Metronomy visited Bristol last month for an intimate in-store signing and performance of their sixth studio album, Metronomy Forever at Rough Trade Bristol.
At 17 tracks long, it shows a rounded glimpse into the inner mind of creative force Joseph Mount, who started the solo project from his bedroom in Devon in 1999. Although we’ve come to know the full band from live performances, Metronomy remains at its heart a solo project – with everything happening offstage being the sole creation of Joseph Mount.
The album spans upbeat pop songs to sad guitar ballads to electronic noise
The album spans upbeat pop songs to sad guitar ballads to electronic noise, all tied together with Joseph’s familiar yet always innovating lyrics, instrumentation and production.
Following the show, we stole Joseph away for a chat at Left Handed Giant Brewpub about the new record, Metronomy’s enduring sound and embracing everything.
Metronomy was from the beginning, Joseph Mount – is it still a solo-led project in terms of writing, or does Metronomy’s sound now incorporate all five members?
Basically, no. It’s still just me. I think for a while I felt like I should be more open to bringing other people into it, but what I realised, especially now after six records, is that – for better or worse – part of what makes it so unique is the fact that it’s a very closed little thing.
for better or worse – part of what makes it so unique is the fact that it’s a very closed little thing
Ultimately, the recording and writing is me and the live thing is the group – and it’s quite transparent. You get lots of bands you might see who have the appearance of being like equal shareholders in a thing, when in fact it’s quite normal that it’s just one or two people who are writing.
Putting out 17-track album could be seen as quite a bold statement. Can you talk us through the thinking behind it and how did your record label (Because Music) feel about the decision?
The first version of the album I have them had maybe 24 songs on. To me, it seems like you have to be a bit provocative. If you keep doing the same thing and not feel like you’re challenging yourself, I think that’s when you’re in danger of losing touch or losing interest – or people losing interest in you.
that’s when you’re in danger of losing touch or losing interest – or people losing interest in you.
I think the label themselves realised that it’s not the normal stuff that gets noticed. 24 tracks, they felt was too long! But they’re cool, they were up for it. I don’t think every record label would be like that – I think they’re quite unusually up for that type of thing.
Artists often talk about an album as taking the listener on a journey, is that something you sought to do with Metronomy Forever – or on the other end of the spectrum, actively resisted?
For me that is what they should be like. If you’re going to make an album, there should be some sort of idea of immersion. When you’re making a record, you think about everything – you think about the artwork, the songs, the lyrics. It’s a very four dimensional thing and all of that stuff is part of this idea of taking you somewhere.
If you’re going to make an album, there should be some sort of idea of immersion
If there’s an instrumental track, where not much happens and it goes on for four minutes, that’s intentional. That’s part of you entering into this thing and coming out the other side. So yeah, I feel like, certainly for what I do, it should put you in a different place, it should feel like a little trip.
I suppose the whole thing comes across as being elsewhere, rather than the more-typical start with one mood and move through to another. It’s a very mixed bag and the closing track Ur Mixtape, along with the length of the album, got us thinking about structure…
I wanted it to be about displaying the fact that I really like trying to make quite poppy stuff and I also like making more indulgent things – and putting them together on a record isn’t the most obvious thing to do. It’s something that’s a bit self-aware and is also not necessarily even saying anything about it.
Part of the thinking was, what I think, is the false idea that people listen to music in a totally different way suddenly nowadays. People have always made compilations and mixtapes and playlists, so it’s my version of that type of thing.
the false idea that people listen to music in a totally different way suddenly nowadays
You’ve said yourself that Metronomy’s sound hasn’t changed all that much. But as a writer and producer in general, you’ve worked across quite different projects, recently co-writing with Robyn and Jessie Ware, for example. Why have you stuck with the Metronomy sound all these years?
It has changed and it has developed, but it does still have this thing that’s the same. Objectively, whether it’s good or not, you can’t really say. But the fact is, it’s a specific thing and if you stick to it, it’s like looking at pictures of yourself over time.
You might not like the look of it, but it’s a document of you and how you change. The more idiosyncratic it is, the more the six albums and length of time becomes this unusual document of me making music. It’s probably super grating to some people, but I realise that its a strength and something that’s kind of cool about it.
The more idiosyncratic it is, the more the six albums and length of time becomes this unusual document of me making music
That being said, some tracks like Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Wedding Bells on Metronomy Forever are more upbeat and more poppy than previous releases, and tracks Upset My Girlfriend also feel like quite a departure in style. Did you have any framework in mind during the writing process?
To me, a framework can be something quite different from the kind of framework that just involves the music. So whereas with an older record like The English Riveria, the framework was this idea of a sound. Whereas the framework for this album was more the idea of an object – the idea this record can contain all of that stuff.
the framework for this album was more the idea of an object – the idea this record can contain all of that stuff
An early, shorter, version of the record was all kind of poppy songs and it was good, but it didn’t go far enough into the other side of the stuff that I like. So I extended the framework, I rebuilt it. I changed what I thought was acceptable, in a way, to include all that stuff.
Do you listen to or take influence from any music you think would surprise people?
I used to listen to a lot of rap. There was a period of time where that was exclusively what I would listen to. I still enjoy it, but recently there’s nothing coming from the world of hip hop that I that find particularly exciting. But for a long time, I almost felt like I was making backing tracks for rappers.
Danny Brown sampled a Metronomy song, which was the first time an actual rapper has done it. Every time I made a record, I always threaten to rap! But I’d like to maybe one day produce beats for other people.
for a long time, I almost felt like I was making backing tracks for rappers
Historically, you’ve been known for putting on an entertaining live show and your music videos have won awards. How importance is the performance aspect of music to you and do you consider it while writing?
It’s really important. When I’m writing and recording, I try not to think about it too much. Sometimes with bands, you see their writing change when they start to imagine playing in stadiums, for example. And if you’re thinking about that, quite often it doesn’t make very good music. But I think the actual act of performing is almost like a separate thing that is enjoyed and cultivated in its own world.
the act of performing is almost like a separate thing that is enjoyed and cultivated in its own world.
Today, for example when we did this Rough Trade in-store, it was the first time in quite a long time playing in a small venue. It’s like how it used to be and you’re aware that people can watch and scrutinise your performance in a much more up-close way than they normally do. And today, I was thinking, ‘we’re actually quite good at what we do’, in a technical way as well. So it doesn’t affect the songwriting, but it’s something I take a lot of pleasure in doing.
You’ve been doing this 20 years now. Do you see another 20 for Metronomy?
20 years, fuck. I would be 57 – that’s not too bad, is it? Probably a few years ago, I would have said no. I would have said I’ll still be doing music, but I’ll probably call it something else. But the more I think about it, the more I think that what I do on my own should always be called Metronomy. Because at that point, you’d have these albums that range from the very first one through to whatever it is I make when I’m 57, which could be literally anything, but it would still be me. So I like to imagine there’s another 20 years in it.
I like to imagine there’s another 20 years in it
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger