M83's latest album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, released last October, is a huge, melodramatic, pop soundscape filling two discs, richly layered and boldly drawn. Oddly, it's almost incongruous with the softly spoken, measured tones of Frenchman Anthony Gonzales - the man behind the moniker - which is a reference to a spiral galaxy called Messier 83.

But really, who better to create such a project than a self-confessed dreamer? Having released five albums since 2001, Gonzales felt it was time to tackle one of his long-held aspirations.

"I just wanted to do something very ambitious, and almost too big to handle. And I always dreamed of making a double album, since I was about 14, and I just felt ready. I wanted to do something very emotional and very intense, and melancholic and nostalgic at the same time."

There's a childlike freedom to the album, a Neverending Story kind of atmosphere, and indeed Gonzales had a certain youthfulness in mind when he was writing the songs.


"For me disc one is like the mind of the little girl, and disc two is the mind of the little boy, and they're somehow connected to each other," he explains, referring to the two beautiful children who adorn the album cover, a pair who were found in New York. Between the children is a rather odd-looking fantastical creature, a wild thing who was created for the artwork.

"We were talking about escapism, and for me it's exactly what this creature represents. It's like the little boy's costume for when he wants to get into a story or get into an adventure, and that's what I miss about being a grown-up, I feel like when you're a kid you're always up for adventures and when you're an adult there are so many things to take care of, you don't have time anymore."

The album title itself provides an insight to Gonzales' worldly contemplations, but also describes the melding of pulsing synth-based dance music with romantic, whimsical notions.

"For me, it presumes perfectly the sound of this album, something kind of dreamy but also very urgent, with a lot of fast-paced songs. So for me it also describes the reality of being a human, life is very short, and so fast and sometimes we just forget to dream and take time to rest."

Having moved to California before he began writing, it too proved to be quite an influence - both its open landscapes, and also the feelings of loneliness and displacement which Gonzales felt on arrival.

"I was driving my car all around California for the first six months, craving discoveries. I would go to the desert, and the ocean, and small towns, just by myself with my laptop and two keyboards. I wrote a lot of songs from this album on the road actually."

Another key inspiration for Gonzales is the storytelling aspects of films. Spoken word features on two album highlights, with Zola Jesus contemplating existence on side one opener Intro, and adorable 5-year-old Zelly Meldal-Johnsen (daughter of the album's producer, and Nine Inch Nails' bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen) telling the story of a magical frog on Raconte-Moi Une Histoire.

"When I recorded my first album more than 10 years ago, I was pointing a microphone in front of my TV and sampling films. Now I just want to write the dialogue and the stories, and I love that connection between stories and music."

Though Gonzales loves to sing, he's always felt very shy in front of the microphone. But he decided on this album to let his vocals come to the fore, and to challenge himself, after having spent some time supporting the Kings of Leon, the Killers and Depeche Mode on international tours.

"I gained some confidence I guess, and now I feel like I want to live with no regrets. Vocals are definitely one of those things where I want to be myself in front of a mic and I don't wanna hide. I really wanted to do something for myself first, to enjoy myself, and enjoy my studio. And I thought if I really got emotional during the process, well then probably some other people will connect with the album too."

Obviously, performing such a huge album, with a lot of extra production is a challenge live, but Gonzales is well-practised in making changes to reproduce the tracks on stage.

"What you can expect is just a very simple four-piece band. It's way more direct than the album, more rock 'n' roll I'd say, and it'll also be a compilation of songs from all my albums too."


What: Dreamy, fantastical synth pop
Where and when: Penny Lane Stage, 8.45pm
Listen to: Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (2011)