Metronomy’s Joe Mount harnesses the power of pop
“I’ve always known that to understand me, it would take a few records” – four albums in and Joe Mount has found his true pop calling
Metronomy’s Joe Mount might not like rising early these mornings, but he has no choice in the matter – as a newly minted father, his time is rather more defined and focused than it used to be. So now it’s interviews at 8.30am, preceded by, we’re shrewdly guessing, wiping the lack of sleep out of your eyes, nappy changing and spurts of baby vomit over his shoulder.
“The irony of being a new dad,” says the shock-wide-awake and affable Mount, “is that releasing a record impacts more drastically on your creativity than the child does. Obviously, you’ve been creative in the making of the record, but when you start touring, doing interviews and so on, from that point onwards you feel as if you’re unable to write any more songs – at least for a while. I suppose the same can be said of having just been handed a child, but, you know, I feel that between the album and the baby, the past 12 months or so have been hugely creative.”
Following on from the band’s 2011 Mercury Prize-nominated The English Riviera – which swathed itself in the combined silky softness and serrated edge of pop-music classicism to tell a loving tale about the beauty of the Devon countryside – comes Metronomy’s new album, Love Letters . To say it maintains the highs of the previous record is an understatement; indeed, it wallows (in the nicest possible, least lazy way) in a type of sonic warmth that makes it one of the most charming records you’ll hear this year.
Ah, the English and their love of pop music – seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness, and so on. It must be difficult, we ponder, to deviate from the idea of being either the eccentric (abroad or at home) or the detached, eyebrow- arching observer?
“The stuff that I like and the appreciation I have of both rock and pop fits into that area, I suppose. If I like a band, I like them because there’s probably something quite poppy about them, whether or not that’s intentional. What I like about pop music is that it’s much more clever than it can seem, and I know when I’m making music I don’t want it to be too much of one thing. As far as I’m concerned, there’s always room for something a little bit – or a lot, actually – more creative.”
And besides, what do “rock” and “pop” mean anymore? Once-defined lines are being blurred every hour of every day, aren’t they?
“I know what you mean,” Mount allows, before becoming slightly less agreeable . . . “But I feel that pop is almost the perfect word to describe music that you want to appeal to people. It’s the genre thing, isn’t it? And it’s also a very useful word to describe to strangers what it is you do. Quite often I find I describe myself to, say, customs officials – who always seem to nab me just as I’m walking through security – as a pop musician, not a rock musician.”
As adept as Mount is with music, he’s also quite the smart lad with words. He accepts, to a degree, that the mix of lyrical melancholia and joy is reflective of his character, but like any good storyteller, he likes fictionalising as and when he sees fit.
“Well, it’s enjoyable making up or exaggerating things; after a while as a lyric writer, you realise the end result doesn’t have to be entirely based in reality. I reckon there are certain sentiments that I’m drawn to, though, as the lyrics certainly highlight aspects of what I’m about as a person. I’m quite nostalgic, and there is something about that which can be viewed as melancholic, in that you’re harking back to a better time in your past. That said, I’m also quite upbeat. Generally!”
Interestingly, while Mount is a top-notch practitioner of classic contemporary pop, he once had an enviable few years as a remixer to the stars. The list of his clients is both long and impressive, and includes Air, Lykke Li, Gorillaz, U2, Lady Gaga, The Cure, Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp, Britney Spears, Ladytron and k.d. lang. He says he has consciously taken a back seat in this area, revealing that what was once a handy way to keep busy gradually got in the way of Metronomy’s rise in profile.
So these days, it’s all about Metronomy, doing Metronomy, being Metronomy. “The great thing is that we have actually become more popular with each album.” Mount sounds surprised at himself. “Well, it’s always a risk, isn’t it, working on your own music and releasing it into the wider population. Obviously, it’s where my complete interest lies – you never really know, however confident you are in your own abilities, whether people are going to take to it. Love Letters is our fourth album; it’s a good album, I think, and people are responding to it.”
And he now has a back catalogue – when he was a teenager in Devon, did he ever in his wildest dreams think that someday as a musician, he’d actually have a back catalogue? Or was that a step too far for him?
“Oh, I’ve always discovered music that I love through back catalogues, and I’ve always considered that having a number of albums – or paintings or movies or books – is important in order to build up a picture of the person, or people, who created them in the first place. Listening to just one piece of creative work is fine, but you don’t really, genuinely, get an idea of the person’s personality – that comes through over a period of time.”
A hint of nostalgia kicks in as Mount bemoans the new reality that a lot of younger musicians, even if they make a decent debut album, no longer get the opportunity to create a back catalogue.
“If that first album underperforms commercially,” says Mount, “the band or the person will more than likely get dropped – that’s if they’re signed to a label that cares about such things. I mean, I’ve always known that to understand me – that’s if anyone really wants to, of course – that it would take a few records. What can I say? May the understanding of myself continue!”
Love Letters is out today. Metronomy kick off their European tour in Dublin’s Olympia on Wednesday, MArch 12th