Starting Afresh: Metronomy’s Anna Prior In Conversation

Exploring her debut solo EP...

Best known as Metronomy’s long-term drummer, Anna Prior has released an eclectic dance based EP – the wonderful ‘Almost Love’ – that shows her range and influences away from the group.

But that’s not all. Anna Prior has a deep love and awareness of club culture, something that comes to the fore in her DJ sets, and her twin role as a label owner, spotlighting other producers.

The path to her debut solo EP hasn’t been entirely smooth – CLASH sat down with Anna to discuss the sounds that inspired the EP, her teenage love of Nine Inch Nails, and the impact of her time in Lisbon during the pandemic.

How did you get into writing and making your own material?

Honestly, people – namely Metronomy’s manager and a bunch of other musician friends – have been bugging me to do it for a long time, maybe 10 years. I’ve always been so resistant because I only really play the drums. It’s an obnoxious instrument for a start and you can’t really write songs on a drum kit. You can write grooves and stuff, but I couldn’t quite get my head around it. Then a friend of mine, he just gave me one of those really small Akai MIDI keyboards that you plug in. I had it for about two years and it was just staring at me. I was like, come on, I can do this… And this is a tale as old as time now but it took a global pandemic for me to just download Ableton and watch a load of American men on YouTube. Do some tutorials. I picked it up quite quickly, I find the the interface quite easy to use. 

It took having to stop because Metronomy was just so busy for 10 to 12 years. Having all that space and all that time was exactly what I needed. I just treated myself to a new computer, a new MacBook. I had one of those really old white ones, like a brick! I think if I hadn’t have treated myself to that new computer, I probably wouldn’t have started doing anything.

Was there an element of nerves or apprehension with you being the driving force behind this?

No, because I guess at the time it was just intended to fill time, to fill a void, and to just see what came out. I didn’t intend on releasing anything that I’d written. It wasn’t my MO when I first started doing it. I was hopeful that we’d go back on tour in 2021, which obviously didn’t happen. Then I just had the encouragement – again – from Steven who is Metronomy’s manager to start my own label. And then I released a standalone single in 2021.

I had no idea what I was doing! I’d always been on the other side of the music industry, like the musician side. So to actually kind of figure out – oh, PR, radio Bandcamp, Spotify, distribution companies…. I feel better at it now. But yeah, it was a real kind of learning curve, trying to release that song. I didn’t have any apprehensions.

I’ve been speaking with a friend about this a lot recently because people know me as being a drummer, and a drummer in potentially their favourite band. I’m a bit worried about alienating those fans that might just follow me for the drumming content. I’ve not stepped away from drums or drum kits, I think the EP is kind of very groovy and kind of percussive in that way and that just kind of came naturally. So I do worry about Metronomy fans just kind of just thinking it’s a load of rubbish they kind of would expect some, some drumming elements on it. So something to think about in the future. For those Metronomy fans that would probably quite like some drumming stuff on it.

Maybe for a future EP/LP?

If I get the opportunity absolutely.

Away from the drumming you’ve been a DJ. Can you tell us about some of the sonic influences behind the EP?

I have my radio show that I do on Soho Radio. I’ve been doing that since 2018 and I decided that I wanted it to be an electronic soundscape basically. When I first started, when I was a teenager, I really loved Nine Inch Nails and I loved that kind of electronic side of things.

It was so inspirational for me at the time, influenced my fashion, there are some really awful photos of me… but then when I was a teenager! I think also the 90s UK dance scene and rave culture because growing up in Doncaster, they have that the iconic – to some – nightclub The Warehouse there. I drive past it every time my dad comes and picks me up from the train station. I was too young to experience it when it was in its heyday and pomp. 

It was mainly Nine Inch Nails, 90s Dance and more contemporary sounds. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to kind of create a hit on the EP, so I was listening to a lot of Robyn. I really love Robyn. I know that Joe – from Metronomy – had worked with her, and I kind of was obsessed with the album that he’d done with her. I quite enjoy Romy’s stuff as well.

She’s also made the transition from indie to dance.

Yeah, she’s done it so so well. The xx are slightly more mainstream, perhaps, or have crossed over into the mainstream more than Metronomy have. She’s the front-person and she’s kind of more recognisable. So I wanted to get those modern pop elements in there. The way that I write, I very much just start with the bass line on the MIDI keyboard and just write bass lines. All that house music from Chicago had really funky bass lines, and then it’s trying to make it quite dark and moody. When I think about all the music that I like to listen to in an indie way, I like everything layered. Like, I love layers. I feel like it’s so brave to do really simple pop music – where it’s just just drums, just a beat synth, maybe your top line and vocals –  it’s quite bare, isn’t it? I don’t know why, I think I just prefer loads of layers and making everything just sound a bit messed up. I guess that’s maybe where the Nine Inch Nails influence comes from just making weird synthy sounds.

