“Are you OK?”
Joe Mount bursts in to laughter as we sit across a table in the back room of Metronomy’s label offices, the chosen location for today’s marathon of interviews promoting new album Love Letters. “Everyone today, all the interviewers seemed to have started the interviews being like, ‘How are you?’” He tells me, “And I’m fine!”
“But the new album is a bit sad?” I explain.
“It doesn’t strike me as that sad, but there you go”, he replies.
“Maybe if you were in a sad mood already?”
“It’s all things to all people. No, but I’m absolutely fine.”
Well, that’s good to know. For a lot of bands it seems the fourth album can be the one where things start to fall apart – although Metronomy have always been a band in flux. First came their 2006 nu-rave debut Pip Paine, followed by its jaunty breakthrough follow-up Nights Out, where the then trio of boys would flash around the stage in costumes that doubled up as a makeshift lighting rig. And then one member left, two joined, and their accomplished third offering, The English Riviera, was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.
Today, Joe stands solo in the press shot used to accompany the announcement of Love Letters, but fear not, Oscar, Anna and Gbenga are still very much a part of Metronomy. Quite simply, the group photos weren’t very good. “I suppose the way we had to justify it is it’s like a re-introduction,” Joe excuses, as he searches through his phone for the new photos. “There we all are, look,” he offers, holding up some dazzling new photos that show all four members in snazzy blazers. “Everyone’s fine!”
Although all four members of Metronomy are fine, on Love Letters the band take things far past such a settling adjective. It’s heartbreaking at times, but entirely captivating throughout, remaining constantly slick and suave. They’re pop songs, delivered with the idiosyncrasy we’ve come to love from Joe & Co. But with most of the record written in Paris during breaks from touring, how much was Joe working solo and how much was collaborative?
“I guess in all bands you have a taskmaster,” he replies with a slight grimace. “Or a person that’s writing all the songs. And some bands don’t like to draw attention to it because it ruins the idea of a band, or whatever, but everyone knows it. But having said that, with this record, the tracks that sound like there’s a band playing – is the band. The biggest part of the creative process is recording and so I’m slowly becoming more relaxed about it and being less of a control freak.”
Debut 2006 album Pip Paine was at its time a very forward-thinking and progressive record, but with influences such as Sly and the Family Stone informing Love Letters, this feels like Metronomy’s most retrospective offering.
“Fuck you!” Joe shouts, followed by a cheeky giggle. “I think that the first album is still really representative of me and what I do and like. At the same time as I’ve been trying to get more interesting as a songwriter, I’ve been trying to learn more about production, and if you start making music on a computer and you start producing on a computer, then unless you want to be like, cutting, cutting edge, your interest is going to take you back. Lots of things are happening simultaneously. I’m trying to get better at songwriting and I’m also trying to learn more about production, and I guess it looks like each record gets further and further back in time.”
It’s probably been a blessing for the band. While many of nu-rave’s forerunners didn’t make it past their debut, Metronomy have since grown from strength to strength. Joe continues, “I’ve done most of the things I wanted to do out of interest in terms of production, so I think the next album will go more back to the more forward-thinking – if you see what I mean.”
“Forward-thinking is people who are making new types of music, and that’s something that interests me less recently – but it’s always been what I’m trying to do. It’s like a whirlpool scenario, but it’s all contributing to making new stuff and I think that I’m at the point now with four records that are quite diverse, but for the next one I can use them all to bolster what I’m doing.”
That’s right folks – it’s the first run of press for the new Metronomy record, and he’s already talking about the next one. “LET’S MAKE A RECORD! LET’S DO IT NOW!” He bellows.
In an interview recently, Joe stated that he used to feel awkward singing his songs. But with an album that at times feels starkly confessional, I ask why the confidence boost now? “It was more like, lyrically,” he explains, pausing for a second. “I’m trying to think of the best way to circle this.”
“Part of my big issue has always been, because I started playing drums and ended up doing this, I’ve never really felt like I was a qualified lyricist. And so that’s something I’ve always forced myself to try and be more comfortable with, and try things out, and I think I was saying about being confident not in an egotistical way. I basically think I’ve found the secret. I think now I understand that being a musician, and especially being one that writes lyrics, it’s a confidence trick.”
“You can’t really objectively say that something is bad. Grammatically things can be correct, but you can’t really… It’s just opinion. Whereas before I thought to be someone that wrote lyrics that were interesting, I thought that you had to have a degree in English. And what I’ve realised is that actually you just need to care about words and have some belief in what you’re on about in a way. You just have to have courage in your convictions.”
To me, the Metronomy style is typified in album closer “Never Wanted”, where Joe sings about slightly oddball things in his characteristic falsetto. He laughs, explaining that he thinks “it’s just being aware of what you do and embracing it. But then I think the album lyrically is much better than the stuff I’ve done before, so I think there’s a difference. It’s still got what you’d expect but I think it’s maybe a bit less self-conscious than before.”
First track “I’m Aquarius” was launched through an astronomy app that allows users to hear the song while trained on the matching star constellation. I ask if this is something Joe takes interest in, or just a label gimmick. Turns out it’s mostly the latter. “My dad was saying how astronomers hate astrology because one is a science and one is bullshit. So to link up these two things will have upset some astronomers, but whatever. They’re a very quiet bunch.”
It seems like every album today has to have an app or a mystic marketing campaign to launch it. “All you care about is, is the record going to be any good?” asserts Joe. “Because if it isn’t, just fuck off.”
Looks like Metronomy will be sticking about for a lot longer then. Everything is A-OK.
Love Letters is released on 10 March via Because Music. The band are set to tour the UK in March, culminating in a headline appearance at London’s Field Day Festival.