M83 takes on America

An export success


11/07/2005 - 

With their new album Before the Dawn Heals Us, French electronic duo M83 have garnered critical praise on the U.S. and U.K. rock scene, playing to appreciative crowds. Their home country France is next on the hit list ...

M83's debut album dates back to 2001; it was a critical success but on the domestic market only. This electronic-oriented album, which came out on the independent label Goom, is now getting its first release in the U.S. and the U.K. in September 2005. Over the years, a solid fan base in the Anglo-Saxon world has built up around the duo – which eventually turned into a solo project, before transforming into a rock group.

M83 is now essentially the solo project of Anthony Gonzales, Nicolas Fromageau having left the group after their second album Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (2003). Distributed by Virgin in France, this was the album that really broke through the frontiers. "Six months after its French release," recalled Anthony Gonzales, "we discovered that quite a few people had bought the album on import in the U.S. and the U.K. And several journalists had also given us a good write-up."

International interest

M83 had started off as an electronic duo, but the group took a turn towards rock on the second album. Influenced by bands like My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai and Radiohead, they developed their own unique hypnotic rock sound. The U.K. music press was generous with their praise, the NME in particular. M83 opened for The Rapture, intriguing indie rock fans who came to see them and sparking general interest in the French band. The American indie website Pitchforkmedia raved about M83's second album, and import sales in the U.S. really started to take off. Even the New York Times started paying attention to the group. "We wanted to present M83 as an international group and not particularly linked to the so-called French Touch scene," explains Thomas Lorain, head of export at Virgin.

The group's second album came out in August 2004 in the U.S., and they immediately followed the release with a tour of the main American cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. A word-of-mouth buzz quickly built up and audiences grew as the tour went on. "It was our first tour, and we didn't have much time to prepare for it," recalls Anthony Gonzales, "but we realised we had a public in the United States. From teenagers who listened to My Bloody Valentine to fortysomethings who were maybe Pink Floyd fans."

A curious-minded public

The third album, Before the Dawn Heals Us was released in March 2005. A second tour to promote the record followed only six months after the previous one. This time the tour was more extensive, taking in smaller cities and extending over four weeks rather than two. College radio stations as well started playing the album. During this tour M83 also did studio sessions for radio stations, and the result was sell-outs every night.

Tom Windish, M83 American tour organiser, also manages artists like Boom Bip, Keren Ann and Télépopmusik. "They a have a pretty large fanbase," he says of M83.  "It almost seems like more people go see them play than buy their albums. There was a strong buzz on the band in the USA and therefore a lot of people were curious to go see them play live." A highpoint of the tour was the Coachella festival in California, where they played to 5,000 people.

Close to 25,000 copies of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts have been sold in the United States and 30,000 copies of the latest album have recently hit the record stores. That's compared to only 6,000 sold in France! Which is why their focus remains on the States, with their third tour kicking off there in September 2005. A tour of Japan is also under consideration, since their American imports there are selling well. "It's a matter of a little luck, we just struck it lucky," Anthony Gonzales concludes modestly. "Very few French groups get to tour America, although plenty deserve to. We've been successful but on a small scale, especially considering the size of the country. Right now, what I'd like would be some success in France." As the saying goes, no one is a prophet in their own country!

M83 Before the dawn heals us (Goom/Virgin) 2005

Nicolas  Dambre

Translation : Hugo  Wilcken