A trip to 'The English Riviera'...

Music can never really be separated from the place it was created. Case in point: as much as the Beach Boys might remind you of a wet summer in East Anglia the group will forever belong to California.

Growing up in a sleepy Devon village, Joseph Mount felt isolated, remote. Surrounded by cream teas, cricket scores and commercial radio the button-down environment led to him escaping to Brighton. Forming Metronomy, the group’s second album ‘Nights Out’ was a blistering mixture of dance beats and irresistible pop.

Yet try as he might, Mount couldn’t escape his background. Giving in to the less respectable elements of his record collection, Metronomy have returned with an album inspired by Fleetwood Mac and other gods of AOR. Astonishingly, ‘The English Riviera’ may just have usurped it’s predecessor – a more measured, restrained affair it features a group in transition and a songwriter who just doesn’t know when to say ‘no’.

Sitting down for a chat with ClashMusic, Joseph Mount gives a guided tour of ‘The English Riviera’…

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Where did the concept of ‘The English Riviera’ come from?
I mean I guess it’s a different kind of idea to the last one. It’s much more about the music and the atmosphere, I guess, that’s what the concept is. I’m from this very small part of Devon, a very small town and this is me trying to imagine that this town has this real exciting music scene with a certain sound associated with it. That was the starting point in a way.

Are you drawing on influences from your childhood?
There’s a whole mish-mash of things, really. Part of it is the stuff that as I got older I have realised I shouldn’t be ashamed of liking. Another part of it is me imagining what this sound would be, music made next to the seaside. When I was growing up kids were just hanging out, making their own fun – a mixture of stuff really.

There seems to be a lot of AOR on there.
I mean there’s certainly an influence on there. The thing is that a lot of ‘Adult Oriented Rock’ or whatever is almost so smooth you don’t notice it is happening. It is certainly one of the influences but the songs try to keep something of what people know about Metronomy. It’s definitely no straightforward AOR.

The songwriting seems a lot more focussed, is that fair?
I’m still learning about writing songs. I think you’ll probably find that if you look at the next album I’ll be getting a bit more confident with songwriting – I think you can kind of tell that. I suppose those bands – like Fleetwood Mac – I’ve been listening to them for a long time. I was into them when I wrote the last album but I just decided to let their influence be a bit more obvious now. There’s this whole attitude of bands who are on the edge of something. I guess I’m thinking of groups like The Libertines, drugged up bands whose music really reflects this crazy, intoxicated people. In a band like Fleetwood Mac, for example, they were as drug addled and had all these issues but still managed to make this ridiculously gentle music. There’s something I find quite inspirational about that in a way. People like Pete Doherty are incapable of making music which doesn’t sound horrible or reflect his health, then you get these AOR bands who can put a sheen over everything. There’s something about it which is weird, kind of unsettling.

There’s a sense of restraint.
Exactly! The other interesting thing that I’ve realised recently is that bands are bands, y’know? I mean, Marti Pellow was a heroin addict. All these groups that you think represent this thing you despise – you think they’re so clean cut or whatever. You just kind of realise that bands are bands. Curiosity Killed The Cat had some pretty big issues – I find it funny really.

Metronomy - She Wants

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Have Metronomy turned into a band now?
Well it’s obviously something that I started and have a real emotional connection with that the other people who play don’t have. But that’s just because I’ve been doing it for so long, really. We spend most of our time touring and hanging out together. We spend eighteen months touring and then six months doing an album. We are basically a band. I’m still the one writing the songs and I do have a controlling streak in me, but I think that’s probably the same for a lot of bands. There always seems to be one person who is – I don’t know – whipping the others!

Did the line up change influence the sound of the new album?
I’m really just a creature of habit – I’ve been making music on my own for years and years and it’s difficult to suddenly change how you do stuff. I think it will naturally just develop and change a bit. That’s something I’m excited by but I don’t think there’s any need to make it happen immediately it’s perfectly fine to just let it develop.

Did the touring process feed back into the album?
It’s funny it happens in two ways, really. There’s obviously the practical fact of always thinking about how its going to be played but I think there’s another interesting upshot of it in that we’ve got this reputation of being a party band. People put us on late – really fucking late, sometimes – at festivals because they think that we’re this kind of crazy, club party band. After you’ve been playing the songs for such a long time you end up thinking to yourself: ‘well, I think there’s space for a different type of song here’. I think a lot of the new album was written with me imagining what’s missing almost.

It seems a sombre record in tone.
It’s weird. I mean, the whole idea of it and the whole attitude is supposed to be positive and confident. Confident in itself, I mean. Lyrically it’s not supposed to be a downer or anything. But I mean compared to ‘Nights Out’ it’s obviously got a different atmosphere. It’s more thoughtful and a bit slower, although it’s not necessarily supposed to be sombre or a downer – confidently slow.

How do you match a dancefloor sensibility to pop songwriting?
I try and make stuff in a very open way and I think the interesting thing is that in the first place people stumbled across dance music. People stumbled across pop. A lot of the bands that ended up doing that thing were different in the first place. Metronomy doesn’t make strictly dance music. I like to think that there’s a lot of room to write different types of songs, as I’m influenced by all kinds of stuff really. The dance sensibility comes from liking dance music and I want that to be a part of what I do, whether the songwriting gets a bit different. There’s always room for manoeuvre and dance music has played a role in influencing it.

Is the album format important to you?
Yeah. I think it’s the only thing I can do that you can feel is a piece of work. Not to sound like a dickhead! I just mean practically speaking there’s not much else I can do. It’s something that gives me a feeling of having made something that will stick around, that you can give people. It’s a nice full stop to the end of a lot of work. The other thing is that I grew up loving albums, imagining that one day I would grow up and make albums. To kind of arrive in the music industry at a point where people are like: ‘CDs are dead! Singles are dead! Everything is dead!’ I kind of feel a bit like: ‘aw I was really looking forward to that!’ Albums are really valuable things and as long as people are making really good albums they are still important. I’ve always wanted to be in a band and make albums so I guess I’m living the dream! So long as I make good albums.

You do seem drawn to conceptual ways of working, will that continue?
I was thinking about this the other day and I guess the reason that’s the way I’ve worked is that it’s easier to give yourself a structure to work within it. I was enjoying the fact that so far I’ve had to give these explanations about the albums and that’s totally down to me and next time round I can just do whatever I want and not have to talk about it. I think actually I was quite excited about the prospect of making an album without this massive context. That’s why I get excited about the lifespan of Metronomy and me doing it as there’s so many potentials now. The next album could be an instrumental dance record and no one would really be that surprised. It’s nice – anything could happen from now.

Metronomy are set to release 'The English Riviera' on Monday (April 11th).

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