Sitting down to The Smiths and dancing like an uncle: Joe Mount interview
As if to prove a point about Metronomy’s newfound popularity, the first time The List tries to ring front man Joe Mount for a chat he’s engaged. ‘Sorry, did you just try and get through a second ago?’ he apologises, when the phone connects. ‘The Scottish Sun man was running on a bit.’ Mount readily acknowledges that the Scottish Sun probably wouldn’t have wanted an interview a few years ago. So what’s changed? First of all, Mount has some new recruits: a bassist, Gbenga Adelekan, and drummer, Anna Prior, to accompany his cousin, Oscar Cash, in the live outfit. They all look well groomed and fresh from a trip to Urban Outfitters. In short, like a successful, mainstream indie band. There’s also a new album, their third: a nostalgic, pop opus dedicated to The English Riviera of Mount’s youth. The record already feels like a timeless summer classic, creating a template for Devon beach pop to rival the best work of California’s surf revivalists, without compromising on any of the band’s innately awkward Englishness.
‘I think it’s nice, natural even, to have a steady trajectory,’ Mount says of Metronomy’s progress from intriguing electronica project to major British band. ‘You don’t have delusions of grandeur or anything like that.’ He pauses as a truck roars past. ‘… I do now of course.’
Mount now lives in London, but grew up in Torbay – ‘South Devon’s beautiful bay’ according to englishriviera.co.uk – before moving to Brighton in his late teens. ‘I got a job cleaning dishes,’ he remembers. ‘I decided to force myself to work and live in a city instead of enjoying a year at my parents’ hotel.’ Brighton exposed him to a world in which electro and disco were the new vogue. ‘I used go to this poorly attended IDM night and the DJ there would play a weird crossover between electroclash and IDM – The Rapture ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ and Fischerspooner ‘Emerge’, stuff like that. But also it was the first time I ever went to indie clubs and danced to bands like The Smiths. Well, I say danced, I didn’t dance, I sat down to The Smiths.’
Does he dance now? ‘Kind of like an uncle!’ he laughs. ‘It’s good though because I’m soon to be an uncle so my life is fitting around my dancing habits.’
In their early years of touring – what Mount refers to as the ‘summer of new rave’ that broke Metronomy with their 2006 debut Pip Paine (Pay the £500 You Owe) – the band stood out by not dancing. Instead they often adopted a performance style somewhere in between Kraftwerk and a shonky kids show, performing intricate hand jives while bashing nightlights stuck to their T-shirts. In Mount’s case, too hard: ‘I was very ham-fisted. I used to break them all the time. But they were only a quid each so you can’t expect real quality can you?’
‘We still have the lights theme,’ he continues, ‘but now they are a bit more advanced. They are all connected to this brain. Because there is no backing track anymore we literally don’t have our hands free, which is good really.’
Will T in the Park be impressed? As tracks like ‘The Bay’ and ‘Everything Goes My Way’ slowly permeate radio shows, Spotify playlists and summer barbecues everywhere, there’s a definite feeling that this is the year for Metronomy’s sun to appear from behind the dreich clouds of Scottish indifference. ‘The first time we played T in the Park it was pretty funny to be honest, because there was no one there,’ Mount recalls. ‘And there was a motocross accident across from where we were playing so everyone left to watch that!’ If the crowd’s bloodlust can be sated, Metronomy’s slick, hummable tunes can’t fail to hit the mark – even with a question mark hanging over Oscar Cash’s saxophone playing. The List puts the description ‘ropey’ to Mount. ‘Well he wouldn’t disagree with it,’ he laughs. ‘I mean, if you want to go and see a good saxophone player, you know, go and see a jazz band!’