Interview: Metronomy

Ahead of their Tramlines headline set, Metronomy’s Joseph Mount tells Jordan Foster how there’s little chance of the indie-pop powerhouse slowing down a year on from the release of their fourth – and arguably best – album to date. 

“We are much more likeable now,” promises the creative force behind Metronomy, Joseph Mount, while reminiscing about his past visits to the Steel City. “I remember playing to, like, nobody at The Leadmill. We were supporting a band there and I remember people just not liking us.”

How times have changed. Around a decade later the leftfield-pop phenomenon are gearing up to headline Tramlines – South Yorkshire’s most highly anticipated live music event. “The first time we played (in Sheffield) it was a club night, a kind of indie disco in the same mould as Trash in London. It was very good fun.” However, the modern-day Metronomy is almost unrecognisable from the three-piece that lit up noughties clubs with scuzzy dance rock and flashing chest lights.

A Mercury-nominated third record revolutionised the band. The trio became a quartet, and sun-bleached triumphs like The Bay and The Look flirted with the mainstream. If early works were a drunken binge on arcade-game krautrock, then The English Riviera was its breezy seafront antidote. In less than three years, their bleeping electro had evolved into a slick, modern day version of Fleetwood Mac.

A gradual rise saw the group surpass several fleeting scenes and peers. “There was no way I was gonna let passing fads get in the way of my dream! I’ve always been quite conscious of how fragile your position can be if you’re a musician, so I’ve always tried to steer the boat through it all.” Late Of The Pier and Klaxons may have won the nu-rave sprint, but Metronomy were on a marathon race to the top.

After the touring of fourth album Love Letters – a respite offering boasting some classic 60s songwriting – the band took a break in 2015. Between then and a May 2017 return, Mount dropped the playful, synth-lathered Summer 08. It sees his project come full circle by harking back to the carefree attitude of initial releases Pip Paine (Pay The £5000 You Owe) and Nights Out. From the Prince-inspired squelcher ‘Miami Logic’, to the immersive cutting-edge crooner ‘Mick Slow’, 08 is both reflective and pioneering – their most eclectic recording yet. “The new stuff has been some of the easiest in terms of putting it into the show. It’s actually been some of the most pleasing and enjoyable to play, because we’ve not played it before live. It feels good.”

“If anything, the new tour has devolved! We wanted to come back with a kind of more relaxed version of the last stage show. It’s supposed to look quite effortless, but in fact it’s very, kind of, involved. Before we may have thought too much about trying to get something to sound like the record and I think now we’ve thought, ‘sod it, let’s just do a really good live version of the record’.”

It’s a wonder how setlists will do each chapter of their ever-expanding back-catalogue justice. However, Mount is upbeat on the selection process. “It’s a luxurious position to be in. You can just decide if a song isn’t feeling right, that it’s not right. We’ve been quite ruthless. We’re playing what feels right and what works well, and at the same time trying to get something from every album on there. To have that amount of stuff to work with is a good position to be in.”

I’ve probably got my last chance to prove I’m still cool. I want to make a record which connects with youngsters. To me, I’ve always thought if young people aren’t interested in your music then you should question what you’re doing.

The pearl white suits have been ditched to reflect their new laid-back vibe. “Dry cleaning suits every couple of days is quite labour intensive, and also wearing a suit that’s been worn the night before is quite disgusting – we’re gonna be wearing jogging clothes instead! The previous tour was the dinner date version of Metronomy and this new tour is the ‘Sunday afternoon, watching TV with Metronomy’.”

But don’t expect them to put their feet up at Tramlines, like previous has-been headliners have been accused of. Be it Doncaster-born Anna Prior’s [drums] beaming presence, or Oscar Cash’s [keys] bonkers dance moves, their live show brims with vibrant charisma. But for all the razzle-dazzle of his compatriots, Mount himself has struggled with the frontman title. “It’s not necessarily what I signed up for and for a long time it was excruciating to even watch a performance,” he admits. “If you have Instagram or Facebook and you’re taking pictures of yourself then you delete all of the ones you don’t like. You don’t have that luxury if you’re doing a gig every night. If you’re very self-conscious then it can be quite difficult.”

His lack of ego is what makes Mount one of the most likeable in the game; he couldn’t be further from the jumped-up rockstar archetype. But whilst he’s no closer to destroying guitars and stage diving during sets, he’s managed to break free from the shackles of insecurity. “I think I’ve just made my peace with it, really. The point at which you stop worrying about what you might have to prove is the point at which it all comes together. You can’t force it, but it’s impossible to not think about it for a period of time. I mean, now, we just genuinely enjoy it and that comes across more than it ever did before.”

Mount’s modesty stretches to his approach on headline slots. “When it comes to festivals, you still can’t take for granted the fact that a lot of people won’t have seen you before and a lot of people will be thinking, ‘who are you to be headlining this?’ I think the trick for festivals is just to smack people in the face – in the nicest possible way! You can’t rest on your laurels and you can’t assume people know who you are.”

The mini-hiatus would have provided the perfect opportunity for some laurel-resting. However, alongside spending time with his family, Mount has made grounds on a “poppy” but “not contrived” sixth full-length record. “I guess I’ve probably got a last chance to prove I’m still cool,” he jokes. “I want to make a record which connects with youngsters. To me, I’ve always thought if young people aren’t interested in your music then you should question what you’re doing. I’d like to make something that the kids enjoy.” Whilst Mount has been chipping away at his brainchild since – believe it or not – before the turn of the century, he’s not a man short of ideas. He reveals another instrumental is also in the pipeline. “I would really love to do that again – to see if I could do it again. I’ve got so used to putting vocals on things that I’ve got a bit lost in that world.”

But for now he’s taking one step at a time and looking forward to his first long stretch of festival-headlining dates. “I’m very excited. I never used to like talking about live music in this way; but I’ve kind of missed sharing a moment with the people that love your music. I mean, it’s been a long while, so we’re all rather geed up for it all.” And whether you love or loathe Metronomy’s outlandish formula, you’ll struggle to look away from the Ponderosa stage during Tramlines 2017’s conclusive show. They don’t do boring.

Metronomy play Tramlines Festival on Sunday 23 July. Tickets are still available here.

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