Morgan Kibby is White Sea, and after returning from a tour as the female vocalist for M83, Kibby sat down and taught herself Pro Tools so that she could write and produce a record entirely on her own. Here, she tells us about the process.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Alaska and I grew up in San Francisco. I went to the Le Lycée Français de Los Angeles, which is a French school. I played piano classically up until the time I was 15, and I started writing music in my late teens. I kind of had some projects here in L.A. and acted in some short films.
How did you meet Anthony and start working with M83?
My friend is a French director named Eva Husson. She was directing her first feature and Anthony was the composer—that's how they met. She wanted to involve me in the film and asked him if he could use my voice. Ultimately, it didn't work out for the film, but he ended up asking me to come and record Saturdays=Youth with him!
How is your solo work a departure from the music you two worked on?
The biggest departure is that I'm writing and producing everything on my own. Sonically, there are a lot of influences that are specific to me and to what I've been listening to over the past year. I was really inspired by disco, which is this big thing that you won't find a lot of in M83 for sure. ABBA, Donna Summer, the Bee Gees...that's one of the unique things about White Sea.
Maybe disco will have its revival soon.
I hope so! It's the perfect soup of fun and musical challenge: great bass lines, great beats, amazing vocals. I took a lot of inspiration from it.
There is such a diverse sound track-to-track in This Frontier. Was that intentional or was it something that happened organically?
It's something I was concerned with at first. A lot of the time, when people make records, they are totally concerned with the cohesiveness of the sound. I felt really strongly that I didn't want to be constrained by that, mainly because when I tried to bring it all together I lost the original impetus of the inspiration. If I sat down and was like, 'this song has this sound to it, so I have to put that in this song,' it would just kill me. So I had to stop over-thinking it because it made everything I was writing seem subpar. I decided that I love a million different genres of music so I'm just going to go for it and see how it turns out.
So you've got your drama and your dance beats.
I have this bad habit of making sad, heavy music. So I wanted to make some fun songs, too. A lot of times you can make a record to listen to and then you can make a record to tour with. I know after touring with M83, toward the end of our tour we wanted more dance stuff, just because we had fun engaging the audience that way. It was a huge step for me to back away from brooding all of the time.
You've said writing "Cannibal Love" was a visual experience. What did you mean by that?
I wrote this song towards the end, layering vocals and experimenting using my voice as an instrument. So as I built this song it really conjured up these images of the American West–canyons, the sun setting–which then triggers movie and song references. As I finished the song, I pulled up images from the Internet of the West and I was able to finish crafting the sounds and vocals accordingly.
Where does the name for White Sea come from?
Trying to think of a band name has got to be one of the most annoying, frustrating experiences. I didn't just want to come up with something off the cuff– it had to be meaningful. I looked up my name meaning and this baby website popped up, and it said the meaning of my name is "white sea dweller." So it comes from Celtic origins, and it just made sense. It fits the music.
You sing about teenage dreams in "The Mountaineer." What were you like as a teenager?
I was kind of a misfit I guess. I wasn't popular, and on top of that, in the 10th grade I ended up being home-schooled, so I was pretty much alone. I didn't have very many friends and I just existed in my own universe. I read a lot and I listened to my music.
Hey, it turned out well though!
Ha, I guess so. Being a teenager is rough, man! I loved it and hated it at the same time.
Do you ever revisit songs you wrote during that time?
The songs I wrote back then were so dark and melodramatic! I haven't listened to them in a while, but from what I remember, "cringe-worthy" is an apt description. I spent so much time in books as a teenager, I think I got a little lost and forgot I was growing up in the 1990s, not 1800s. But hey, we all have our own flavor of teen angst.
What did your room look like back then?
I decorated it to look like a forest. My ceiling was a midnight purple color, and I spray-painted all these branches silver and hung them on my wall and draped Christmas lights through them to look like a forest ceiling. I was a romantic.
What about now?
Very, very simple. I live in the tiniest apartment ever. Like, on the face of the planet. There's no room for anything. I have a lot of M83 posters everywhere and my boyfriend has band posters as well. We keep it to music and photographs.
Besides music, what do you enjoy?
I love to cook. I'm kind of a hedonistic gourmande I have to admit. I love to cook lots of dishes full of butter, cream and wine. I love French cuisine and Moroccan food. There's so much amazing food here in L.A. I live right down the block from a small wine and cheese store, which thank God I can't afford to visit everyday or I'd be 1,000 pounds! Did I mention I'm obsessed with cheese?
What about when you're not cooking?
I love to skateboard! Actually, I just broke my elbow skateboarding, which is really frustrating. I love to discover new music, which is totally corny. I love to go to little record shops and just listen to new music.