Interview: Metronomy

Metronomy's newest album, The English Riviera

By Crystal Lynn Walter

When I meet Metronomy, the England-based band, at their hotel in El Cajon, they have just arrived and are unloading their belongings, awaiting access to their hotel rooms.  I am struck, almost immediately, by their overall friendliness, wittiness, and charisma as we gather in the lobby discussing Toms, the American shoe company, and the ways that technology seems to be manifesting a new form of language within modern society.  Soon, we have made our way into the hotel room, complete with the luxury of hot-running water, and Joseph Mount, composer, singer, keyboard player, and guitar player, takes a seat next to me on the couch to begin the interview.

 As broaching the topic of their newest album The English Riviera, released in April 2011, the album art and its significance initiates the direction of the conversation, due to its direct relationship with the contents of the album.  The album cover selected for their newest album, The English Riviera, produced on the Because Music record label, is that of an old poster originally used to revamp the image of the English Riviera, in hopes of making it appear to be more of a desired travel destination, Mount said.  This sleek and modern image, evoking a sense of glamour, is very different from the actuality of the English Riviera, and thus the band’s utilization of this image helps to create a sense of irony between the album’s content and one’s first visual impression of the album.  The English Riviera is filled with a sense of irony, appreciation, and reminiscence with regards to childhood experiences and hometowns, revealing the various ways that these characteristics can influence and shape one’s future. The band expressed excitement about their gradual rise in success and the increased publicity they are receiving for The English Riviera, with songs such as “The Look” and “The Bay.”

Crystal Walter: What was the point in time that you realized Metronomy was really working out, and that it would be a project that would experience the high level of success and popularity that it has today? 

Joseph Mount: I mean there’s been a few points where it’s felt like it was going better than I could have imagined in a way.  When our band started playing the live stuff it felt like a nice time for us to start going out and touring, because it felt like people were coming out and watching us.  It has gotten better and better, and this year has felt very exciting for us…so maybe now (laughs).


CW: Do you feel that The English Riviera contains more of a dance-pop feel, where Pip Paine and Nights Out are more centered on electronic sounds and beats?  Why these changes towards a more dance-pop feel? Is this a direction that you would like to continue moving towards and further exploring, or do you see yourself returning to music focused mainly on electronic sound?   

Gbenga Adelekan: It’s interesting that you say that, because in Europe I don’t think that anyone has really called the new album “dance-pop.”  A lot of the questions we’ve had about the album in Europe have been “why the move away from dance-pop into a pop rock?”

JM: The same question has been oppositely phrased in Europe.  People notice a move from something that’s maybe more nice, into something that’s a bit more commercial.  It’s weird because the only thing that makes it commercial is the coverage it gets.  There are no decisions to change the style for any particular reason other than just keeping it kind of interesting.  It just so happens that on this record it seems to appeal to a lot more people, at least more than other albums.  It sounds a bit more palatable for a lot of people (takes off his 1980s style windbreaker).

Oscar Cash: I always think that Night Out, in particular, was definitely trying to be pop.

GA: I think the production values on The English Riviera are higher, just because it was recorded in a studio for the first time.  Joe and Ash, the guys that engineered it, got a great sound out of that room, so for people who are listening to it on the radio may find it easier to get into it.  It sounds better than the previous albums, but I think that the previous albums are just as catchy as say “The Look.”


CW: How did you decide on the album art for The English Riviera?   

JM: The artwork is actually an old tourism poster from where I grew up, which is the English Riviera.  I was always aware of that picture, but it seemed too obvious and too easy, and so for some reason I was trying to think of other bits of artwork to make.  In the end I just tried it, and thought “that was easy wasn’t it?”  It’s funny, because for that picture itself, they hired this graphic designer to try and help re-brand the area for the tourism office, but the only way he could do that was to make this very simple graphic image.  It’s not a photograph of the place, its not very literal, but makes it seem very beautiful, clean, and sheik.  That’s the idea for the record.  If you see that picture and you actually travel there, the feelings the picture gives you aren’t necessarily the feelings you will have when you get there.


CW: The album name, The English Riviera, evokes a sense of vacation, relaxation, and almost paradise, was that your intention when selecting the title for this album?  What significant meaning does the album title have for you?  

JM: Yes. It’s maybe a bit more of a personal attachment because it is a place that reminds me much of my childhood.  I think the thing that I really enjoy most is that you find yourself going to places like Brazil, Chile, or even here in America, and someone is asking you about the English Riviera.  It’s quite a funny concept.  So…yeah, the idea that there is this paradise in England and it’s somewhere that no one would ever really think to travel to is quite nice.  It is the idea of being a bit proud of the fact that there is this relatively nice coastline in England.


CW: For me, the lyrics and instrumentals present within “The Bay” evoke a sense of yearning and desire that seems to be limited or unfulfilled to a certain extent, was that the intention when composing “The Bay”?  What influenced its lyrical and instrumental content?  

JM: I guess the idea of the song is to give an anthem to the people of the bay, in Devon, England.  I think it’s the same for Anna who is from a relatively small town “it is a town, isn’t it?” (Joe says to Anna), “It’s a town” (Anna responds to Joe).  There are these towns in England where the biggest decision, and maybe the one that will affect your life the most, is if you leave that town or if you stay there.  So…yeah, I guess a whole lot of the lyrics share this idea where leaving is a very big step and staying is deciding that you are content.  I know that Anna’s is always saying that if she were still in Duncan’s (Anna’s hometown), that she would probability have lots of children.

