Joe Mount tells Charlotte Gunn why, for Metronomy’s fifth album, he’s ditched his bandmates and revisited a “nice, naïve” time of his life
Summer of 2008: the country was sliding into recession, Boris Johnson had just become mayor of London, the Labour Party was in turmoil, and England wasn’t just out of the Euros, it hadn’t even qualified. It was bleak and, in hindsight, eerily familiar. But for Metronomy founder Joe Mount, it was a blast…
Mount is visiting London from his home in Paris to talk about the summer of ’08 – not the point in time, specifically, but his new record of the very same name. “It started as a joke really,” he explains. “Back in 2008, immediately after ‘Nights Out’ had been released, I thought, “I’m gonna release this record called ‘Summer 2008’ and it’s going to be about all the things I could have done had I not been having a great time touring.”
Over the past 10 years, Metronomy have evolved from Mount’s teenage bedroom in Devon, where he first dreamed it up, into one of the UK’s most respected and prolific bands. First album ‘Pip Paine (Pay The £5000 You Owe)’ was a niche underground success. For the follow-up, 2008’s brilliant ‘Nights Out’, he recruited his pal Gabriel Stebbing and cousin Oscar Cash. After Stebbing left to form the underrated but excellent yacht rock group Your Twenties, Mount recruited Gbenga Adelekan and Anna Prior for Mercury-nominated third album ‘The English Riviera’, with the same line-up delivering 2012’s ‘Love Letters’ and touring with Coldplay. Add in remixes for Gorillaz, Lady Gaga and more, and you have a very successful decade.
But for this next record he’s ditched his bandmates, isn’t touring and is taking inspiration from a time before most of that happened, pitching this as the record he wishes he’d made eight years ago. “As you get older, it’s very hard to put as little thought into music as when you started,” he says. “I wanted to try to recapture that naïvety and youth – despite being fully aware that it’s actually impossible.”
As you might expect, ‘Summer 08’ draws on the synth-pop vibes of ‘Nights Out’, which was recorded when the Metronomy dudes were new to London. “Back then, I was mostly concerned about what the coolest bar in Dalston was or what NME thought of us compared to Klaxons. They’re such nice, naïve worries.” So how does a now-thirtysomething dad of two recapture that youthful exuberance? And is there an element of having an early mid-life crisis about wanting to? “Yeah, maybe there is,” he laughs. “But that time in my life feels like it wasn’t that long ago, although someone who’s 25 now looks very young to me. I guess the person I was then – idiotic and carefree – made some good decisions, which led me to where I am now.”
The new album’s first single ‘Old Skool’ is a cynical look at the west London party scene, featuring the scratch skills of Beastie Boys DJ Mix Master Mike, an Abigail’s Party-esque music video and a killer bassline. “I’ve always liked the idea of having a scratch break in a song,” he says. “I kinda knew it would be brilliant.” Working with Mix Master Mike is the stuff of dreams for Mount, who grew up listening to hip-hop and R&B. “He’s my childhood hero. I’m at a stage where I’m trying to fulfil teenage fantasies – musical fantasies, that is. And maybe make a Metronomy skateboard. That would be cool.” Despite the nostalgia, Mount is happy. Paris life involves taking the kids – aged three and one – to crèche, making them soup, putting them to bed and working on some music. Y’know, dad stuff. Dad stuff that’s made much harder when you’ve got to be on tour for months on end.
So his decision to go this one alone and have a break from his three touring bandmates makes sense, but how do you have that conversation with the band without it being really awkward? “They were a bit like, ‘Er, what are we going to do for money?’” he says. “But we worked so hard touring the last album we can afford a little break. I’ve got kids, Gbenga’s had a baby, Oscar’s moved to America, Anna’s… doing yoga. I have no desire to slow down making records, so if we didn’t have a break now, when would it happen?”
Is there still a future for the four-member version of Metronomy? “We’ll tour again, for sure. It probably won’t even be that long until we do,” he says. “But the one regret I have about ‘Love Letters’ and ‘The English Riviera’ is that I thought a bit too much about how they’d be performed live and that’s a problem a lot of bands suffer from. As soon as that thought enters your head, it destroys any freedom that you had.”
‘Summer 08’ also features a guest vocal by Swedish pop artist Robyn on the infectious ‘Hang Me Out To Dry’. The pair became friends after working on each other’s musical projects over the past few years and this particular collab has become Mount’s favourite song on the record.“I’ve always been wary of ‘features’. When I was younger and I’d just see albums where it was all ‘featuring, featuring, featuring’, I’d feel a bit like, ‘Whose album is it and why are you trying to make a bigger deal of everyone other than you?’ But this seemed like exactly the right time and Robyn is the right person to do it.”
So where do Metronomy go from here? Despite his desire to maintain control, Mount likes the idea of more collaborations – ideally someone that satisfies his teenage love of hip-hop like De La Soul, Q-Tip or André 3000. “Kanye’s good, but he’s mad. I liked him better when he was just into music.” And album number six is already bubbling away. “I’ve got all this time this year to work on another album, whereas before I’d be like, “Oh s**t, we’re about to go on tour and my girlfriend is already getting a bit wound up by it.” And all that anxiety has just gone and I’m looking forward to touring again too, which I definitely wouldn’t be if it was happening next week.”
So all this delving into the memory bank might just have paid off for Joe Mount. He gets to be super-dad, fulfil the dreams of his youth and pick up his band again when he’s ready. They say you should never look back, but for this guy from Totnes it might just be the best thing he’s ever done.