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Metronomy – interview

Metronomy

I caught up with Metronomy’s brainchild, Joe Mount, after the band’s last sound check before their first UK tour date in Nottingham earlier this year, to talk about the traditional English seaside, the Pyramid Stage and t shirt lights…

Does the first date of this tour fill you with excitement or nervous apprehension?

I think it’s a bit of both really. The first date of a tour is always really exciting, and we’ve not been to Nottingham for ages. All the responses to this album so far have been to mention this sudden pressure we’re under to perform that I wasn’t aware of! So it’s fair to say there’s apprehension there, but mostly excitement.

The English Riviera coastline encompasses your home turf, Totnes, in Devon. Was the album something of a homage to where you grew up?

It kind of is and isn’t at the same time. I grew up there and I’ve got a lot of happy memories, but the album’s also me trying to re-invent it because it’s not the most stimulating of places from which to create music from – the way of life is quite laid back. So I’d say it’s both affectionate and a bit of a kick up the arse.

Your latest single, The Look, actually has that traditional seaside sound – I take it that was a purposeful move looking at the album title?

I was aware of playing that jaunty organ sound so I know people will connect the two, so it was a tip of the hat of sorts towards the idea. We travel to different countries and there’s an attitude that people have towards the seaside that’s very English, as they consider those towns to be quite depressing old resorts so I think I was trying to be a bit romantic about them.

The new album’s got a different sound to Nights Out, and definitely Pip Paine, which both feel like soundtracks to parties. Was the change purposeful or organic?

Half and half. Part of me knew that people were more expecting us to do something predictable but I think the fans who understood us knew that wouldn’t be the case. I also just wanted a change and for everything to feel fresh. It wasn’t a struggle though so I suppose in that sense it was quite organic.

You’ve also slowly made vocals more and more prominent within your material. Has storytelling become more important to you?

Not so much. But I felt I needed to do something more confident vocally than Nights Out, something more engaging. It’s all part of this thing where I can see myself moving around between new ideas, but I would like to go back to instrumental on the next album.

Was there pressure to match the critical acclaim of Nights Out?

There is an element of pressure, and not to sound bigheaded at all, but when you start making music you have this idea that you are going to improve over time. If you created a good album and thought that was as good as it was going to get that would be depressing. I had no ideas how this album would be received – I hoped people would respond well to the chances we took with the sound.

You’ve produced all three albums, along with mixing other artists’ work, so how do you think that’s helped you develop?

A lot of the remixes have definitely helped, especially as you learn more about how other people have arranged songs. Writing with other people has also had an influence on the way I’ve worked over time.

Your videos are always imaginative, the latest using backwards footage on She Wants and pigeons on The Look. Does the band play a big part in coming up with these concepts?

On the last album I was involved with the videos but for She Wants I said I didn’t really want to be in them as we were touring. The mad idea for the seagulls came from Lorenzo, the director.

Onto the summer festivals… You’ve been placed on the main stage line up for Glastonbury. Does that feel daunting or a natural step up?

Someone told me about the Pyramind Stage and I was like, “What?!” as I suppose I kind of thought we might be put further up the bill on other stages but to be there is crazy. Having said that in the past I’ve been the one walking past the Pyramid around the time we’ll be on and I’ve felt sorry for those bands as people are just lounging about in the sun and there’s not really a big crowd, so that’ll be us this time! We’ve just always been the kind of people that roll with the punches and enjoy ourselves whatever so this’ll be fun.

I’m sure you always get asked about your t-shirt lights you have on when you play live, but it’s always been a burning desire to know the answer to that question! Where did the idea for those come from?

It was about three days before me, Oscar and Gabriel (Stebbing, former band member) were due to do our first ever live gig. I thought we needed something to pep the show up a bit as we were focusing on the laptops, so I went into a pound shop, saw the covered lights and thought I’d stick them on a t shirt. It was really a spur of the minute idea that’s become quite a permanent feature.

You’re also a fan of the on-stage theatrics and dance moves, will the change in style curtail the antics?

I think we’ll always weave it in to our gigs as we’re the same band and we come from the same place, and I think to ditch it would be to turn our backs on where we’ve come from so we definitely won’t be losing the theatrics.

Reviewed for Gigwise

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Metronomy: Birmingham Hare & Hounds – Sunday 23 January

 

Metronomy

A packed crowd in the room above the Hare & Hounds in Birmingham patiently waited with bleary Sunday eyes for the Brighton four-piece. Patiently because despite the late start, most already knew Metronomy’s carefully woven synths, driving bass and falsetto harmonies would be more than worth the wait.

Originally hailing from Totnes, Metronomy have created their signatune over years from carefully mis-matched chords, unusual beats and a quirky on-stage presence. And on the night, they chose to exploit the best bits from the 2008 masterpiece Nights Out, leaving out any reference to debut Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 you owe). A large handful of gems from their third album, The English Riviera, were also given an airing.

Arriving on stage with trademark chest-height lights, the circular jewellery pierced the darkness in time with the band’s off-beats – another feature that’s now synonymous with Metronomy.

Kicking off at full pace with On The Motorway then My Heart Rate Rapid, the repertoire of complex bleeps and tweeps, changing drum rhythms and robot dance moves were perfectly offset by the foursomes faux-nerd look. Whipping the vast student contingency into an early frenzy, they force an army of voices to call back at them, ‘It won’t be long’, which had a faint echo of a 2011 prediction about it.

Formal introductions were made to the new material via latest single, She Wants – a track punctuated by funk grooves and deep bass keyboards that instantly blew the speakers with a proud, but marginally embarrassed acceptance. The Look is a new frontrunner with its insistent fairground piano loop and repeated chorus lines that force a shuffle from even the most two-left-footed. But all of the latest editions feel as though they’ve had more soul shoehorned into their nooks and crannies, with deeper bassline hooks injected by Gbenga Adelekan’s guitar and Joseph Mount’s electronica. There’s also a smidgen less staccato, but it’s all served up in just as quirky a fashion.

On The Motorway delivered more falsetto, while Holiday’s forlorn tales of tussles of the heart were a perfect match for the pulse of the Blondie-rhythmed guitars. Beneath the on-stage antics and dance moves, Heartbreaker stood out as the most impeccable pop song on Nights Out. And it carries the imprint that Metronomy have now kept to propel them into the third album.

There was also time for A Thing For Me’s layers of oom-pah synth and metronomic drum rolls. Its complex rhythms still serve as a reminder that the band don’t shy away from tackling things others might not dare to try live, let alone pull off so effortlessly.

On Dancefloors – a sorrowful soundtrack to a bad night out – was given as a gift from the band to anyone who had work the next morning. A fitting pre-encore track, it drowned the four walls in melancholic loops that perfectly offset Mount’s despairing, ‘I want to get more from this than you’. Radio Ladio then provided balance as the finale, with the foursome acting as cheerleaders to coax their audience into an ecstatic, dancing end to the Birmingham leg of what should become a landmark tour for them.

Metronomy might just be the perfect antidote to the creeping fear of Monday morning. However, there is more to them than the on-stage angular dancing and light-adornments that give them an idiosyncratic air. These eccentricities do blend seamlessly with their sound, but look beneath the things that make them such a great aural and visual spectacle, and you find that Metronomy have been quietly chipping away, making a slow and steady impact on their genre for a number of years now. But this year could well be the one when their art-electro soundtrack gathers many more followers who will dance to their beat.

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