Metronomy’s Joe Mount: ‘I’m jealous of bands who get played on the radio’
As they release their sixth album ‘Metronomy Forever’, frontman Joe Mount speaks with Alexandra Pollard about fatherhood, ambition and why this isn’t a ‘#MeToo album’
It’s been 20 years since Joe Mount first wrote down the name Metronomy. Back then, it was a pipe dream, scrawled on a piece of paper while he made music in his childhood bedroom. Since then, he says, “everything’s changed”.
For one thing, that pipe dream came true. In 2006, Metronomy released Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe), a debut record of jerky electronica that Mount described as “the sound of someone living in a musically redundant place trying to make exciting music”. The album wasn’t a hit, exactly, but it got people talking. Its follow-up two years later, the “half-arsed concept album” Nights Out, was even better. As Mount’s Noughties contemporaries fell by the wayside over the following decade, he continued to make eccentric, envelope-pushing electropop. Metronomy’s forthcoming sixth album, Metronomy Forever, might just be their best.
“The weird thing about a childhood dream becoming a reality is that your relationship with it changes so much,” says the 36-year-old, dressed in a black T-shirt, jeans and dazzling white trainers in his label’s offices in London. Metronomy is basically a singular entity these days – Mount makes the albums by himself – but the live band includes former Lightspeed Champion drummer Anna Prior and bassist Olugbenga Adelekan. “You’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this unattainable dream I had as a child, it’s an adulthood job, and it’s kind of... not the most important thing in the world.” Then again, he adds, “it’s been my life’s work. It’s the sixth album, and there’s not that many people around anymore who were around when I started.”
Mount is a self-assured, gregarious presence. He might not thank me for this, but his speaking voice – deeper than the sometimes cartoonish falsetto in which he often sings – sounds a little like Michael McIntyre’s. When he’s grappling with an answer, he hangs an arm over his head and scrunches the curly hair on the other side. He is nonchalant when describing the process of making Metronomy Forever – “I just thought, ‘Well, go and have a nice time’” – and the album, which sits brilliantly somewhere between Kylie, Aphex Twin and PC Music, is just as loose as that sounds. The exuberant “Salted Caramel Ice Cream” – sounding not unlike Lipps Inc’s “Funky Town” – is a bizarre kind of love song. “She’s bubbling like the water in my kettle, she’s the sting in a nettle. She’s a dream. Salted caramel ice cream.”
Mount recorded the album in a studio he built in his English countryside home. He moved there from Paris, with his girlfriend and their two sons, a few years ago. The decision, he says, came from “accepting that you’re not young anymore. OK, yes, cities are cool because you can go to restaurants and bars and clubs, but are we really going to clubs anymore? We were in a flat – it wasn’t a tiny flat, but with two boys running around all the time, it was intense. People are paranoid in cities about children running off or being stolen. As soon as we moved to the countryside, it was like, ‘Yes children, run off, do stuff, whatever!’ It means you’re way more relaxed as parents and you’re way more happy.”
In an interview a few years ago, Mount lamented that he had “already missed quite large chunks of my children’s early years”. Has moving to the countryside helped? “Yeah,” he says. “Having the space to do stuff means I don’t need to go away as much. I think people get very wrapped up in the idea of being successful musicians, and then you have kids, and then what are you gonna do? Are you gonna neglect your children in favour of pursuing your own celebrity? Or are you gonna realise that your children are children for not very long, and if you miss those years, you might seriously regret it? The pleasure I get from fatherhood is very different from the pleasure I get from making music, but if I ever had to choose, it’s a very, very simple decision.”
I suspect many musician fathers might not have found the decision so easy. “You wonder, don’t you?” says Mount. “Without naming anyone, when you think about children of famous rock stars, a lot of them get really f***ed up, and it would be so horrible if that ever... I would feel so responsible. And I guess it could happen, but I don’t think... anyway, I don’t want to think about that.”
Fatherhood isn’t something Mount tackles on Metronomy Forever, though a few of the tracks grapple with ideas of manhood. “I’ve got an insecurity, gets real bad when you’re next to me,” he sings on “Insecurity” over punchy synths. “I take it ’cause I’m being a man, but I swear that it is killing me.” On “The Light”, he declares, “I’m just a man – a bad one at that.” Was this an attempt to dissect toxic masculinity? Not exactly, says Mount. It was more an attempt “to avoid lazy platitudes and lazy ideas of what songs are about”.
Mount made Metronomy Forever while he was co-writing and producing most of the tracks on Robyn’s 2018 album Honey. “She was having this genuine relationship thing going on, and there was the #MeToo stuff happening,” he says. “There’s a whole load of lame indie musicians who are being called out for being tw**s, for doing nasty stuff, so we were talking about it, and how it’s an odd time to feel like you’re involved in something innocent. It’s music, it’s fun. But then you’re like, ‘Oh f***, no, there are bad people anywhere.’ I was very aware of the #MeToo movement and people like Donald Trump talking about... weird things. So like, I’m gonna write this song and I’m gonna say ‘she’? Who is ‘she’? She’s not my girlfriend, because we’re really cool. You’re imagining some faceless woman, and I guess I just felt like, this doesn’t feel right. I wanted to avoid that. So I wrote a song about being a man or about being insecure, and it just felt like a more interesting language to use than pop platitudes.”
Suddenly, Mount is worried that he’s explained himself badly. He tries to rephrase it, to “make it sound more intelligent”, but gives up. “The album has nothing to do with #MeToo,” he clarifies. “It’s just... making music and being aware, culturally, of what’s going on. It’s difficult to know what to... not to know...” He clutches at his hair. “This is difficult, isn’t it?”
We move onto something a little lighter. In an interview a few years ago, Mount recalled the time when Metronomy were on the road with Klaxons, and were furious when they found themselves staying in a youth hostel while their tourmates were put up in a plush hotel. “I remember that very well,” he smirks. Has that competitive streak died down? “It has and it hasn’t. I’m not competitive in that way at all, partly because I’ve realised that there’s no equivalent band that we could be competing against. But I get jealous of... I don’t understand why we don’t get played on mainstream radio. That kind of annoys me, and I get jealous of bands that I see as being in the same orbit as us getting played. That kind of pisses me off.”
Why does he think he doesn’t get played on the radio? He squirms again. “I feel like I’ve trapped myself! It’s just something that’s been on my mind. I’m talking about Radio 1 or Capital FM. They’re people who like to think they’re part of a story: ‘We’ve supported this band from the beginning’. And I guess we just haven’t got that support, kind of understandably, I guess. It’s not an easy sell. But whether you like Metronomy or not, we are part of pop culture, and in a book about English bands of the Noughties, we’re in there. Whether or not it’ll be a paragraph, I don’t know, but we have to be in there.”
At what point, Mount wants to know, 20 years since scrawling down the name Metronomy, will his band be accepted as part of the establishment? “At what point do you go into the realm of The Kinks or Blur or Pulp or Elastica? At what point do you become embraced by the country?”
Doesn’t it usually happen towards the tail-end of a band’s career? “It does, which is a shame,” he says. “That would be where the last nugget of my jealousy is. You’re stood behind a window, waving frantically. ‘We’re here! We’ve been here for ages! Let us in.’ And all the time, you see people coming and going and people held up, and you’re... still there.”
“And at the very end of your career,” he laughs, “they’re like, ‘Oh yes, great band. I’ve always liked them.’”
Metronomy Forever is released on 13 September