Interview: Metronomy, “People Expect to Be Challenged”

Times have changed for Metronomy‘s Joseph Mount. The creative force behind the eclectic Brighton band has always pushed the envelope with his music, but these days, with two young children, he faces the prospect of more kids parties than dance parties. Summer 08 is Metronomy’s fifth record. As the title suggests, it harks back to 2008 in an effort to capture the spirit of the band’s breakthrough year, when the music was imbued with the zest and ambition of a young man in his element.

It’s always nice to hear new music from Metronomy, but I never quite know what to expect. Do you like to challenge fans’ expectations of your music with each new release?

Yeah, but not for the sake of it. There’s always a reason that it sounds different and a bit surprising. One of the things that I like about music is when people surprise me. Being lucky enough to be a band that can play around a bit with people’s expectations is incredible. If I was in a different band that did the same kind of thing, I think we’d lose a lot of people. We’re lucky that the fans are so generous with what they’ll take *laughs*.

I can only speak from my perspective, but I’m very open-minded when it comes to you guys.

We’ve cultivated that a bit. People kind of expect [to be challenged], which is even nicer in a way.

Last time I spoke to you, you told me that each Metronomy record captures a specific period in time. Is that still true of Summer 08, or is it deliberately retrospective?

The nice thing about music and when you’re making music is that it kind of exists in these two places. Even if, when you’re making a song, you’re thinking about the past or you’re using something as a reference point that’s old, purely the fact that it’s being made in the present gives it this new kind of… not a new meaning, but a double meaning. For example, this record’s obviously called, you know, 2008, and I was trying to think like I did when I was 25 and write music with the same spirit, but I’ve got two kids and I’m living a very different life to then. All the songs on this album are very specifically attached to last year. It’s the first Metronomy album where my oldest child knows all the songs. I think for me, forever, this album will remind me of the time my son started to sing along to Metronomy, so it still does place it firmly in the now.

What was significant about the summer of 2008?

The year 2008 was the springboard year for Metronomy, when Nights Out was released and we started travelling the world. Our lives were markedly different than the year before. The summer part isn’t so significant; it was just catchier than calling it 2008.

How much influence do the other band members have in the writing and recording process?

None *laughs*. It has always been my baby, and certainly with Metronomy I have this connection to it that makes it harder to let anyone else get too involved. That’s not to say that I would be like that with everything. I can happily work with people. It’s weird; this thing has almost gone too far now to involve other people. Oscar [Cash], who’s been in the band since the very beginning, he’s someone I’ll play the songs to. I value his opinion – I value everyone’s opinion – but ultimately I still feel like I know what’s best for Metronomy.

What compelled you to record this album in France, rather than in England?

I actually live in Paris, so it was kind of recorded at home in a way. It was recorded in a residential studio in the countryside in France. It was the first time I’d done it not in a city. It’s nice; when you take yourself into a building whose only reason for existing is recording music and the town that it’s next to is boring as fuck, you kind of just concentrate on making the record. There are places like that that exist in England, of course, but the weather is never as good.

Do you speak much French?

A little *laughs*. On a scale of one to ten, I’m probably around a five. A four or a five. I’m way better than I ever thought I would be.

The video for Old Skool is a fascinating watch. Does it accurately reflect the themes you explore in the song?

When you give a director a song to make a video for, you have to give up whatever video you thought you might have made. I think [the video] is definitely in the right place. It’s probably more unsettling than the song was meant to be, in a way. I think it says more about Dawn [Shadforth], who directed it, than it does about me.

One of the actors in the video is Ben Crompton from Game of Thrones. Are you a fan of the show?

The funny thing is, the lead female character in the video is Sharon Horgan, who’s a very successful comedian and writer and has this show called Catastrophe which is doing really well. Anyway, she was the person I knew about being cast in the video as the ‘famous’ person, and when I saw the first cut of the video I recognised that guy, but I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until the day it came out that I realised he’s from Game of Thrones. I immediately felt a bit sorry for Sharon, because she was the main coup in the casting, but these Game of Thrones geeks can’t be stopped. I used to watch it, but I’m not up to speed yet. When I’m touring I have a lot more time for that kind of stuff.

Speaking of touring, I understand you currently have no plans to tour Summer 08.

As of now, we’ve got no plans at all, which is surprisingly fun. Normally in the middle of all the press and promotion you also have this tour looming on the horizon. This time it’s not there and it’s a very different experience.

Did that give you more creative freedom, not worrying about how the songs would translate to the stage?

Yeah, it did. I guess you should always have as much creative freedom as you want, but there’s something about preparing for performing songs live that maybe makes you record them differently, and so definitely with [Summer 08] there was no concession for that. I should never record an album with the idea of playing live in my head, because I think that does limit your potential.

Summer 08 is out on 1st July via Because Music.