, he admits to creating somewhat of a trap for himself on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. “I think I was maybe a little too ambitious at the time,” Gonzalez says, “It’s a difficult process because I don’t like my vocals — I don’t like the sound of them. I actually learned to like them and accept it, but sometimes when I finished tracking the songs in my studio on my own and had to do the vocals by myself, I really ended up crying in some moments. Because I felt like I put all my heart into this.”
Though Fantasy concerns the possibilities of imagination and escape, it’s no question that Gonzalez is still wrestling with the context of being an “indie” musician in 2023. Throughout our interview, he touches on artificial intelligence’s presence in the current landscape of art, the unsustainable cadence required by record labels and music industry heads, and even how he wishes “Midnight City” didn’t lead to a bunch of “EDM bros” becoming obsessed with his music.
Stream Fantasy and read our full Q&A with M83’s Anthony Gonzalez below.