“Possibly a little early to be wheeling out 'album of the year'- type assertions, but with The English Riviera, Mount has set the bar nice and high."
Here at DiS, even at this time of year when the majority of music journos are staring wide-eyed into their crystal balls star-gazing for the ‘next big thing’, we’ve never been ones to act as clairvoyants of the net; for one we’re not called Meg and secondly our budget doesn’t stretch far enough for us to have our own in-house black cat (sigh). However, last April Chris Trout’s review of Metronomy’s The English Riviera did just that as the album went on to top a plethora of end of year polls, including DiS’s own Albums Of The Year.
Sure, no-one needed to thumb to the back pages of the Metro to predict that Joseph Mount had a good album in him; the skewed beats of Pip Paine (Pay The £5000 You Owe) and the 500w super-charged electro of Nights Out had already proved that. But, few were likely to have foreseen that a concept album about Devon would have had so much appeal; “this town’s the oldest friend of mine” from ‘The Look’ summed-up the record’s intentions as Mount re-imagined his home county as a hotspot at the cutting edge of youth music and culture akin to US west coast in the seventies or Seattle in the nineties.
Nor, could we have known that Mount’s daring exchange of the big sloganeering choruses of Nights Out for subtler, slicker melodies would have paid off. But as the first rays of sunshine licked our pallid shore last spring, when The English Riviera was first released, it quickly became the soundtrack for our vitamin D deprived souls. And, the success of The English Riviera still looks set to continue into 2012 with the band announcing the release of double A-side ‘The Look/ Corrine’ and heading out on another tour.
Fresh from the band taking the number 10 spot in the DiS Albums Of The Year we called-up a buoyant Joseph just before Christmas, fittingly back at his parent’s home in Devon, to break the big news to him and to unearth more about one of the most celebrated albums of last year.
Firstly, congratulations! The English Riviera is number 10 in Drowned In Sound’s Albums Of The Year.
Amazing, I haven’t seen it yet as I’ve been travelling today. That’s amazing, very nice. Obviously, disappointed it’s not higher - that was a joke! It’s such a nice way for us to finish the year I think and the fact that it’s a memorable record, you couldn’t really hope for more.
Why do you think the record’s resonated with people so much?
I dunno, really. If I knew, I’d do it all the time. I don’t really understand how it works. It’s funny, when I think about the beginning of the year and when it came out in April it seemed to coincide with an early summer and it just seemed to flip the mood, not on any kind of intellectual level just because it was a really nice time of year and there was a new record and it seemed to fit really well.
Definitely, especially as it’s a very light record both sonically and lyrically.
Exactly. Also, maybe many people didn’t have particularly high expectations about a new Metronomy record. I guess that I always felt like I knew that this record was going to be exciting and different from the last record, but no-one else really knew. I guess it just surprised a few people.
I think some people might have been waiting for you to fall-down as Pip Paine was critically well-received and then Nights Out established you both commercially and as a great live band. It’s like people were waiting, on the back of so much success, for you to mess-up.
It’s true. I think that’s the odd thing, and I don’t mean it in any kind of big headed way, the nice thing is that I kind of knew that we weren’t about to fuck up. I have said before in interviews that there’s a confidence maybe in the way the record sounds and that’s maybe got something to do with it. I think some people thought the next Metronomy album might just be nu-rave in the last throes or something; it’s been nice to surprise people.
What were you aspirations when you started the record? Did you always want to build it around the theme of the ‘Devon sound’?
Yeah, the thing is when you’re making something like that it’s impossible for stuff not to change as you go along, if an idea that you had which you were really relying on doesn’t pay off it knocks you back a bit. Once I’d recorded four tracks and I knew what the album was going to be called, I think from then on it became much easier to have this idea of the sound and shape.
Is everything based on that theme both lyrically and musically? Was it something you kept going back to for inspiration?
For me it was much more of an atmospheric thing in a way all the stuff lyrically, well not all of it, the way certain songs allude to the title. I guess, I was thinking a lot about growing-up and for me it was just a feel the music that I felt fitted where I grew-up.
You recorded the last two albums at home whereas for this album you recorded in a studio for the first time. What was an average day like?
