Secrets of the White Sea: How M83’s Morgan Kibby Made Pop’s Newest Break-Up Classic

morgan-kibby-white-sea-3

A few weeks after our breakfast, I email about getting a comment from Kibby’s M83 bandmate, Anthony Gonzalez. Even the band’s publicist at Mute notes how proud they all are of Kibby. The response I get from him is so shining, it could appear as a promotional sticker on In Cold Blood.

“Morgan creatively evolved during the last three years,” Gonzalez writes. “This shows on her debut album. Unique, ambitious, and surprisingly pop, Morgan is going all-in, delivering strong vocals and beautiful melodies.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA8idH0LZ3w]

There are a lot of people in Kibby’s corner, but the thing that continues to strike me about the album is that it was one that really needed to be made in near-isolation. Almost all of her career up to this point has been marked by collaboration of some kind, from her childhood years in the San Francisco Opera to fronting the orchestral indie band The Romanovs to singing in movie trailers to remixing everyone from Britney Spears to Manchester Orchestra to being nominated for a Grammy for her work with Gonzalez. What comes next is also marked by collaboration: touring this spring with The Naked and Famous, finishing her first stint producing for another act (the upcoming EP from LA band Wildcat! Wildcat!), and at some point, continuing her work in M83.

“I’ll always make music with Anthony — we’re very much kindred spirits and we have a lot of the same references,” she says, adding that Gonzalez’s fascination with nostalgia and childhood sets them apart musically.

“It’s a tricky situation, because you don’t go to an M83 concert and expect to see anybody else but Anthony onstage,” she says later. “I gave a lot of my 20s to that project, so to have to go from the bus to the van fucking sucks. Part of me feels exhausted at the prospect of building something again over the next decade, because it takes that long if you’re a true artist to really build something worth listening to. But there’s also another side to it: when I finished SXSW it was my victory. I didn’t have to share it with anybody.”

To have a moment to oneself, spinning there in the spotlight under the disco ball, taking stock of the bruises both faded and yet to heal… well, that’s at the heart of this music. It would be easy to say Kibby is adhering to the “living well is the best revenge” philosophy when, after breakfast, I get a look at the full fabulousness of her outfit: luxurious cream coat draped just inches above her red carpet-ready pointed stilettos. But to read too much into her clothes would be a terribly simplistic way to sum up someone as emotionally aware as Kibby.

“I actually ran into my ex [who inspired In Cold Blood] at a restaurant the other day, and we just had that weird moment where you lock eyes, and I just walked right past him,” she says. “When we broke up, he said, ‘I will never give you closure.’ In that exact moment, he give me closure by showing me what an ugly person he was being in a place of anger. I don’t think we’ll ever speak again.”