RISING ARTISTS: METRONOMY HAS US WRITING LOVE LETTERS
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2014 | POSTED BY: K. HESS
They hold a Mercury Prize for their 2011 album The English Riviera. Famed French director Michel Gondry, of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and that kick ass White Stripes video with the Legos, just directed the video for their most recent single "Love Letters". They've garnered high praises across the BBC Radio 1 and they'll be headlining BBC Radio 6's first ever music festival. They are Metronomy, and they are a band to watch out for.
Formed way back in '99 as the solo/side project of frontman Joseph Mount, the band is, well, now a headlining act. In addition to Mount who still writes all the music, plays keyboards, a pinch of guitar, and sings lead on most of the tracks, the quartet consists of Oscar Cash on saxophone, keyboards, and guitar; Gbenga Adelekan on bass guitar; and Anna Prior on drums. Their first album in their current incarnation, The English Riviera put them on the map with the subdued synth-pop hits "The Bay" and "The Look". Perched right on the cusp of mainstream recognition, Mount did something most artists in his position might consider totally fucking crazy: he did what he wanted. He changed it up, trading crisp digital beats for a raw analogue sound.
It's difficult to discuss Metronomy along a single trajectory, it's had many incarnations. In reality the project began simply enough as the experiments of a high school aged Joseph Mount grappling with 90s dance genres, and offering his own revisions. "We're talking about me being like 17 so I probably was trying to make intelligent dance music. The way I was approaching making music was very different to how I would do it now, I was a child," he laughed as he considered his youthful idealism. "It's funny if you listen to the songs—I've got all of the songs I made then—what intelligent dance music meant to me at that age was like a bright, kind of quite nice like melodic thing, and then I would just shove in this very technical drum break down, and that was it." He laughed again, "That's what I did, and now I just got rid of the technical drum breakdown."
Mount's idealist philosophies have fluctuated since his teens, but all out genre re-invention was never really the point. "Struggling to make something new isn't what preoccupies me; I'm more interested in making nice records. Whatever they sound like or wherever they come from, for me, if you're adding nice albums to the world...that's a nice thing to do.
"I come from a much more realistic background," he chuckled lightly at the idea of aiming to make new music. "Nothing's new; and all you can do is try to put your own personality into something and that's what makes it new." This approach is evident throughout Mount's "quite nice" discography. He isn't the first kid to sit at his computer and mix around electronic beats, nor is Metronomy the first quartet to croon through a chorus in a four-part vocal harmony, and funky bass riffs already have their place in rock 'n' roll history, but process them through the blender of Mount's nonchalant brand of upbeat melancholy, and these common ingredients come together into a unique rhythm of playfully sober lounge pop.
His confidence is genuine and unassuming—it's very rock 'n' roll—but Mount doesn't see himself that way. "I'm much more aware [that] where I exist in music can never have the same mystique as the people that I love [...] I can't be The Beatles," but why not? "Because my story isn't ever gonna be that kind of story," and to be fair he's probably right. These days the closest thing we have to Beatlemania is Bieber Fever, and it goes without saying that that story isn't Mount. Still, he's fascinated with rock stardom. He even wrote a song about it: "The Most Immaculate Haircut" is just one of the love letters off Metronomy's forthcoming album aptly titled Love Letters. "It's basically talking about these people that I felt like I could never touch. Rock and pop icons have always had very recognizable haircuts. It's a song [...] about wishing that I had a haircut that was really unique." You wouldn't guess that an immaculate haircut is something Mount strives for by his un-fussed-over curls, but that's the beauty of his cleverness. The irony is that he isn't being ironic at all. He's totally cool with admitting that he wishes he were cooler. "I just set out to keep myself happy," he paused and chuckled. "Basically attempting to get to that point to be a very important musician [...] whilst realizing that it's quite hard."
If Mount were truly searching for celebrity, he'd have an easy enough time riding the success of The English Riviera. All he'd really have to do is continue to churn out bright, stripped down, electro bop, and I for one would not be disappointed. After all, he created an album that has something substantial for everyone: easy listening, with style, that doesn't skimp on quality and depth.
Instead, he ditched the digital and decided to undertake the journey of analogue recording. "I really wanted to make a record that I felt had been made in a craftsman-like way." Recording in the analogue studio meant a much more staunch divide between the creative process and the recording process whereas the digital environment of your average studio session allows for a more flexible approach, but that divide was an attractive obstacle for Mount. "When you're working like that, with a computer, you can really edit and move stuff around, and so I really wanted to do all the pre-production work instead of post-production stuff, and so with this record the idea was: you write a song, you arrange it, and everything's finished, and then you spend four minutes recording it, and that's it."
He paused and added, "That's a much simpler way of putting it than it actually was, but that was the difference between the two [...], [Love Letters] was a much more thought out record."
The result is his fourth Metronomy release, and the one he's most proud of. "I have more of a relationship with this one than I do with the previous," he admitted. He wasn't shy about his mixed emotions regarding the album's March 10th release: "I feel like this is going to radiate, and then I started thinking yesterday, 'Oh shit, you know what? There might be some bad reviews,' and I started feeling a bit like, 'Oh my god, like, maybe I'm a bit to precious... already.'"
The record has a much more intimate feel than Metronomy's previous albums, and while that's due in part to the nostalgia lent to it by the retro equipment, it's also due to Mount's investment. By opting for the analogue studio he challenged himself to commit more to his work during the writing process. It's a very personal record.
"It's not like, me spilling my guts," he clarified. "But definitely 'cause of that way of working I feel like I've put the most of myself into it just physically more than I had in others."
Metronomy is a band worth watching out for for many reasons, not the least of which is Mount's ability to switch it up without compromising that "bright, kind of nice, melodic thing" we've come to love. He probably won't record analogue again, but it was an experience he needed to explore, and one that will continue to inform his composition. These guys are only just getting started, and if Love Letters is any indication, then we can expect to continue being pleasantly surprised.
Love Letters is set to release March 10th on Because Music/Elektra Records.
Article By: K. Hess