Anna Prior: it’s a bit of a “booger,” because you go home for Christmas and people treat me differently.  They say, “oh your accent’s changed.”  They think that for some reason I feel that I am better than them now.  I have to say I come home because “my parents still live here, and I have to go back to see my parents.” I find it a bit annoying.

JM: It’s the same from where I’m from.  There are all the people working in the supermarkets, who were working there when you left and are still working there when you come home.  It’s supposed to have the idea of being stuck somewhere, being proud of where you are stuck, and believing that “it’s a great place” (spoken with a hint of irony).


CW: Within the song “The Look,” the lyrics and corresponding instrumentals, remain somewhat upbeat, but also mellow at the same time.  Throughout this song I gained the feelings of betrayal, rejection, and nostalgia for times passed.  Were these the intended responses you considered while composing “The Look”?  What influenced its lyrical and instrumental content? 

JM: Yeah…the song is really simple and based around this little organ idea.

GA: “Hook,” a massive organ (spoken with a hint of friendly sarcasm, laughs).

JM: Yes, based around this “massive” organ (laughs).  When anyone asks me about this song, I have to sing the lyrics in my head (more laughs).  When I was writing it, I was thinking it was about small towns.  I can remember that when I was growing up in a small town, if you had an interest, which was maybe a bit artistic, you would end up becoming this weird “target” for people.  People who thought, “oh, you like drawing, you’re a girl.”  They had these weird, jealous reactions. The interest in something different was almost like your ticket out of the place that you were from, because it was something to focus you.   The song was based on the idea that you have to really stick to what you want to do, despite the people who want to “take the mink out of you.” Anyways…I’m rambling…I’m getting heavy (laughs).


CW: What songs on The English Riviera have a special meaning to you, and for what reasons? Which songs do you really connect with, and for what reasons?  

AP: I feel a connection to “Love Underlying,” because of the drums in it.  Joe got me into playing the “little synthesizer pad thing” and I played it for eight, nine, ten minutes (acts out laboring over the instrument)…So, I feel connected in that way.

JM: Yeah.  There’s probably about thirty minutes recorded material that you did (referring to Anna’s drumming).  But yeah, I guess the ones that we’ve talked about, “The Look” and “The Bay,” that I feel an emotional connection to.  It’s weird because once you start playing them live you they start to become this other thing.  You start to think of them much more in terms of how people like them, rather than your experience of them.

GA: So…then that becomes your experience of listening to them (referring to Joe’s comment).  It becomes this sort of weird symbiotic relationship.

JM: I mean playing “The Bay” in places where there is water you feel a nice interaction with the people in the audience.

AP: In some ways “The Bay” feels Christmassy to me because the first time I heard it “properly” and in full, was when I had gone home for Christmas.  Our manager sent it to us and I remember lying in bed on the 26th of December (acting out listening to the song and being satisfied with what she is hearing).


CW: Are there any examples of songs, on the new album, that you wrote a certain way and then they turned out completely different that was originally intended? 

JM: Umm…they all go through quite a different process from when they were first done to what they are like now and when they are played live.  It’s been so long since I’ve listened to the record, that when I’ve occasionally listened to a song it has a real different feel and that’s nice.  None of the songs are any different for the worst.  There are some songs on the record like, “The Bay,” that started out very different than how they are now on the record.  That’s the nice thing about working like we do, because half of the experience is working into stuff and seeing what they change into.


CW: What inspired the imagery, story line, and setting for “The Bay” music video?   

AP: The west coast (laughs).  That’s what we were trying make it look like, and I think we kind of succeeded in a way.

JM: It was the idea of making a really glamorous, almost R& B style video in England, which no one has ever really tried to do before.  I think the whole idea that it would be shot in England gave it a slight sense of irony I suppose.  It’s kind of humorous in that way.  There’s this nice idea of doing a kind of glitzy video in England (laughs).   Someone, the other day, said “it’s like a biggie video,” and this made me feel like, “oh, that’s brilliant.”  Because if people can actually think this, not like it’s trying to be like an R&B video, that’s great, because that was the idea.  The idea was really to make this slightly tongue in cheek, slick video which people hadn’t expected form us.


CW: What do you want listeners to get out of listening to The English Riviera?  What sort of audiences to you hope to reach with The English Riviera

JM: I’m Kind of old fashioned.  I always imagine the records that should be listened to in cars, in teenagers’ bedrooms, not like albums in clubs.  These are the places that I always imagine that you listen to records, on headphones, while you are traveling. I think all kinds of places.  That’s how I kind of listen to records, you just don’t want people to feel like they are wasting forty-five minutes of their lives. Kids, children, (laughs at the reference) everyone, have this attention span that is getting shorter.  I think of the amount of time people spend watching terrible films from start to finish, two hours, even three hours sometimes.  All you want to do is to make a type of record that makes people want to listen to the whole thing, like a good film, where they don’t feel bad about wasting forty-five minutes.

GA: Yeah.  You don’t notice the time passing, you get to the end and you’re like, “oh… that was good.”

AP: I was on a train back to my hometown, and I sat behind this girl.  I was sitting, you know, behind those big seats, so I couldn’t see the girl, but I could hear what was coming out of her headphones.  She was listening to “The Bay” (Anna acts out the excitement she felt).  It was pretty cool.