As a teen, Joseph Mount spent the majority of his time fiddling with tuning knobs and pondering a life outside of sleepy hometown Devon. He was captivated by the cliché rock and roll lifestyle: long tours, big crowds and a life less ordinary. Unlike other kids whose dreams of similar grandeur petered out to marriage and full-time jobs on factory floors, Mount’s dedication to his craft never waned.
20 years on and Mount is living the dream. Well, to be more specific, he’s living his dream. After forming Metronomy just over a decade ago, he has delivered what many consider to be the band’s magnum opus, the Mercury Prize nominated The English Riviera. Somewhat ironically, the group’s highpoint is also an ode to Mount’s childhood town and all those years of tireless rehearsals and failed highschool bands.
Despite all the accolades Mount is a very grounded and humble soul. Speaking in the midst of a hectic tour schedule, he is more than happy to chat about songwriting and why Metronomy never use a backing track on stage. He also freely admits he has no idea about the inspiration for their kooky video for second single ‘The Look’. Feel free to figure it out for yourself. Good luck…
The English Riviera has picked up a Mercury nomination, been critically acclaimed and is generally considered one of the year’s finest releases. It may seem a redundant question, but was this the record you always wanted to make?
Yes and no. I guess when I was younger I didn’t know this was the kind of album I wanted to make. Still, I remember when we were in the process of recording I listened to it and thought, “Wow, I’m kind of impressed by how nice this sounds.”
What’s the transition like from recording in a bedroom to a studio? Is there a different approach or are the fundamentals basically the same?
Because I’m so used to working in a specific way there are certain fundamentals that I follow because that’s the only way I know how to make music. That being said, I definitely tried to source a different attitude when it came to recording.
I’m used to working and working until a song is finished. This time, however, I knew I was going to be taking songs into the studio so I forced myself not to finish songs. That was something I hadn’t done before. In that regard, I think this record is a bit of a transition process.
Where did you come up with the idea for centering the album around your childhood town of Devon?
When I think about Devon I think about the times I was getting prepared for what I’m doing now. Now that something is happening after all those hours I spent practicing I have a strange mixture of emotions about the town because when I was living there I wanted to get out as quickly as possible. I find myself feeling very nostalgic about the place and I thought now was quite a nice time to write about it.
One of the songs I’m really intrigued about off the album is “Trouble”. It has an almost romantic feel about it, completely different to everything else off the LP. How did it come about?
The nice thing about this record is that I was trying to change my attitude of what was representative of me. I’ve got demos and little snippets of something like that song [“Trouble”] but I’ve never really felt comfortable with finishing a track like that. This time I kind of thought, “Why not?”
I’ve heard you mention that “Some Written” is one of your favourite tracks off the record and is something you would like to take forward. Have you had any other early thoughts about the next album or is it a little too soon?
I do get a certain pleasure in making a song like that. I think that there will be stuff in that vein that I would love to try. That being said I wouldn’t do a whole album of jazz fusion stuff like that. Still, I’m sure it will make up a big part of whatever happens next
You’ve had your fair share of pretty different video clips over your career – what’s the inspiration behind ‘The Look’?
[Laughs] With that video you’d have to ask the director cos I’ve got no fucking idea! [Director Lorenzo Fonda] sent this treatment and it said, “The band are playing against a white background and these seagulls are doing various things,” and of all the ideas that came through for the video that was the one that impressed me most. We tried to get more information out of Lorenzo and he said, “Well, I’ll tell you more if you want me to make the video.” It was kind of refreshing to hear someone that was so sure of themselves.
I think his idea was that he didn’t want to have any particular narrative. I’m sure he did on some level, but he didn’t want to make it too explicit. He wanted to allow people to draw their own conclusion. I really like that video it was nice.
You guys will be coming down for Falls which is probably one of our most prestigious festivals. Will your set list consist of mostly new material or is there still room for old tracks like ‘Holiday’ and ‘Radio Ladio’?
I don’t know how long we have to play for. We try to put in as much as everything as we can really. If we’ve only got half an hour we’ll try to chuck in as many new ones as we can.
Metronomy has quite a layered, textured sound. Is it difficult to transfer a lot of the songs to a live setting?
Yeah, but I guess we treat the live thing quite differently. We don’t imagine what we do live is going to be exactly what we do on the record. We allow ourselves quite a margin of what we can experiment doing live. We don’t spend hours and hours trying to be perfect. I think when you see stuff live it should be different otherwise there’s no real point to watch a band.
Is that why the band doesn’t use a backing track on stage?
If we used a backing track then the tempo would be exactly the same as the record. I think it’s nice to be able to change things like tempo and to be able to react to the crowd. Without a backing track you are able to do that in a much more genuine way.
Thanks Joseph. Looking forward to seeing the band in Australia later this year.
Neither can we! We’re very excited to have a winter in the sunshine.
– Paul Bonadio