Interview: A Conversation with Metronomy

“Everything about Metronomy’s live show is fully for the enjoyment of the people. Not for us!” – Joe Mount

Back at the start of 2008, Metronomy were seen as a bit of a geek group. The second record, Nights Out, changed that. The release garnered praise from a number of different taste-makers including the Quietus who called the record a shining light amongst a “haze of forgettable pop bands that think a token keyboard and drum machine will guarantee their place on the cutting edge“.

Fast forward to 2017 and the four-piece are seeing their status rise with each month that passes. They found mainstream success with 2011’s The English Riveria and have been building upon that ever since, leading to last year’s Summer 08 album. It was an album that was originally reported as being one that the band weren’t going to tour. “I never actually said that I was never going to tour it. It was just that I didn’t want to tour it immediately”, Joe Mount (Metronomy’s frontman and sole creator of Summer 08) expresses. “It came out a year ago and the first gigs we played for it were only a month ago. When we first played it live, it had been a year and a half since we’d last played together. So you know, we had a big amount of time off. Yeah, I said we weren’t going to tour it, but then we didn’t. I just didn’t mean that we would NEVER play the songs live.”

After the break, the band have certainly returned with a vengeance. The year has seen them, and sees them, headlining the likes of Sound City, By The Sea, Field Day, and more, as well as the final ever Secret Garden Party. They’ve also been on a short UK tour and also had high billing at places like Primavera Sound and Glastonbury. It’s a schedule that Joe feels more comfortable with given the short break the band had from touring. “The great thing about it is that we took that time off and we’ve come back feeling refreshed when we play the old stuff. Plus we also get to play the new stuff. It was like a tantric exercise, prolonging the satisfaction. Yeah…” he laughs, trailing off while clearly wondering if that was the correct terminology to describe the process.

When I meet Joe he’s sat backstage behind the John Peel stage. He’s partly enjoying the sunshine but also partly hidden from it, half sat under a parasol found near the band’s trailer. There’s still almost nine hours until the band are due to take to the stage, but he’s in good spirits.

 

You said back in 2012 that you hadn’t been able to imagine yourself headlining festivals. So, five years on, how does it feel to be headlining the likes of the John Peel stage?

It’s never been an objective of mine, you know? Like, my idea of being ‘successful’ isn’t headlining festivals. Obviously, the more you stick around and the more you maintain a respectable level of quality the more chances are that you will. We’re headlining a lot of festivals this year and it feels like we’re capable of doing it. That’s the difference. Previously I wouldn’t have thought that we could have held it together.

 

“You have to have some humility as a band and know what your most popular songs are. You shouldn’t hide from it” – Joe Mount

 

So with wanting to maintain that respectable level of quality, I guess being nominated at the AIM Independent music awards for the best live act is something that makes you happy!

It’s an honour! I was surprised but it’s great! Metronomy was never originally imagined as a live act. So, what me and Oscar have done is to have had to make it a live act. Arguably, the live act is what has become the more popular version of the band too and I’m really proud of that. The nice thing is that it has all come from us and it’s come from us wanting to make it a worthwhile thing for people to watch. I think that sometimes bands and acts don’t really think about it like that. There are different ways to approach it and a popular one is in more of a selfish way. The way where the act is thinking ‘we just want to play the songs that we like’ but everything about Metronomy’s live show is fully for the enjoyment of the people. Not for us! [laughing]

So there’s some truth when you mentioned at Primavera that to choose your set list you basically decide where ‘The Bay’ and ‘The Look’ will go, and go from there?

Yeah, that’s actually true. You have to have some humility as a band and know what your most popular songs are. You shouldn’t hide from it. Like Radiohead with playing ‘Creep’. Of course they should fucking play it. They should play it at every gig. It’s a tune and everyone who likes Radiohead from my generation likes them because of Creep. To not play it because ‘it’s not us’ well… you wrote it. It is you! I always feel that you should pander to what people want you to do [laughs].

Is this why you take to the drums and Anna goes up to the front of the stage for ‘Everything Goes My Way’ now?

Well yeah, but also because we just thought it’d be fun. When we do it at our own gig I stay on drums for a couple of songs but at festivals, yeah, it’s just for that one.

You played on it in 2011, but is headlining the Pyramid Stage one of the ultimate goals for the band?

