Riding the Wave
You have Morgan Kibby to thank for the can’t-get-‘em-out-of-your-head lyrics of “Midnight City.” A vital part of M83 since 2008’s Saturdays=Youth, Kibby has been responsible for her fair share of “lighters aloft” moments in the French/Los Angeleno collective, writing lyrics and providing vocals for the electonic/ambient/shoegaze/dance group. Currently touring behind M83’s 2011 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, she has also been hard at work on her solo project, White Sea.
This Frontier—Kibby’s 2010 debut as White Sea—was a patchwork of styles, showing off her impressive ability to morph form ethereal siren, to dance floor queen, and back again. She promises her next release—a single due out sometime this fall—will further redefine the White Sea sound, as the band finally finds its epic, space-filling voice.
Under the Radar joined Kibby for a quick drink at Coachella. The busy musician told us about how M83 changed her perspective on performing live, what’s next for White Sea, and how she showed the boys in her band a thing or two…
Laura Studarus (Under the Radar): How are you enjoying your short time back in Los Angeles?
Morgan Kibby: It’s been really amazing being home. I’ve been working on new music. I’m just so excited. This last M83 tour, because we’ve been afforded the luxury of having more people to work with, I don’t have to soundcheck until about four or five every day. So I wake up really early, and I work out, and I get my coffee, and then I sit down and I demo things. I’ve been really religious about demoing new music. I’m trying new things. I don’t know—I’m just so excited to be putting out new music. It’s been so long, I want people to know what I do now!
I’m impressed. I know you wanted to write on tour, but I thought, “She’s ambitious, but really?”
[Laughs] Well, last time we talked was actually before the American tour. I did two remixes while I was out on the road. I did an M83 remix, and I did a remix for this Swedish band called Serenades. It was so flattering! They fell in love with the remix and said, “This is the best remix we’ve ever had!” I was like, “Oh! Thank God!” It was also at a time when I transitioned from using Pro Tools to Ableton, so I was teaching myself a new program.
What inspired the switch?
For anybody who uses Pro Tools, they know it’s like if you were to take a traditional interface like a board with all its ins-outs, and you’re routing everything through Pro Tools the way you would route a board. With Abelton it’s so easy! Everything is so much more intuitive. As an electronic artist, it’s just easier. I was inspired by all the people that I work with who were saying, “Oh My God, Abelton is the best!”
So peer pressure.
Basically! [laughs] But I’ve been wanting to transition for awhile because I knew I was going to be on the road and I didn’t want to have external hardware and I wanted to easily be able to make music. So I transitioned over while I was doing the Serenades remix. I was like “Screw it!” I ended up being so turned on creatively. It was so easy to use, and all of a sudden I had these new sounds and these new effects. It was great!
In the bus, at one o’clock, two o’clock I the morning after a show, I can just sit in my bunk, open my laptop, and make music. It’s not a thing.
I’m impressed that you’re the kind of person who can get inspired on the road at two in the morning and immediately take action.
I feel like if you don’t, then what are you doing? If I have the melody idea—the voice notes on my iPhone go crazy. It’s funny, I opened up my iTunes the other day and I was like, “What the hell is all of this?” I started going through them going, “That’s crap, that’s crap, that’s crap, that’s crap, oh that’s interesting, maybe I should explore that!” [Laughs]
I feel like you and Big Black Delta’s Jon Bates have very similar working styles.
Jon and I are very in sync musically. He and I approach making music in a very similar fashion. I have a really good time making music with him. I really want him to be involved in White Sea too.
Do you foresee bringing more people into the project?
Absolutely. Jon Bates is a huge collaborator of mine. He mixed two songs on the EP. He also mixed my new single, which I just finished. I trust him implicitly. He and I have such similar sonic inclinations, for lack of a better way of putting it.
And you both seem like you’re very curious about the world.
I love that about him. Jon is the shit. He’s one of my best friends, and I feel blessed to have him in my life creatively and personally.
Anything you feel comfortable revealing about the new single?
It’s very epic. I think that’s what White Sea has always wanted to be. I feel like now it’s really finding its voice. It’s very epic and very sexy. I’m not afraid of my love of hip-hop and R&B. Also at the same time, expansive, filling a stadium space. So it’s finding that balance of the 808 sound, and also this idea of massive vocals and massive reverb, and how do you fill space? How do you make something all encompassing?
When will we be able to hear it?
I would say, probably, in the fall. I’m working on my record right now. I’m hoping as soon as the tour is over with M83 to come back and finish recording all the songs. I’m basically demoing while I’m on the road, and sending thing back and forth between Jon and I. Just trying to see what’s sticking and what’s not sticking, what sounding amazing, what’s not sounding amazing. I’m really open to collaborations. So I’m looking for people to collaborate with and write with. I’m just trying to be very open about it. But at the same time, because I don’t have any restraints now, because I’m on tour, and I’m so busy, I don’t have to just think about making a record. I perform every night, I do things with Anthony. I think Anthony might do a song on the record too—which I’m really excited about! [laughs] I kind of want him to do a dance song with me. I think something a little more happy than [M83 track] “Couleurs” but in the same vein. Just really, four on the floor thumping, classic M83/Morgan Kibby/White Sea.
Is there a song on the EP that you can look at now and say “Oh that’s the direction I was going?”
I feel like “Mountaineer” was a proper sonic representation of who I am and what I wanted to do, in the sense that it makes you feel something. Or at least that’s how I felt when I wrote it. I was like, “Oh this makes me feel really light and expansive.” I really want the record to feel that way. I want it to be emotional. I don’t think it will be as left of center as “Mountaineer.” But it will definitely be as emotional.
The song we just finished and mastered actually, when we wrote it, it was my friend Ray and I who plays with me—he plays guitar. When we wrote it, we were like, “We want to feel like we’re at a festival and we’re making people go [gasps] “Ooohhh!” It’s so funny to think about making music in terms of how you play it live. I wouldn’t have thought that way before I wrote the EP. But as I started playing with M83, and started thinking about how you translate what you make in the studio into engaging people in a live setting, it has affected the way that I write songs.
If feels like M83 was a major part of how you honed your live performance skills.
It’s really important to me. Essentially, the thing I really get happy doing is performing live. I think that shows when I play with M83. It’s such a pleasure to express myself in a live setting. I’m a live performer. I love singing. I love playing. I love connecting with people. That’s how you do it as a musician.
It’s funny, because Anthony too—in our creative dialogue—we’re always in a dialogue about, how do we keep this interesting? How do we keep people engaged? I get to play the guitar now! [laughs]
It’s really cool. You look like you’re living out some kind of rock god fantasy.
[Laughs] I know! You have no idea! I’m not a guitar player. It was literally like, “We’re going to play this remix, and it would be really cool if there as no synth.” I was like, “I should play the guitar.” They’re like, “Can you do it?” They were like boys, “You can’t play the guitar!” I was like, “Bitches, I will show you!” You know, rightfully so, I had to prove myself, because I’m not a guitar player. But I sat there and practiced and practiced until I got it. They trusted me. They let me up there and they let me play, and I fucking love it! It’s so much fun! [laughs]
That’s very much a theme for you, just going out and doing it.
Oh, hell yeah! Otherwise, what’s the point?
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