Who: Ambient shoegaze-pop group M83 is the project of 28-year-old France-based musician Anthony Gonzalez. Up through 2005, Gonzalez collaborated with his pal Nicolas Fromageau, crafting spaced-out synth-powered compositions. But when the two mutually split, Gonzalez went pop, releasing last year's excellent, slow-growing album Saturdays=Youth. That disc most recently caught the ears of the Kings of Leon and the Killers, who both asked Gonzalez (plus his backing band) to open up their string of recent U.S. arena dates.
Sounds Like: M83's tunes range from astral cinematic soundscapes to full-blown club-ready jams. On his latest record, Gonzalez ties those disparate genres together by paying tribute to 1980s pop culture, when the Thompson Twins, Talk Talk and John Hughes' movies ruled. (That red-headed girl on cover of Saturdays=Youth? Total dead-ringer for Molly Ringwald.) Cuts like "Graveyard Girl" (about a lonely goth chick who feels like she's too big of a loser to ever get kissed) and "Kim and Jessie" (about two best friends who may or may not have Sapphic tendencies) are warm, nostalgic odes to high-school adolescence. "I wanted to try new things," says Gonzalez about his direction on the LP. "It was time to do something more pop and less serious. I wanted to be less dramatic than on my previous albums. My other albums are like movie soundtracks, where you had to listen from the start to the end. With this one, you can love two or three songs on the album and maybe not care for the other ones."
• Before forming M83, Gonzalez used to work in the promotions department of a small, independent French record label. But he found it hard to work on music while holding down a day-job — not to mention keep up with his heavy partying habit around Paris' club scene. "I had so much fun," says Gonzalez. "I would see a show every night and I was partying all the time. But there were too many distractions. I was useless."
• M83 teamed up with director Eva Husson to record the video for "Kim and Jessie," an entrancing clip filled with stylish, highly-choreographed rollerskating moves. (Cool fact: Husson introduced Gonzalez to singer Morgan Kibby, who contributes vocals to Saturdays=Youth.) In turn, Gonzalez also recorded songs for Husson's in-the-works film Tiny Dancer, although a release date for the movie remains to be seen. "I think there have been some problems with producers," says Gonzalez. "Movies are a special war, you know? It's much more difficult to put out a movie than it is to put out an album."
• In March, Gonzalez will team up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to perform a set of M83 tunes. (Belle & Sebastian and the Decemberists recently performed with the orchestra.) Gonzalez is still working on details of what the program will include, but he hopes to collaborate with the Philharmonic on older pieces like "Moon Child" and the 10-minute-plus epic "Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun." "It's really exciting," says Gonzalez. "I think it's interesting to have this kind of mix between orchestral music and a very modern band."