One thing is clear; Joseph Mount is all about change. As the brain behind svelte pop group Metronomy, Mount doesn’t like to do the same thing twice. Like all of its previous records, the band’s latest release, Love Letters, succeeded yet again in catching listeners completely off guard. Unlike many musicians out there, Mount takes what has already proven successful, unapologetically tosses it out the window, and creates something completely new.
This time, the Devon, England-based musician chose to slow down the tempos and leave the sandy beaches behind, in order to reveal his most nostalgic side to date. In an attempt to better understand the reasoning behind his decisions, we talked to the band’s all-seeing-eye and asked him about Love Letters and his journey from an instrumental-only bedroom project to a band that now counts a Mercury Prize nomination and a gold record (both for 2011’s pristine The English Riviera) among its many accomplishments.
How do you feel now that the new record is out? Are you pleased by people’s reactions to it?
Yeah, I feel like it’s always really nice. You spend a long time working on a record, and then when it’s finally released you just feel happy. I think the album has been very well received. People seem to kind of understand what the idea is and they’re responding really well to it, so yeah, I feel very happy!
And now that you’re on tour, how are they reacting to the new songs live?
I think the tour is going fantastic! We’re having a really great time performing. The new record is giving the set and the live show a new, very different dynamic, and it feels much more rewarding for us this time. I mean, it has always been rewarding, but there’s something about it this time that feels really, really great.
Love Letters is significantly more downbeat than your previous records. Is there a reason for this?
I think there are two different ways of listening to music these days. It seems like some people can sit at home and listen to records. But then also bands are now touring much more than they used to, and this allows musicians to kind of represent themselves in different ways on the record and when playing their music live. I wanted Love Letters to have a more intimate atmosphere when you listen to it, but playing the songs live really kind of changes the way they feel. When the new songs sit next to the older songs, they feel different.
Love Letters was recorded at Toe Rag Studios. Why did you choose an analogue facility, and how did this affect the composition process?
There were a few reasons for doing it that way, but the main one was for me to learn what it was like to make a record like they did in the old days, you know, how the Beatles made records and how the Beach Boys made records. All these fantastic albums have been made in that kind of studio using that kind of technology. Also, I thought it would be nice to make a record without the computer, because computers are what really helped me learn how to make music, and sometimes you feel like you rely on them a bit too much, and that it’s doing a lot of the work for you. So I just wanted to feel like I was doing it all by myself. And it’s true, working like that really does change how you write your songs and how you think about the way you’re going to record. It’s kind of a creative decision.
Did you enjoy it? Would you like to do that again?
Oh yeah, I loved it! It was really amazing, but I think that I wouldn’t do it again for the same reasons, and for the next record I will definitely go back to modern technologies. You can take so much from that experience that I think in certain situations I would do it again, but you know, I’m not anti-progress or anything.
Is there something about Love Letters that you are particularly proud of?
I feel like it’s a nice, kind of concise and quite precise record, and it feels different from how a lot of other things feel at the moment in music. I’m proud that people think it sounds different from what’s currently out there.
Do you have a favorite song on the record?
I’m Aquarius, just because I feel like it’s a nice, solid pop song.
Lyrically, were you inspired by anything in particular?
When I’m writing albums or music I always try to give myself a few ideas or starting points, and I always find it helpful to use things that I have some kind of experience with. For this record I was writing most of the music while we were traveling and on tour, so most of the beginnings of the ideas kind of come from the experience of being away from the people that you care about. I’m not interested in writing confessional songs, but it certainly helps to have some knowledge of what you’re writing about.
Is there a story behind The Most Immaculate Haircut?
That song is about being jealous of people. There are so many musicians that you see and meet that are this kind of perfect combination of everything. Specifically, there’s this guy called Connan Mockasin, a New Zealand musician that we toured with, that has this Andy Warhol-like long hair, which I think is amazing. I wish I was able to make myself recognizable by my hair, but it has never worked out that way.
You’ve said before that success is the last thing on your mind. So what is Metronomy’s goal?
Well it’s not the last thing. Maybe like the third thing on my mind (laughs). The pleasure that I get out of making music and being able to experiment in studios is what really excites me. I’m guessing that maybe without success I would not be given the time to do those things. I know it is important that people like what I do, but I think even if I lost a record deal and had to get a job in a café, I would still be doing this for the reasons that I’m doing it now, just because I really love it.
So much has changed since you started out as an instrumental electronic act. What do you think about where you’re at now? Any regrets?
I feel really proud of how it all turned out. I still really love instrumental music and I think I would love to make some more, but I definitely don’t have any regrets or anything. It’s been the best thing that’s even happened to me! No regrets, never!