Metronomy is the musical persona of Joseph Mount, who started playing in bands whilst living in Totnes, Devon, before relocating (wisely, some might say) to seagull-filled den of vice, Brighton, where the project began as Joseph playing electronica laptop sets before evolving into the current fully-fledged band. Whilst Joseph still undertakes writing and producing duties, he is joined by a regular line-up (recently amended after the departure of bassist Gabriel Stebbing) for live shows.
When I speak to Joseph, Metronomy has just played its first gigs with this new line-up (featuring ex- Lightspeed Champion drummer Anna Prior, new bassist Gbenga Adelekan and long-time member Oscar Cash on synths), including a set at the Great Escape festival - the South Coast’s (superior, if you ask me) answer to the Camden Crawl - held in Metronomy’s birthplace, Brighton. Having since relocated to the bright lights of London, Joseph was keen to get back to the city, and reports that both gig and festival went well: “I’m really enjoying playing with the new band. There were so many people at the Great Escape this year, and they get a lot of interesting and international acts. I really enjoyed it, and I think you can only really pull off a festival like that in Brighton.”
In fact, there are enough wonderful oddities (boutique clothing shop for dogs, anyone?) that could only be pulled off in Brighton to fill an entire issue of Clash, suffice to say it’s an excellent location for culturewhores, green-minded folk and general hedonists. Walk from the top of the renowned North Laine through to the seafront and you’ll encounter a vast array of pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops selling everything from bonsai trees to herbal highs to antique weaponry.
And this kind of sums up Brighton: bohemian as you like - and with a plethora of tight jeans and haircuts - but never taking itself too seriously. It is, ultimately, the most easy-going, fun-loving city in the UK. When the sun shines, there are few better places in the UK to spend an afternoon than sitting on Brighton beach (away from the tourists mind - head towards the crumbling West Pier) supping cold cider, surrounded by impossibly attractive arty-types and creative musician-folk - as well as Metronomy, the city has spawned the likes of The Maccabees, Fujiya And Miyagi, British Sea Power, Blood Red Shoes, Evil Nine, The Electric Soft Parade, The Go! Team - the list goes on… And as Joseph mentions, it’s hard not to be exposed to these sounds in a small city: “A lot of the stuff that gets made in Brighton is fairly niche, and it definitely had an effect on what I got up to and what I was listening to.”
Paradoxically though, for somewhere so full of innovation and creative talent, if you’re not careful Brighton can also be - as a friend once wisely remarked - the “death of ambition”, due largely to the quite staggering amount of pubs and clubs at every turn, inviting binging of obscene and hilarious proportions, making it all too easy to put off that essay/ article/album/job-hunt for another month or so.
Fittingly, it was a happy accident at one of the city’s numerous club nights that saw Metronomy advance from laptop-act to musical project proper, as Joseph explains: “I wasn’t thinking about getting a record deal, but after I moved to Brighton I got involved with an electronica night called Sabbath. I did a laptop show and some guy there told me he’d put out a record. It turned out that of the songs I’d recorded, I had an album’s worth.”
Those songs became Metronomy’s first album, ‘Pip Paine (Pay The £5000 You Owe)’, a brilliant, quirky glitch rock record, full of inspired electronic riffs that bury themselves deep. After its release, Joseph embarked on a remixing stint - including Roots Manuva, Ladytron and Late Of The Pier - partly to get Metronomy’s name out and about, but inadvertently making a name for himself as a highly competent remixer who took painstaking care over his work: “At the time it meant a lot to the existence of Metronomy that the remixes kept getting used. I think the best remixes you’ll hear are by people who aren’t that established, because it means a lot more to them than it does to someone who’s already made a name for themselves.”
2008’s follow-up album, ‘Nights Out’, is a more considered but no less innovative record, which sees Joseph finding his singing voice, producing criminally catchy yet quirky electro cuts like ‘A Thing For Me’ and ‘Heartbreaker’. Creating the record was, Joseph says, a musical revelation for him - following a period spent “trying to make what I thought was electronica” after the release of the first album, Joseph began to fully embrace the pop hooks and harmonies that ‘Pip Paine…’ hinted at, and has never looked back. “I decided to make what I liked hearing and not be afraid of influences. I guess the way I make music is electronic but I also think it’s pop music. Quite often people describe it as electro pop, but that doesn’t really sound like… an established genre. I’d like to think that it straddled a few different areas.”
Words by Tristan Parker
“When I go back to Brighton, I often go to The Basket Makers. It’s a good pub, normally full of people in bands. A bit further up the hill there’s a really nice place with a good beer garden called The Battle of Trafalgar, which is near where I used to live with Oscar [Cash, Metronomy’s synthist]. Another good one is The Crescent. I could go on… Probably the best pub was called The Iron Duke - that place was fucking amazing! Back then, pubs were only open until eleven, but if you got into The Iron Duke before then, as it was a hotel you could stay until whenever you wanted…”
“I moved to Brighton when I was eighteen, and although the music scene there now is probably quite similar to what goes on in London, coming from somewhere like Totnes in Devon - where there were only a samey nightclubs in the surrounding towns - it was amazing to move to a city and be able to choose between electroclash - there was a lot of that back then - and a rockabilly night and an electronica club. To have all these options to dip into when you had nothing before was great.”
“While my friends went travelling in their gap years, I moved to Brighton a year before I started university and got a job in Pizza Express- that was my idea of a gap year! Then I went to uni there and had a great time - I met loads of friends and didn’t really do much work... But Brighton’s an amazing place - the fact that you can be in a city one minute, then go and play pitch-and-putt, then drive for ten minutes and get into some proper countryside is pretty special.”
Clash's A to Z of Brighton
THE BARLEY MOW
Wonderful cosy pub serving loads of great ales and bitters.
BLOOD RED SHOES
Fast-paced punky grunge-rock duo.
THE CONCORDE 2
Seafront gig venue that hosts big and small acts alike.
DUKE OF YORK’S PICTUREHOUSE
Art-house cinema with great décor and comfy seats.
Zombie-obsessed breaks duo on Brighton’s Marine Parade label.
Small but popular gig venue, which Metronomy played back in the day.
FUJIYA AND MIYAGI
Great Krautrock band, not dissimilar to Neu! and Can.
The ‘posh’ bit of the city, or where you go when you can’t hack the pace of Brighton.
Small bohemian area full of one-off shops, cafes and bars.
Lovely little alt. folk act, akin to CocoRosie, Cat Power, et al.
THE PRINCE ALBERT
Great little rock pub which puts on a staggering amount of live gigs.
Sprawling grassy mass, full of Frisbee and beer in the summer.
Lovely coffee house with some of the best java in Brighton.
Fancy a laugh? Watch the weekend hordes from London run to the beach, reminding themselves what water looks like.
Grimy, dark dance cavern, playing everything from psy-trance to ragga. Mess-central, massive fun.
Ludicrous but great label, full of break-core and gabba, home to DJ Scotch Egg and Shitmat
Big Chill Festival 2010