Interview with Metronomy

Named after the musical term for the measurement of time by an instrument, Metronomy is a UK four-piece dance-meets-rock project helmed by multi-instrumentalist and producer Joseph Mount. Their third album, The English Riviera, is full of electronic-fused indie pop gems with summertime vibrations, heavy-hearted dance moves, and cool melodies. Recently nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize, an annual music prize for the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland (PJ Harvey took home the award), I checked in with Mount via email following the band’s biggest London show to date at the Royal Albert Hall:

Hello! Congrats on your Royal Albert Hall gig! How was it?

Thank you very much. It was a number of things to all of us really. I think the first thing we were aware of was that it was our last UK show of the year, so we felt like it was the end of something, the something being touring in England I guess. It was this incredible ending to an incredible year for us in the UK (the year obviously continues elsewhere), so we just felt taken a back really at how far we’d come. Also, it is this very prestigious venue, so you feel like you have to rise to the occasion and don’t want to be lumped in with the bad things that have been done there previously (of which there are a surprising amount). Finally, we all felt nervous as hell. We hadn’t played to 5,000 people in London before, so it made everyone feel pretty sickly. But, I think as soon as it was over, we wished it had gone on for longer. It will be/already is unforgettable.

The English Riviera is amazing! It’s creeping its way into the top spot of my favorite albums of the year. What’s been the best thing about the success of this record?

Well thank you very much. For me personally it has been a very reassuring process. I’ve dedicated so much of my life to making music and trying to get better at it that this record has given me a sense of vindication. The people who didn’t like the previous records would often say “anyone can do that” and that used to really anger me. I don’t want to sound like I take myself seriously or anything, but I’ve been studying music (in my own little way) for about twenty years now. To think that after all that time I’m doing stuff that is un-original, or worse still something that “anyone can do” is just absolutely distressing. So, I feel like this record has proved that there is much more to me and the music than some people thought. Obviously, our fans have understood it from the beginning, so I hope that they too feel they’ve been backing the right horse from the get go.

You once described your previous album, Nights Out, as being “a half-arsed concept album about going out and having a crap time”, which is a description that I love. How would you describe The English Riviera?

If I tried to do it in the same snappy manner I might say it’s a record about “coming from somewhere that is almost perfect, but not perfect enough that you don’t have to write a record and make videos that embellish just how perfect it is”.

Let’s talk about the Mercury Prize. Your performance was great. Was there an album that you feel should have made the shortlist that didn’t?

I think the list was actually pretty good really. The prize itself tries to be all encompassing, so there are always going to be bands/artists that feel rejected (let’s face it, the previous two Metronomy records did not make the list). But, I can’t really think of any albums that I personally thought deserved a place and didn’t get one. I know people thought The Horrors, Friendly Fires and Wild Beasts records should have all been there, but then all of those bands have been nominated before (I think). That’s not to say they wouldn’t have been worthy nominees, just that there were actually a lot of good records that came out this year and the judges obviously aim to get a cross-section of what’s happening at the moment … they can’t please everyone.

Any particularly memorable experiences from that evening?

A memorable experience? Guy Garvey trying to get me to dance with his wife.

You’ve done a ton of remix work for all kinds of artists. Is there  anyone out there that you’re dying to remix?

It’s quite odd really, people think because I’ve done so many that I absolutely love doing them. The truth is, I enjoy the process, but for so long remixing was the only way I was earning any money. It had the benefits of getting the Metronomy name about as well, but really it’s not the kind of thing that I go out of my way to do. I’m much more interested in collaborating with other people or doing production really.

Is there a specific remix you’ve done that you’re especially proud of?

The remixes I’ve done that I like most are probably the Box Codax one and the Lykke Li one.

I love the work you did with Nicola Roberts. What do you enjoy about  writing and producing for others? Any upcoming collaborations we can expect?

There’s nothing in the pipeline at the moment, but I’m always up for being approached. It’s like I mentioned before, when you are writing with someone it can be such an enjoyable and truly collaborative thing. The work I did with Nicola is a very good example of that. She’s not a musician, so she needs someone to write music for her. But, she is a very good singer and lyricist, for me that is a great situation to find yourself in. I think you also end up with this real sense of achievement, the tracks I did with Nicola took a lot of people by surprise, I don’t think they expected her to write those kinds of lyrics or to use that kind of instrumentation. I like to think that I helped her push herself a little.

What do you enjoy most about touring?

Aside from playing to people I have to say it’s the travel. Not the physical traveling though, more just the relationships you build up with different cities. By now I feel like we could probably each write some travel guides, most bands could probably do the same.

What are you looking forward to in visiting Seattle?

Just getting the chance to play there again. Last time we came to play we were in a venue where someone had been shot the week before. The atmosphere was pretty bleak to say the least. So, it’s a fresh start for us in your fair city.

Here at KEXP we’re currently doing a countdown of our listeners’ favorite songs of all time in conjunction with our Fall Membership Drive. Can you think of a song that stands out to you as one of your all-times favorites?

One of my all time favorites would have to be Leonard Cohen’s version of “The Partisan”.

What’s next for Metronomy after the tour?

Well, the tour doesn’t really finish until April next year. So, I hope a brief rest and then onto the next record!

Metronomy will be live on KEXP on Oct. 11th at 3PM and performing that night at Neumos.

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