Formed in 1999, Joseph Mount‘s English band Metronomy started as a solo project with an outdated computer and some electronic drum beats. Eager to perform the ’80s-inspired songs onstage, he rounded up a group of friends (and a cousin) to play backing instruments. The quartet’s most recent pop album, The English Riviera, is a stripped-down departure from 2006’s hyper-sampled Pip Paine (Pay the ₤ 5000 You Owe) and 2008’s Nights Out, and sounds as languid as we imagine the English Riviera to be. We caught up with the man behind Metronomy over a cup of much needed coffee at CMJ.
BULLETT: The English Riviera sounds much calmer than the two records before. Given that it’s a tribute to your hometown, Torquay, would you call it a coming-of-age album?
JOSEPH MOUNT: [Laughs.] I’m not sure. It’s maybe a bit more comfortable with itself. Since it’s more nostalgic and about where I grew up, maybe it has a more mature feel to it.
If Pip Paine and Nights Out were, “Hey, let’s go out and dance,” then The English Riviera is…
“Let’s not go anywhere!” I think it’s a reaction to the last album. I thought it would be nice to make slower songs, to make relaxed music.
Does your drumming background contribute to these newer beats?
When I started making music, all I really knew was how to drum, so I would start every song with just a drumbeat, and then I would add very simple bits of music. For a long time, the kind of music that I did was just drumbeats, there wasn’t much to it. I am always more interested in the drums than anything else.
Yeah, and it would take an hour to download anything. It’s funny because when we started playing shows, I remember a friend told me about MySpace. I was like, Wow. As soon as I put the music on the Internet, I started getting messages from people in Brazil and America. I very much noticed the effect that it had on me. There wasn’t a record label, but people were excited and talking about it. And now MySpace is gone.
And now, music is basically free.
It is kind of upsetting. When we were growing up, the bands you saw and loved, they were living at the end of the music industry. Suddenly, we arrive and we are so excited, and then nobody is buying albums. We were, We’re too late to the party. It’s a transition, but no one knows what we’re transitioning to. The reason that we would have grown up really valuing music is because we had to save up pocket money to buy it. If there had been broadband Internet when we were growing up, we would have probably illegally downloaded it as well.
What was your first investment?
“Investment.” [Laughs.] There were two records I remember saving up to buy. One of them was the Ash record, 1977. The only reason I saved up for that Ash record was because it was cheap. It’s the same reason I bought a PJ Harvey album. Although I was saving up to buy music, I was buying the cheapest music I could find.
You’ve been touring ever since The English Riviera came out last April. How does it feel, being on the road for such a long time?
It feels strange. It feels like I’m having this incredible experience, but I’m also missing peoples’ birthdays and missing the summer in England. It is a very strange mixture of feelings.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you get home?
There are practical things, like laundry. Normally, I watch terrible television. I love to catch up on horrible English television that I’ve missed. I watch Dragon’s Den [the UK equivalent of ABC’s Shark Tank]. It’s weird because I spend all of my time having these unreal experiences, and when I go back home, I just want to have the most normal experiences. I want to remember what I did for years and years before I went on a tour. And cooking! I get really excited about cooking.
As someone who samples a lot of beats, is there an embarrassing song that’s been stuck in your head recently?
Since I’ve been in New York and heard it in a cab, I’ve got the new Drake song stuck in my head—constantly. But it’s not embarrassing, really. It’s quite a good song.
Are there any songs you’ve always wanted to cover?
It’s funny with covers, because you’re scared to do them. There are so many songs that I would love to be able to sing well, like that one Stevie Wonder song I tried to do at karaoke last night. I think it’s called “Summer Soft.” There are loads of the Beatles’ songs that I would love to learn to do well, but I just can’t. It just makes me realize how bad I am at singing.