How do you feel being more vocally present? I guess you’ve sung for Metronomy on a few songs like ‘Everything Goes My Way’.

Fun fact about that song. It’s not actually me on the record singing it. I sing it live; I hated it when I first started doing it because I’ve always done backing vocals on drums and it’s not the easiest thing to do. It’s almost like you’ve got to separate your head from everything else to figure out where the syllables of the words that you’re singing kind of fit, in-between the beats. It’s just kind of a nightmare, but I really enjoy the process of figuring that out. I’ve never really thought of myself as a great singer; I’m not a singer and I think that’s what always is always put me off from doing the solo thing because the thought of being a front-person it’s actually quite terrifying, not really sure how people feel okay with it. Just standing at the front some people are better at it than others.

I really loved Self Esteem. Before she was famous with Slow Club I just thought she was just a comic genius and she’s just a born front-person. Robyn’s a born front person and then the more I started researching other female pop stars, producers or DJs… people like Romy: I think in terms of movement she’s maybe not a natural front-person in that pop world. The singing, I’m not so excited about, I feel when I send the stems to other musicians and producers to do some remixes I’m like oh, my God, they’re going to hear the raw vocals of this! They’re just going to think I’m an absolute fraud But it’s all about the melody, isn’t it? If the delivery is fine, it’s the melody. For a long time, I didn’t really listen to lyrics so that was another hard thing to kind of come to terms with actually… like, do I write something only to throw it away? Do I write something that doesn’t mean anything to me? Or do I write something that is meaningful and kind of potentially expose myself? That kind of feels a bit strange to me.

You were based in Lisbon for a hot minute. Did you pick up any influences there for the EP?

I was there for lockdown and it was just constantly sunny. The first track that I released in 2021, ‘Thank You For Nothing’ was very Baleriac and almost reggaeton in its nature. I was consuming a lot of Portuguese sort of pop music. The more sort of poppy reggaeton stuff, it kind of sort of seeped its way into the music. I worked with a Portuguese producer on the EP called Mullinix. He’s got a label called Disco Texas. He’s kind of a Lisbon electronic king, I would say. He really helps to champion smaller Portuguese electronic artists. It was a really great scene to be part of, they were very accepting of me. 

It’s a small country, and I think they’re kind of suffering… not suffering, that’s the wrong word. I think they’re kind of experiencing and trying to come to terms with lots of Northern Europeans coming there with their higher wages and wanting the same opportunities as them and they’re doing really well. So, they want to keep championing other Portuguese artists. I think it was important for me to move back to London and have a go at making music, with the UK music scene because I guess it’s where I belong, and that’s where the music belongs. This EP was mostly influenced by UK stuff. I had a great time living in Portugal it was so kind. 

Did you ever consider making a full LP or was always going to be a smaller project?

I was always a bit of an EP denier. Maybe that’s just a bit too old school. I thought nobody listens to EPs I’m not doing an EP I’m just going to do some singles, and then maybe an album. Then people kind of twisted my arm and I’m actually starting to appreciate the EP as a format, but then this EP has got seven tracks on it. It’s 34 minutes, we could have done a couple more and it could have been an album. I would like I would like to do an album in the future, but it’s, you know, I’ve got to figure out how to do that live and that’s another whole other scary concept. 

Can you tell us if Metronomy has any plans for more albums in the pipeline?

We decided to take a hiatus in summer last year. Joe was out of his contract with Because Records. He’s now gone to Ninja Tune. I think he’s going to do a couple of EPs. Let’s say solo EPs working with other artists like he has been doing on these Posse EPs. Then who knows we’re just quite keen to just try something different. We love each other and we’ve spent so much time together everyone’s got their families, they want to spend time with their children while they still want to spend time with them. We said no more than three years but let’s see.

There’s an interesting visual dynamic to this EP, as well.

They’re all made with AI by Tom Furse who plays keyboards and synths in The Horrors. When I was in a band in 2006, I played with The Horrors and The Slits at the Electrowerkz venue in Angel. It was just really nice to actually connect with Tom on a personal level and explain the music to him. It was kind of interesting to use AI in that way and the conversations that came out of it as well. My sister she’s an illustrator she hates AI, she’s really against it, and I see why she’s explained it to me, and it makes sense, you know, is definitely, not coming for her job, but like it can do it, as well as her which is quite a scary thing.

I really liked the idea of working with one artist throughout the whole process, just to keep some kind of coherent kind of visual aspect to it. So that was really great and really loved having those sort of flashing images. It’s actually quite amazing what you can do with with AI and that kind of visual and video kind of format.

‘Almost Love’ EP is out now.

Words: Christopher Connor
Photo Credit: 
Daniel Mutton 
Creative Direction: Morgan Hislop 

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