Q&A: M83′s Morgan Kibby on SXSW, Stage Costumes, and Flying Solo as White Sea

white-sea

If Morgan Kibby looks familiar it’s probably as that girl behind the keyboard behind Anthony Gonzalez, co-former of a wildly successful French electro band called M83. But Kibby is far more than a contributor of key arrangements. With M83 she helped write one of the best songs of the last half decade, and spread her mic skills between bands Kim & Jessie and Reunion. Now she’s stepping out and flying solo as White Sea.

In Cold Blood is the debut album finally out May 20, and it’s no baby step. Synths are soaring, vocals are both high and violent, and it’s difficult to describe much more than that without repeatedly using the word “epic.” We talked to Kibby about what went into making it, and just as importantly, what she’s going to wear on stage now that she’s the one in the spotlight?

You did release an EP in 2010. Why such a long wait before releasing the album?
Because of M83. I contributed and co-wrote on the last album, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, and I basically committed myself to that. It felt like the right thing to do. M83, as much as it isn’t completely my project, I’m still very much a part of it.

So when did the idea for White Sea happen?
It happened after the first record that I did with M83. I came off the road, and I knew that… You know, with Anthony, nothing’s ever really sure. At that point I didn’t know if I was going to be coming back or not as a contributor. He has a lot of satellite people who are contributors to his work. So it seemed like a natural thing to start my own project. I sat down, and at that point I didn’t have any technical skills, and so I kind of had convinced myself that I needed somebody to help me. My boyfriend at the time was like, “Why don’t you just figure it out yourself?” So I did! But it took about a year to painstakingly learn how to produce, how to engineer, how to use Ableton, and just to learn all these technical skills. It was a process, and the EP came out of it. I kind of look at the EP more like an experiment to see what I was capable of.

What I like about the EP is the how much you’re actually singing on it. Is your voice something the album focuses strongly on too?
Absolutely. I mean, yes, I have sung with M83, but I’m basically a keyboard player live, and at my core I’m a singer. I definitely just wanted to have some run, really, just go for it see what happens. Some of these songs are very adventurous.

You also recently came back from SXSW as White Sea – what was that experience like?
It was amazing. I mean I’ve only just started playing live as White Sea, and we had a run of four or five days with Phantogram, which was wonderful and amazing but it was very short, I was just getting my feet wet. But we got to SXSW it was everything you would hope it would be. People really connected with the music. It was my first time seeing unbiased crowds too, seeing people who didn’t know who I was really respond to the songs live. When you’re first starting out there’s nothing better than seeing people who don’t know your music rooting for you.

Is it very different touring now to when you toured with M83?
Yes, money! With M83 we’ve been touring together for so long, so I’ve been with Anthony from a van to two busses and a truck. I’ve been every incarnation of what it means to be on tour. It’s humbling to go back to the beginning again, it’s like, “Oh, here we go, back to the van.” But it’s also exciting because it’s for me and it’s my project. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough being in a van. I’m such a dude on tour.

Do you think a lot about what you wear on stage?
Absolutely. I was always a bit of a tomboy, then I started working with a stylist because I was like “I can’t think of outfits but I need to step up my game.” It’s important for me to look good on stage. I remember wearing heels and gowns on stage for the first time and it just completely transformed the way I was performing. I’m luckily enough to work closely with Katharine Polk from Houghton. We’re designing some stuff for the upcoming tour. Especially since I used to be behind a keyboard a lot of the time. Fashion is as an opportunity to become something more than what you are. Especially since I used to be behind a keyboard a lot of the time, I think a lot about how I’m going to move on stage.

Because Morgan obviously has exceptional taste in music, and because it’s Friday, we asked her to choose a few songs for a super spacey playlist. Listen to it below.

White Sea will be touring with The Naked and Famous from May 23. Pre-order In Cold Blood on iTunes for $7.99 and get instant downloads of “They Don’t Know” and “Prague.”

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