France native Hugo Pierre Leclercq, who performs under the stage name Madeon (aka Nantes), may only be 20 years old. But his debut album, Adventure, due March 31 on Columbia Records, is more than three years in the making.
The electronic producer was signed by Columbia chairman Rob Stringer within hours of playing the Hype Hotel at South By Southwest 2012 on the strength of buzzy club singles like “Finale” and “Icarus,” and was quickly tapped by Lady Gaga for production work on 2013’s Artpop.
But to properly focus on his full-length, Madeon kept touring to a minimum in the first half of 2014 to collaborate with the likes of Passion Pit‘s Michael Angelakos, Foster The People‘s Mark Foster and Bastille‘s Dan Smith, as well as lesser-known vocalists Kyan and Aquilo.
Expect many of the songs to be played out live for the first time when Madeon performs at Coachella on April 12 and 19, less than two weeks after Adventure‘s release.
“The album is not really about dance music, so I was mostly interested in working with people outside of the dance world,” Madeon tells Billboard. “I was lucky to work with some acts I’ve wanted to work with for years, but also new people I found out about recently. I wanted to sit down with other people and write songs. There was a human experience in making this that I never really experienced before working on my own music alone.”
Madeon’s detours into British soul and alt-rock will certainly make Adventure difficult to categorize for fans of EDM, let alone his earlier work like hard-hitting highlight “The City” and Ellie Goulding collab “Stay Awake.” Not unlike Porter Robinson‘s festival-snubbing album Worlds, it’s the kind of music just as likely to nod heads than it is to pump fists and stamp feet, though standout cuts like “OK,” “Imperium” and Passion Pit’s “Pay No Mind” all have higher BPMs and stylistic nods to Madeon’s French dance peers Daft Punk and Justice.
Madeon credits Gaga as well as Napes with helping him find his voice as a songwriter — particularly one for whom English has only recently become a second language.
“Watching Gaga work was really inspirational, being able to communicate a lot in a very broad and relatable way and all these things I never quite considered before,” he says. “Growing up in France, I just liked the way English-language music sounds, so when I could finally understand the lyrics all my favorite songs suddenly had this layer of depth. And working with Jimmy just opened up this new territory and my mind as a musician. I felt like my vision of music changed a little after working with him.”
Still, if Adventure sounds less concerned with stacking bass drops, that’s just Madeon’s M.O.
“I don’t feel very related to [the EDM] scene, I just don’t care that much to be honest,” he says. “I don’t listen to dance releases. And I mean ‘dance’ in the sense of this narrow, specific brand of dance music. I guess at a point I felt maybe more excited by it, and it wasn’t a conscious effort to get away from it, but I never liked ‘EDM’. I was just doing my thing, and suddenly the world just slaps something on you and you go, ‘OK.’ I just want to be able to do my thing.”
Here’s the tracklist for Madeon’s new album, Adventure:
2. “You’re On” (feat. Kyan)
4. “La Lune” (feat. Dan Smith from Bastille)
5. “Pay No Mind” (feat. Passion Pit)
9. “Nonsense” (feat. Mark Foster)
10. “Innocence” (feat. Aquilo)
11. “Pixel Empire”