Joseph Mount is touring. Somewhat more specifically, he's on the side of the road somewhere between Cardiff and Wakefield since he's gotten the driver to pull over. Mount is after all, the brains behind future-classic English quartet, Metronomy. And whilst the band is on tour, they're also in the throes of releasing their third album, The English Riviera.
With two previous LPs, some quiet EPs and a slew of excellent remixes for all kinds of names from Architecture in Helsinki to KD Lang, Metronomy isn't that band who shot to fame with one single, or even within an album release - though with this album, things seem to be gathering more and more steam. The last five years have also included the band being rebuilt as a four piece alongside a steady and organic progression of their musical mettle.
The release of The English Riviera sees their debut as a quartet; waving goodbye to original keyboardist/bassist Gabriel Stebbing for his own project (which Mount subsequently produced), to welcome Anna Prior (formerly of Lightspeed Champion, on the drums) and Gbenga Adelekan (bass), in addition to Oscar Cash (guitar) and Mount on keyboard/vocals. Besides finding himself writing for four specific instruments, the unleashing of The English Riviera also marks the first time that Mount has actually ever recorded in a studio. Whilst many bands might flounder or lose their way in this situation, Mount has proven the (technically) impossible equation of 1+1=3: where the result of the equation equals more than the sum of it's parts.
Undeniably Mount's best work to date, The English Riviera showcases a more musically confident, complex and developed Metronomy. And as often happens when someone is evolving, Mount found Devon's English coast calling to him. So, the album turned out to be an homage to his hometown in a nostalgic re-imagining of the place he grew up.
Who even knew that such a place as the English Riviera existed? Truthfully; the English Riviera of Mount's doesn't. Not really. But with this album, the dreamy ideal of one is so well described that it really feels like somewhere you have to go visit: vibrant and wonderfully odd, as seen through those skewed and unmistakably Metronomy coloured glasses.
The English Riviera is awesome - I think it's your best work yet. No doubt it's going to be one of my albums of the year already. What’s the reaction been like so far?
I dunno, it’s been really great. Everyone seems really into and kind of happy? Which is kind of great, it’s brilliant.
It’s a well known fact that you are 'Metronomy' and your band mates are the arms that help you operate it. In the changed dynamic of a foursome, did Oscar, Anna and Gbenga particularly affect your creative process for this album, if at all?
We’ve been touring like this for a couple of years now and I think it just kind of shifted the way I was thinking, because you’ve got a drummer, you’ve got a base player, and you’ve got a guitar and a keyboardist and I’ve got to write stuff for those instruments now, where as before I was just kind of writing for anything really. So it really helped streamline and direct the way I do stuff.
So you haven’t felt it’s limited you?
Well, in a good way. Beacause it makes you think harder about what you’re doing.
With the English Riviera, I feel like the Metronomy identity has just gotten more confident, mature, complex. I also feel like you don’t sound particularly ‘trendy’; you just sound like, well, you. And effortlessly too. Which is awesome. Do you let the scene/vibe of whats going on influence you much? How do you tend to find inspiration?
I suppose if you were to compare this one to Nights Out, the biggest difference was that with the new record I was writing it outside of London, and I left London and I think I actually had no real awareness of what was going on, what was cool or what was hyped, so it let me a bit more honest I think.
I think the sentiment of the album paying homage to where you grew up was really lovely. Are you home often? I read somewhere that you’re currently dividing time between London and Paris, is that right?
Yeah, well my girlfriend lives in Paris and I’m back in London to do recording and all kinds of stuff, so yeah I’m kind of moving around. Part of the whole sentiment of the new record is because I can’t go home as much as I used to be able to, because a part of me feels like it would be nice to go back and see my family a bit.
In the excellent words of Girls Aloud, do you or don’t you speak French? Or do you just let your funky music do the talking, talking now?
[Laughs] I can’t believe Girls Aloud have reached Australia! No I don’t actually speak very much French, though I certainly try to let the funky music do the talking...I do speak just a little bit of French.
I read that you said 'The Bay' (the upcoming single) was the most hard work to complete on the album and despite hating it during recording, is now actually one you really like. What was so difficult about it?
It’s because this album was essentially the first time I’d recorded anything in an actual studio so in comparison, I wasn’t really, err, prepared for...’things’. But i just kinda recorded it and it didn’t sound…very good! There was something about it which was missing. And every time I went back into the studio I’d spend a day working on it and trying to get it to sound good and it really took until the very last day until it sounded like it does now. There are all these bits which exist for the song which you can’t hear in it now and it was definitely a struggle, but I agree, now it’s definitely one of my favourites on the record. So it paid off.
Despite being a ‘cool indie band’ and making what I think is ‘smart’ or, without trying to sound pretentious, ‘intellectual pop’, it’s cool that you’re not ashamed of listening to all sorts to things from Take That to Kanye. Who do you admire in music right now?
Hmm I dunno I’d probably say someone like Kanye West has got a very inspirational way of doing things and way of working. He’s probably the first person in a very long time who’s in kind of, an elevated position that is taking chances. Some of them are obviously mistakes and make him look a bit stupid. But I think it’s kind of nice to have someone in that position being that way.
And congratulations on making your Girls Aloud dream come true! I interviewed you, Gabe and Oscar in London for Nights Out and I was one of those many interviews where you’d mentioned Girls Aloud as your dream collabo. Besides Cheryl Cole, who else is there? What other dreams have you got now since you’ve climbed the Girls Aloud mountain?
I don’t really have any kind of 'dream collaborations'. If it was to happen it would have to be people I really admire or love. If it was to be like that though, I’m afraid the magic would disappear, so I’d kind of rather stick to people I haven’t met before or know anything about. I can imagine helping someone out…some…young person.
I read that you were looking forward to seeing what Britney gets
up to and that Gaga owes a debt of gratitude to Britney. I completely
agree. Thoughts on the either of those artists currently? Are either of
them someone you’d like to collaborate with?
I was thinking about what I said because the new Britney stuff sounds fucking amazing. And up until now the new Lady Gaga stuff is kind of disappointing I think. Britney Spears has worked in this industry for years and years and it’s like, she just manages to do the new stuff and it's still really interesting. And that’s what's missing from Gaga. She just thinks she’s fantastic.
Is it a very different process from doing your own stuff in sharing creative control? All this talk about Britney being an empty vessel/puppet etc, etc...How has it been with Nicola Roberts?
I really enjoy working with people. I would never sit there or bark orders or anything like. Part of it is, if they want to do something with me, I’d never let them get away with doing nothing. But at the same time, I think people should give pop singers very much more credit than they have because Britney Spears has been doing this for like, 12 years or something. There is no way that by now she hasn’t got a really good ear for a pop song. I think there’s a bit of sexism involved; because it’s so easy to kind of look at Britney and be like ‘oh empty vessel’. But yeah.
For me in lots of ways, Britney gives me the ultimate pop high,
particularly since she (Britney the product) doesn’t have that ‘serious
artist vs popular entertainer’ complex that Gaga throws around all the
time and seems to really struggle with, in lots of ways. How do you deal
with that conundrum? Because you seem to have a really balanced
attitude about it, despite obviously being quite serious about your work...
To be honest, where we’re at as a band, it’s not really something that kind of worries me. It’s only really this album that we’re getting exposure that we’ve never had before. I rely on instinct I guess really. And I’m pretty sure you can see when you’re crossing some kind of line. There’s a kind of warning when you go in either direction. I think the whole thing about Metronomy and me is that I kind of really want...it to...well. Progress. I’m just playing it by ear really.