Set to release their fourth studio album, we sat down with Metronomy’s Joseph Mount to learn more about ‘Love Letters,’ raising the bar and what it means to be an aquarius.
On 2014’s first official snow day, we made our way to Berlin’s famous Michelberger Hotel to meet up with Metronomy mastermind Joseph Mount. Hot on the release of a fantastic music video for “I’m Aquarius” by French director Edouard Salier, the Englishman filled us in on his recent activity, the creative process behind Love Letters, recording at Toe Rag Studios and more.
Physical settings play an important role in a lot of your music, especially on The English Riviera, do you consider Metronomy a distinctly English band?
I never really thought of it but it’s funny, people, especially since the last record and having heard the new one, they say it reminds them of typical English bands. I suppose if you’re English and make music you never think to mention it, but, of course, your musical heritage is bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, Blur, stuff like that. So I think it’s probably there.
Do you remember when you started working on Love Letters?
Yeah! When we we’re touring The English Riviera I was trying to do as much as I could when I came back and had a couple of days off – I tried to write and get some ideas down. I was doing bits on the road as well. It started slowly but it must have been in the middle of the last tour.
Is there a concept behind the new album?
Well, no. I wanted to do a record that I didn’t have to talk about in a conceptual way like with The English Riviera and the one before that. Those were partially conceptual because it was easier for me to write that way then. It was easiest to give myself an idea or frame but for this one I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to talk about concepts. I wanted it to be the most expansive record but I didn’t want to give it an idea which I have to explain. The thing is, when you end up compiling tracks and sequencing the record, you end up giving it a bit of a feel and theme in the end.
Was there a certain structure behind the creative process for Love Letters?
Well the place it was recorded had hours which where quite old fashioned – working week hours like ten to six, eight hour days. It’s funny because on the previous record we were working late into the evening and in fact it’s quite nice to have a working day feel.
Toe Rag Studios is renowned for its analog equipment. Did the equipment affect the writing in the studio?
Yeah, in fact I had to be really organized when I went in there. If you’re recording like that, the writing process is very front heavy; you got to know what you’re doing before you start recording. The previous album and how people record now gives you much more freedom to edit and do stuff after you’ve recorded. So part of the reason why I did it like this is to be really organized. If anything’s let me down in the past it’s been my lack of organization. (laughs)
You come from a drumming background but have also produced a lot beats. Will Love Letters feature more of one over the other?
There’s a mix! In fact, the ﬁrst 3 tracks feature drum machines but there’s also a lot of live drumming and that’s the nice thing about this record – when it sounds like a band playing, it’s actually me, Oscar, Anna and Benga playing. So it’s kind of more realistic because before I did a lot of the playing myself which is a sort of a Lenny Kravitz way of doing things. And yeah, the new record’s gonna have quite a few electronic tracks and a few live-sounding tracks.
Are you into astrology?
(laughs) No, I’m not at all. But as a teenager, I distinctly remember people at school reading each other’s horoscopes from these horrible teenage girl magazines. What I think is quite funny about it is how if you’re slightly fragile you really believe in them, and you’ll look like, “Oh yeah this week, Saturday’s gonna be a big day for me, I’m gonna meet somebody.” I quite like how vague the whole thing is. Of course, astrology is a very unscientiﬁc thing and astronomy, on the other hand, is this really scientiﬁc thing. And apparently astronomists hate astrology and everything it stands for, and we kind of joined the two together.
In the context of the song, what does it mean to be an aquarius?
I don’t actually know. I tried to do some vague Internet research to ﬁnd out who’s not compatible with who. It just means that you’re not compatible with someone and it’s not because you’re a bad boyfriend. Instead, you’re blaming it on the stars, on the planets; that’s what it means.
The “I’m Aquarius” video has a remarkable level of production without using any CGI. Is this new kind of bigger production something we can expect more of?
It’s weird because the idea for that video is what ended up making it a really big production. As far as I’m concerned, you make a video and you judge a video based on its idea rather than its production. But obviously for Edouard, who was making the video, he was adamant that the video needed to cost that amount of money to be good. So you go with it and try to get the money for it. Then of course, after you’ve done that and the video’s got high production values, you’re like, “Shit. So now if we make a normal, crappy-looking video, what are people gonna think?”
Like I said, I don’t think big production equals big video at all, but now we’ve kind of set this level.
You’ve unintentionally raised the bar.
Yeah, exactly! And all that really means practically is you’ve gotta ﬁnd people to sponsor your video. Luckily we didn’t have to resort to Samsung or something like that. We’re managing to keep it respectable; we’re trying our best.
Regarding visuals and theatrics for the live tour, do you guys have anything special planned for that?
Yeah! Again, we’ve, intentionally or not, over time raised the bar. This tour we’re playing really big venues (for us) and you feel like in terms of production, whether you like it or not, you’ve gotta start upping the ante. Ticket prices go up and stuff like that, so even if you don’t necessarily want to put on a crazy show, you can’t expect to get away with just doing the bare minimum. So yeah we’re planning to make some sort of TV set, like a nice traditional band on a stage if that makes any sense.
So in part you designed the stage around the size of the venue?
Yeah. These things, you make them what you want them to be, so we tried to do it with a sense of fun and what you look for from these bigger venues. With that in mind, I’m actually looking forward to it because you start to feel like you’re touring a performance rather than just a band touring. The same way theaters travel around with all their stuff, you can think of it in that way and that makes it exciting in a whole different way.
Will there be any accompanying instrumentalists alongside you four?
Yeah, there’s a guy who’s like the extra pair of hands, an old friend of mine called Michael who has in own music career. He’s a really brilliant musician and I thought he’d quite enjoy coming on tour. So yeah, we kind of changed. We’ve made ourselves absolutely computer free which is something Iʻm quite excited about.
Lastly, will there be any collaborations on Love Letters?
There’s a few people playing but no one really famous. There’s my friend James who played in Veronica Falls but he’s just like an old friend. I thought of getting someone famous but in the end I just think it’s a bad idea. Like when you see these websites with people that get really excited about the idea of St. Vincent doing something with David Bowie or David Bowie and Arcade Fire, and that’s like a bloggers wet dream. I don’t like the idea of it being that; it kind of dilutes it.
Look for Love Letters to release March 10 on Because Music and see when Metronomy is coming to your town here.
- Photography: Ryan Hursh for Highsnobiety.com