If I make some more songs which are very popular, then I don’t see why not. But currently, I just can’t see how it could happen. Even when we were playing Primavera on that main stage. It’s a very different kettle of fish. The audience at the main stage are quite often the people that care the least about what is going on at the festival. They like to sit there all day and just wait for some songs that they know. To play to those people you have to have reached a level where they might know your songs just from, well, the world.

You need some songs on FIFA!

Yeah exactly, that’s the dream, that’s the dream! Get a track on Grand Theft Auto. I played the last one and Django Django are on it, so why the hell aren’t I? [laughs]. I’ll make sure we’ve got some new songs about violence out in time for the next one.

Are there any other festivals that rank highly in your wishlist of headlining?

Just the ones that we feasibly could. I liked that Reading and Leeds had Foals and Disclosure joint headlining. That was a nice move. If someone wants to take a chance on us then that would be amazing, but I’m not sure. We ended up headlining Green Man a few years back because Van Morrison wanted to go home earlier and we got asked to go on after him!

 

“Lorde’s so young and so good and amazingly comfortable with herself that I expect her to have a long and significant career” – Joe Mount

 

Michael Lovett has taken a lot of the solos in the live show which I found interesting. How come?

He’s just better than Oscar! [laughing] Michael started playing with us on Love Letters because we decided to make the entire set live and have no backing track. It was there that we just discovered that he’s great. He’s a great musician. I think he’s taken a lot of pressure off Oscar,

I remember speaking to him about Metronomy when we were talking about NZCA LINES (Michael Lovett’s band) and him saying that the show at Primavera in 2014 was a huge step up for him in terms of the number of people that were there.

That show is, and will remain, one of our most memorable gigs. That first Primavera performance. I think we were all the same as him. It wasn’t just him that surprised by that amount of people!

Moving on to Summer 08, is that your favourite year as Metronomy, or just your favourite year personally?

I don’t think it’s my favourite anything really. It’s more that it was significant because it was around that period that we had our first trips abroad and our first proper tours. It’s when it all started really happening. Stuff is way better now! Because me and Oscar have been there from the beginning we have a very long, wide view of where we’ve come from to where we are now. I think that it’s nice that I can look back and feel affectionate about those times. It’s also nice to be comfortable, and confident, that you’ll never go back there either [laughing].

So Summer 17 tops Summer 08!

Yeah, genuinely! Not to sound like a weirdo but everything feels very positive. Everything feels very forward looking… and… nice.

Do you see many acts when you’re playing festivals? Do you ever look to learn anything from watching the other acts?

It depends really. We watched Phoenix last night because we really like them but watching the set and watching their stage stuff was really cool! There’s always an element of learning from things like that. Plus watching Katy Perry too. That was kind of interesting. Watching her and seeing her looking fucking nervous was kind of nice to see! You don’t expect it.

There was a time when it felt like we were competing against a lot of the other people, but now it feels like we’ve almost earnt our place. I walk around just curious, yeah. If I was around I think I’d have watched Lorde too. I’d have been interested to see how, at her age, she dealt with it. She’s so young and so good and amazingly comfortable with herself that I expect her to have a long and significant career. I expect there will be many stages of Lorde. I most look forward to the jungle stage of Lorde [Laughing].

A controversial question which you’re welcome to not answer. You’ve said that in the summer of 08, you looked at The Holloways, among others, and thought how?! Is there a band around at the moment that you have a similar thought about?

Well… I actually think that it’s a bit of a sad period for bands. There are tons of bands that aren’t particularly adventurous. Like Radiohead headlining here isn’t adventurous. I can’t think of any bands that are really big. Like, can you think of a new band that have gone anywhere near as big as Arctic Monkeys did 10 years ago?

Not really… shit.. maybe you’re right. Royal Blood?

Yeah! And Alt-J. I guess they’re pretty big and they’re a band. They headlined the Other Stage last night and I mean… fair play. I would have never predicted it having listened to their music. Not that it’s not good, I like it, it just surprised me that it’s happened. There are plenty of people that I think are shit though, just not bands necessarily. Even with someone like Ed Sheeran you’ve got to just say ‘fair play’, you know?

Are you sad to be up against him?

Really sad, although I think he’s probably more sad to be up against us.

I don’t think you’re likely to lose any Metronomy fans to Ed Sheeran anyway.

I don’t know… If I had the choice [laughing]… I still might go and see him. Just run away for the encore.

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