story/ Ilyse Kaplan
photographer/ Gregoire Alexandre
On April 3, 2012 Los Angeles’ El Rey theatre was packed with dancing bodies trying to get to the front of the stage, or at least stand up tall enough to catch a glimpse of Metronomy. It is rare in 2012, to see so many empty hands waving in the air at a concert. Usually the hands are filled with electronic devices capturing the moment as the owner of the device cheapens the moment with their lack of interest in the song and urgency to Instagram the band. Not Metronomy fans, their phones were kept securely in their pockets as they danced and sang every word. Though Joseph Mount, the man behind Metronomy, might not believe it, his fans were coming to see their favorite band, not “the next big thing” (though they very well may be). Having been out for a year, the band’s third record, “The English Riviera” is attracting new fans everyday.
I caught up with Mr. Mount before his sold out performance at the El Rey. Taking a night between opening for Coldplay at the Hollywood Bowl to play a show for his own fans, the modest Mount was excited to be back where he felt he belonged.
What was it like to play the Hollywood Bowl?
We did the second night last night so we were getting slightly more used to it. I guess, as always, it’s not like we’re playing the Hollywood Bowl, Coldplay was playing the Hollywood Bowl. It’s just a really incredible place, there’s no place like it. I’m not sure we’d ever be able to play it on our own terms so it’s just incredible. Its one of those places, a bit like the older [venues] in London that the Beatles have played, but they’re still kind of small and there’s nothing now that was built like that.
What was it like playing for the Coldplay crowd? I can imagine it’s not quite your crowd.
I’m not really a fan of Coldplay but when you start touring with a band you can’t help but wake up with their songs going around in your head. The thing with Coldplay fans is they’re not real scenester types, they’re just normal people. I think when we’re playing [for Coldplay fans] we’re splitting the opinion of the crowd quite a bit. It feels like the people have really warmed to us.
I can imagine it’s a lot of Dads.
Yeah! It’s a lot of Dads and a lot of kids. A lot of kids are there because maybe it’s their Dad’s favorite band so they grew up on that stuff, it’s just bizarre.
So I’m sure tonight it will be nice going back to your own crowd?
When you’re on tour with another band sometimes you forget what it’s like to play a show where people actually want to see you. So I’m really looking forward to tonight it’s going to be fun.
How was it to play Coachella for the first time?
Before we were doing it everyone was like “oh, you’re playing Coachella, it’s such an amazing festival” and our first experience of it was not great, it was raining and no one on the site was very helpful as to where we were supposed to go to do press. Then, we spent hours driving around the gated communities trying to find radio station houses and we were like “what were people talking about? This festival is horrible” Then after being in Canada for a week, I was very excited to get back down to the festival and the second weekend was a lot of fun.
As a band that played the fest, what were your feelings on holding the festival for two weekends?
I know some people here take issue with it, I think it’s better than making it bigger which is what happens with a lot of English festivals.
Did you get to see any of the other acts playing the fest?
We stayed late the day we played to see Dr. Dre so we watched a bit of Justice as well, and accidently saw a bit of At the Drive In while we waited for Dr. Dre. The impression I get from Coachella is it’s not the type of place that you go to actually discover a band. I know some people might have discovered us but it’s such a big bill that you don’t have time to see everyone. It was so fucking hot too so we just stayed in the tent.
You’ve done a lot of remixes people might not expect from hearing your albums, such as Lady Gaga’s “You and I,” are you in to a lot of guilty pleasure pop music?
Because of the way I form my opinions now, the idea of having a guilty pleasure doesn’t really exist anymore, I just decided to embrace everything that I like. For a while I would say that my guilty pleasure was that song “Stars are Blind” by Paris Hilton but it’s actually a really good song so I’m not embarrassed by it. I think pop music is pop music and it’s a lot more interesting than the latest band, so no guilty pleasures apart from Paris Hilton but I show no guilt.
What are some pop songs you’ve liked lately?
I heard that “Climax” by Usher, that’s very good. We (Metronomy) were all going crazy for the Britney record but that’s kind of old now. We’ve been touring for six weeks with Coldplay, so I’ve really just been listening to Coldplay, but I definitely like that Usher track, I’m interested to see what the rest of the album is like.
What role did music play for you growing up?
