British synth-popsters Metronomy have had a remarkable twelve months. The quartet, which began as frontman Joseph Mount's solo project, released one of the best-reviewed albums of year, The English Riviera, found themselves nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize (losing to P.J. Harvey's Let England Shake) and they played Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage in June before a massive crowd. In fact, The Alternate Side chatted with Mount right before the festival for some insight on the album, Mount's Fleetwood Mac fascination and more.
Mount and his mates — keyboardist Oscar Cash, drummer Anna Prior and bassis Gbenga Adelekan — are currently touring North America supporting their excellent third album, their first to be officially released Stateside. Metronomy played New York earlier this summer and, happily, they return next week just in time for the CMJ Music Marathon, October 20, to play a sold-out show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
They recently visited The Alternate Side's studios for a chat with Alisa Ali about choreographic challenges, seaside towns and Lady Gaga. Below, listen to audio of their four-song set: "The Look," "The Bay," "She Wants" and "Corinne."
Alisa Ali: Joe, I understand the title, The English Riviera, is a little bit of an homage to your hometown?
Joe Mount: Yeah, it’s this bit of England, the coast and the southwest which calls itself The English Riviera and I grew up eight or so miles away, so there’s a lot of good summer memories from there. Oscar used to come down — he’s my cousin — so we’d hang out on the beach, do that kind of thing in the cold with our jackets (laughs). It’s a bit of an homage, because it’s a beautiful place but not the most stimulating for music. It’s a slight re-imagining of it as well.
Alisa: Through rosy glasses. I always wonder what the deal is with beach towns during off season.
Joe: They’re a bit depressing. Especially in England because in the summer they’re very nice. I lived in Brighton as well and Oscar still lives there and that has quite a nice atmosphere in the wet.
Oscar Cash: Oh, it does, yeah. I find it more beautiful in winter.
Gbenga Adelekan: That’s a very English thing for you to say.
Alisa: We have a Brighton Beach as well.
Joe: I’ve seen the sign for it. You’d get confused, Oscar.
Oscar: I was confused.
Alisa: There’s not a great music scene there and that’s why you left?
Joe: [Where I grew up] is just a small town. In the southwest, bands don’t really go down anymore because it’s a bit cut off. There is a music scene, but a place like London sounded more exciting. A lot of people when they’re old enough just move out of Devon quite quickly.
Alisa: Would you move back when you retire?
Joe: I dunno. Be a bit weird. There’s people I used to go to school with who are working in supermarkets and pubs. Might be a bit odd. I might move close … but not that close.
Alisa: Are your parents there?
Joe: Yes, so I have to go back. For Christmas and things.
Alisa: Did you play music when you were living there?
Joe: I met like four or five people at school and got a band together. In school I was in loads of bands. I was a drummer. Anna’s probably had the same at school. If you’re a drummer, you’re in demand.
Alisa: So how come you stopped playing drums?
Joe: Just by mistake really? Metronomy stuff started as just me with a computer. I wasn’t even recording drums.
Alisa: You initially started recording on a computer that you got from your dad.
Joe: It was six gigabytes (laughs). It was that kind of transluscent tower Mac thing that they did. It was incredible at the time. People would come ‘round just to look at it (laughs).
Alisa: You don’t still have it.
Joe: I do! Every time I move house, I bring it with me and wonder, why am I doing this? I could put it all onto to a phone.
Alisa: It has some serious upgrades at this point. So your dad was supportive of your music career?
Joe: Yeah, I think he still is!
Gbenga: He came to one of our shows recently. We finally got to meet him. He looks a lot like Joe but with a bit less hair.
Joe: I’m beginning to look like that.
Alisa: I was thinking you were beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Gbenga: I thought you were about to say Chris Martin. That would have really gotten Joe’s goat.
Joe: It was a conscious decision. New York! We can edit that in.
Gbenga: There’s lots of cities we don’t give shoutouts too. I don’t think New York should feel singled out.
Joe: Oh [New York’s] got plenty of songs.
Alisa: I read about your live shows and there’s apparently dancing and lights.
Joe: We’ve got none of it. No, well, there used to be three of us in the live thing and we kind of used a backing track for stuff. So we had plenty of time to do dance routines. We used to be a bit more …
Oscar: Choreographed. We still have our moments.
Gbenga: Since there’s no backing track now, everyone is busy playing. It’s very consuming, playing stuff.
Joe: It was always my dream that we’d cut back on the instruments. More dancing. But it hasn’t worked out that way.
Alisa: What’s the deal with the lights? I read that they were attached to persons?
Joe: Well, we still do. We do have a uniform. And there are lights involved. It’s all synchronized. I guess we’re pretty blasé about it by now, but it’s pretty amazing (laughs). You should come and watch us.
Alisa: What’s the next song that you’re doing?
Joe: It’s called “Corinne.” A lot of people assume that it’s about a woman. It’s about something else, so you can work it out. It’s not a man, though. That’s the only clue.
Alisa: I understand you recorded The English Riviera a little differently from your previous releases.
Joe: Yes, it was done in a studio.
Alisa: A proper studio? Before you were doing bedroom recordings.
Joe: Yeah. The way that I start writing that is still like that, but it just seemed like a good time to do it, in a studio, and I’ve not really used one before properly, so that’s a bit of an indulgence. Doing a bedroom production is so accessible now. Studios are a lot cheaper because no one is really using them in London.
Alisa: I heard you did demos for these songs too and you’ve not done that before.
Joe: Well, if you’re doing stuff on your computer, you just end up finishing it and working into it. I was trying to force myself to not finish things which is easier than you think (laughs). You just walk away.
Alisa: You’re known for doing a lot of remixes as well. How does that work when you’re putting the final versions of these songs together? You might want to remix them.
Joe: Not really, to be honest. The reason I ended up doing a lot of remixes was because you can muck around. Certainly with older songs and albums there was a lot of just having fun. Working and working and working. With this one, it was more of an exercise in stop working. Leave it. It’s maybe a bit more restrained, the new album.
Alisa: Are you not doing remixes for other bands now?
Joe: I haven’t done one for a while Gbenga has been doing a few, here and there. I’ve done a lot of collaborations which are more involving.
Alisa: So that’s fallen on the wayside, along with choreography.
Oscar: You’re making us sad.
Joe: It didn’t fall to the wayside! The choreography still occupies Oscar’s spare time a lot. He’s still very much a dancer. The remix thing, well, I’m supposed to do one now ["You and I"] for Lady Gaga. So I’m still big in the game.
Alisa: Well, that’s big. I didn’t know you were working with Lady Gaga.
Joe: Not with, at her (laughs).
Gbenga: Through. Working through her.
Alisa: Not a lot of time for new material. Are you trying to keep up with the projects you have going on.
Joe: Keeping up with touring, really. When we’re on the bus, Gbenga is probably the most pro-active. The rest of us just watch “X-Files.”
Gbenga: Multi-tasking is over-rated. Otherwise you get to cool places like New York and you don’t really get to smell Central Park.
Alisa: Smell is not something we’re known for.
Gbenga: I was going to say, "Smell the roses," but I thought, “Where are you going to do that in New York?”
Joe: You have a botanical garden across the street. With one rose. I’ve been to the [Bronx Zoo]. I saw a seal. Its pup fell in the water and it was having trouble swimming, so the seal had to go rescue it. Big commotion. It dragged the pup into its cave and started shouting at it. You could just hear [the seal shouting] from the cave. It was amazing (laughs).