It depends a lot, because it was a new way of doing stuff and there were lots of different types of days. The biggest difference was making demos of songs before taking them in the studio as previously I worked off the demo until it was the song so it was all kind of different. The nice thing about a studio is that you give yourself tasks for the day and you feel like you’ve achieved something if you tick something off a list. The days were split into recording a track from the demo and if I felt like I’d spent two days of doing something productive I’d allow myself a day of mucking around. It was nice as you realise you’re the boss in a way, so there were lots of different days with different outcomes.
As the main driving force behind the band, do you feel pressure when it comes to recording the albums as essentially it’s all down to you?
It’s a pressure, but it’s something that I really enjoy doing so much. If it was crap or if I had no ideas then I would feel terrible, but it’s different kind of pressure as it’s something I want to be doing and I find it enjoyable to be doing. It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s what I would be doing anyway even if it wasn’t getting released; the only pressure comes from yourself then rather than critics or the record label.
When we reviewed the album in spring Chris Trout gave it 9/10 and said that "there is a lineage of eccentric, slightly avant-garde leaning Great British Pop into which Metronomy can comfortably be slotted into". Is there anyone in British pop that you look up to?
There’s loads of people; it’s funny as I’m never trying to make eccentric British pop but it happens with a lot of English bands just because they’re English and because of what they do instinctively what comes out ends up being particularly British and I think that’s nice that it’s impossible to escape that. I guess, that’s why bands like Bush are popular in America and not in England - they managed to escape from being English. People like David Bowie, Human League, Blur, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones they’ve all had their moments of being slightly eccentric - all of those people I think are great.
Unlike your previous records this one’s noted as being influenced by AOR big-chorus bands, like Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder. What made you leave the electro of Nights Out and bring AOR elements into the tracks?
The thing is I’ve always been into it, that’s the funny thing I suppose what happens is when you’re a bit younger you feel like you’re maybe careful not to show the side of what you’re into. I think I probably had the idea that I was in London and I was around people that were making dance music and that when I moved away from London and I felt much less involved I was able to do stuff and not think twice about it. I’ve listened to Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Wonder for years, but I didn’t let on that I did.
Yeah, it’s kind of a dirty secret when you’re younger but as you get older you don’t mind being open about and it becomes more acceptable to like that kind of music.
Not even that, just not really thinking it’s relevant and then you end up realising that it means as much to you as anything else you’ve been listening to, but it’s maybe a matter of letting it all hang out more.
What’s been your album of the year?
We’ve been touring so much this year that anytime I’ve been listening to music it’s been in the company of the band, normally in the scenario when you’re in a bus after a gig and you’re having a knees-up. Stuff like: Kanye West and Jay-Z, Watch The Throne, Femme Fatale by Britney Spears we’ve been playing a lot…
It’s actually number 75 in the DiS Top 75
Well, it’s an amazing record. Veronica Falls also had their first album out, which is nice for me as I know them all and then also Male Bonding and we’ve been touring with Connan Mockasin this year and I just love him to death.
You produced a couple of tracks on Nicola Roberts’ debut, Cinderella Eyes. Was it a way for you to fulfil your pop ambitions?
In a big way, because it’s not like working with someone like Madonna or anyone where the album has to be some massive international unit-shifter, it was much more to do with working with a person that wanted to make something interesting. I think she got a lot of credit, but she deserves a lot of credit for actually doing that and being the one person in that group for doing it. For me, it was a kind of pinnacle of my career [laughs], that’s not true but if you told me 10 years ago that I’d be doing that I’d be like: “no way”. So, it was very nice.
She came 68th in our poll.
Good on her!
Are you producing anyone else?
I’m not as we’re still touring until April; it’s something I want to do more of it’s just kind of a time thing at the moment.
When are you going to start work on the next record?
I’ve started trying to do demos, but realistically it’s not going to be until summer that I get to start recording. It probably won’t be out next year, maybe the end of the year.
What direction are you going in?
I’ve got some clear ideas…
Will it be another concept album?
Probably not, not in quite the same way.
Metronomy are on tour on the following dates:
8th February – Glasgow, 02 Academy
9th February – Newcastle, O2 Academy
10th February – Manchester, Academy
14th February – Nottingham, Rock City
15th February – Leeds, O2 Academy
17th February – Norwich, UEA
18th February – Birmingham, O2 Academy
19th February – Cardiff, Uni
20th February – Bristol, O2 Academy
22nd February – Bournemouth, O2 Academy
23rd February – Brighton, Dome
25th February – London, Brixton Academy
3rd March – Paris, Zenith