I grew up in rural England so there wasn’t really a music scene in the way there was for some of the bigger towns in England. The only kind of shows I could go to were bands that were big enough to come down [to the rural areas]. At school I met a few people that I formed bands with. There was a group of five or six people who really liked music, I latched on to them and then we’d take turns going to each others’ houses and hang out in the bedroom together listening to records. Someone’s parents might go away and you’d go over, have some beers, and listen to music because there weren’t any clubs to go to. It was really important and it’s funny because now I realize that everyone who was in that group is doing something with music today. For all that time we spent saying “I wish something would go on,” we didn’t realize that we were making stuff go on.
It’s been a year since you released “The English Riviera,” how has it been touring with those songs for the past year?
The thing is, we’ve been touring with it longer because we were touring with it building up to the record, and it’s been great. I think now, in America, people are just beginning to pick up on [our music] but in Europe it’s been a very exciting year for us. Now, people in America are picking up the record who didn’t hear it before. I’ve seen success happen to friends of ours but to have it happen to you is just enjoyable because it might not happen again.
How did the progression of going from straight dance records like “Nights Out” and “Pip Paine” to more of a thematic record like “The English Riviera” occur?
It’s funny because nowadays, the way you get in to music, you might start with a band like The Beatles and immediately you’ve got a huge amount of records to listen to. You can just listen through them and hear the progression happening between then and whenever you decide to listen to the next record though you’ve got no sense at the time of the physical gap between the records. The way I’ve been making music is from listening to stuff like that, to me it seems completely normal that you should want to change and push yourself a bit. I guess I wouldn’t have been happy to keep doing instrumental dance music and if you listen to a lot of musicians that do [electronic music], they kind of hit this wall after 3 albums. The thing is, it’s still a hobby for me, I just love making music. I still do it as much for myself as anyone else. When I started to sing, it was like “oh well this is kind of funny.” My records are experiments and they seem to go all right.
Did you get a little more comfortable singing on “The English Riviera”?
I think I had to, really. It’s very weird because I started playing drums and always dreamed I would be in a band playing shows, but imagined I would be drumming at the back. You always see people who want to be the front person, that’s not me but I’m realizing you have to, not force yourself, but appreciate the situation you’re in. When I first started singing, I did it in a very plain way so people can’t take the piss out of you, then after a while you realize, why not try harder?
Do you write with the other band members now that they are in the band, or continue to do everything on your own?
That’s the thing that ties everything together—or the way I like people to see it—is you can see what I’ve learned through having all the music be my own. On the last record, the other members played on the songs, but what makes Metronomy Metronomy is that it’s quite a direct relationship between the songs and me. If there were too many people that got involved in the song writing it might loose its essence.
When you added the other members for your live performances, how was it to go from performing mainly electronic to live instrumentals?
It was amazing because before that, there were three of us in the group and we were using a computer, it almost felt like we were cheating. I’ve been in bands before and it feels very natural to have four people on stage. When it came to having the others join, we decided we weren’t going to replicate everything exactly because you may as well be using a backing track. We wanted to get the spirit of the music and do what we can with the four of us. The trick is, it wasn’t hard because we didn’t try really hard. It was more like we did what we could because people were coming to watch a show, not to listen to a record. Compared to how it was when it was three of us with a laptop, it feels more proper. It’s so much easier to do it with the four of us because the show is genuinely different every night.
How do you end up writing somber lyrics with upbeat instrumentals that make you want to dance?
It’s not a conscious thing, I suppose if you’re going to write lyrics you should write them about stuff you have experience with. For the music side of it, you work on instinct. For me, it’s more whatever happens happens. I think because I used to play the drums I like to have nice and rhythmic instrumentals.
Have you been working on new music lately?
Because we’ve been away so much it’s hard, there’s nothing recorded but I’ve got demos on my computer that I listen to all the time. I’m really excited about starting the next record. Especially because this time around there are all these new people who didn’t care before, there are new people who are excited to hear new music.
What do you think the progression will be from “British Riviera” to the record you’ve been writing demos for?
The first two records were home productions, the third album was a studio production and it was such an exciting thing to do. Last time around I was new to recording in the studio and there was a whole lot of stuff I wanted to do that was maybe self-indulgent. Why not go ahead and take it to the next step? For the next record, the role will be to bring everything from the first three records together. To me it makes perfect sense with the three records and the way that they’ve changed, but I still feel like it confuses a lot of people and I don’t want it to, so I’d like to do something for the next album to show what was going on in my head.
What do you hope people get out of your music?
I don’t know. I suppose just what I put in to it. I’m not the kind of person that is doing it to be crazy rich. I try to make the music sound interesting so I hope that people find it interesting. I’ve spoken to people and certain songs have been important to them in particular situations, it’s incredible that that can happen, that it can mean something to someone.