Metronomy: “What I do is precious, but I don’t get too precious about what I do”

On the eve of their 2022 UK tour, Metronomy's Joe Mount talks us through entering the next phase of the band's career and what really makes a 'grown-up' album

There was never any doubt that Metronomy would outlive the golden years of UK indie rock when, in 2011, they released their landmark The English Riviera.

Just over a decade on, the group welcome in a new phase of their life and career, embracing and playing with the idea of maturity and what it is to make ‘grown-up’ music on their latest album, Small World, released back in February.

As they prepare to take the record on the road on an April and May UK tour, we caught up with frontman Joe Mount to chat capturing maturity from a youthful perspective and how it’s hard to feel nostalgic whilst still moving forward.

In 2019 you released an album called Metronomy Forever, which loosely centred around the ideas of time and legacy. Then the pandemic happened and threatened life as a band entirely. Was there a pang of irony around that time?

[Laughs] not necessarily irony, but it made me feel aware of how you take everything for granted. I don’t mean that in a cliché way, I just mean that people take security in their careers and all kinds of stuff for granted. I guess it wasn’t until everything was indefinitely cancelled that I was suddenly like, ‘Oh wow’. I’m sort of mentally a bit better prepared to deal with it because if you’re in a band you often have a year off, or a year recording and writing. So having a break like that isn’t unusual, but to be honest my biggest feeling was one of, ‘thank god we’ve had a career’. I felt really bad for people who were about to release a record or had just released one. 

Small World sounds markedly different from Forever and much that came before that. How different was the process this time round?

This was before everything, but after Forever I knew I wanted to make a record that was much more focussed and natural sounding. I’d sort of done that before sonically, but I guess for me it feels like now I find it impossible to untangle things from my age and where I am in my personal life. So I wanted to do something that was more about me and where I’m at, which was quite different and was a fun thing to try out – especially at the time that I did.

Metronomy - Things will be fine (Official Video)

It’s been called a ‘grown-up’ album, and it sounds as though you’d agree. But is that a bit of a simplification? I think people have a tendency to call anything stripped-back ‘mature’ or ‘grown-up’.

It’s interesting because something I’ve grown to realise is that if you’re a fan of music and you buy records and you consume what a musician or a band gives you, everything that they’re giving you is considered. Quite often the perceived view is that a band makes a record and then critics say, ‘Ah, this is what you’ve done!’ When in actual fact, it’s much more considered than that, you’re almost creating your own review, do you know what I mean? I wanted to make a grown-up record and use all of the signifiers of a grown-up record, which are acoustic instruments and pianos and are more stripped-back. But the truth is, I’m not old! But I feel like if you’re in a band making your seventh record, what do you do? It’s self-referential, a bit knowing. But yeah, it is intentionally a bit more grown-up.

The record undoubtedly has a different, more analogue and earthier texture. Were there ever moments you found yourself at a crossroads whether to take a track back down a more traditionally Metronomy route?

I think probably not. Part of the reason we’ve been around as long as we’ve been around for is because I feel what I do is precious, but I also don’t get too precious about what I do. I’m aware of the idea that I’m gonna make lots more than seven records, so I give myself a little framework and make a record within that. If your objective was to make the most poppy or sellable record then there’s one way of doing that, but I enjoy giving myself these little goals. There’d be a way of making this record and making it super Metronomy in inverted commas, but I liked the idea of steering clear of that for this record at least.

If there was to be a song that could go that way, it’s probably ‘It’s Good To Be Back’. You’ve openly said its title is platitude, what made you want to keep that?

The whole record is strewn with platitudes! [laughs]. Sonically I had this idea for the record, and obviously it was made during the period of time when we were all stuck at home. I guess I found myself realising that all of these things that you say, all of these clichéd phrases come from somewhere; you can find yourself cringing when you say it, but then they become cliché by being so true. Sometimes I quite enjoy how limited language is, and how one dimensional things can be, and I enjoyed playing with that. 

Metronomy – It’s good to be back (Official Video)

Do you think those platitudes help colour this idea of what a kid might consider an adult album to be?

Yeah I think so. I’ve talked about albums that my parents would play, and I would listen to them and feel like it was this step beyond what my brain was able to enjoy. That’s what I was saying about age; the reality is that we play gigs and our crowds, to me, look as youthful as they’ve ever looked. I’m not 40 yet but this year I will be, and I’m stepping into this range of age where the kind of music you make is very difficult to connect to a 16-year-old. It’s realising that, ‘hang on, maybe the music I’m making is the music that kids just don’t understand, like what is this crap?’ So I was playing with this idea.

With that in mind, is that why it’s important for you to write and record with burgeoning acts such as Sorry and Biig Piig?

Yeah, in the end there are two ways I operate. One is what I’ve just been talking about, borderline conceptual, and the other is as a producer, where I try and work with the coolest, newest people I can find. Doing the Posse EP gave me more space to go into that different place with Metronomy albums as their own things, because it means I have an outlet for the other side of what I do. That other side is as ‘me’ as anything else I do, but people like Biig Piig are exciting, young artists who have a youthful audience and you don’t want to stand in the way like, ‘Hello kids!’ Like that Steve Buscemi meme where he’s dressed up as a kid. 

In the last few years you’ve celebrated a couple of 10th anniversary releases. How reflective or nostalgic are you as a band?

The amazing thing is that we have so many shared memories of experience. So we get super nostalgic for particular gigs or times in our career, but I think it’d be different if we weren’t still going, like if we were meeting up in a pub talking about the past we’d feel all, ‘Oh god’. But the thing is we’re out there still touring, so it’s sort of impossible to feel nostalgic because you’re still doing the same thing, we’re still moving in a forward direction. But yeah, to have the chance to celebrate those anniversaries and at the same time performing new songs to bigger crowds than before has a different kind of meaning I think.

The recent Abbey Road session must have helped cement a sense of pride at these kinds of recent landmarks?

That was one of those things that was special but in a way, because there were cameras everywhere, it sort of took away from it slightly. But there’s obviously there’s this significance in the building which, even though they had some really weird refit in the 90s so it doesn’t look like the place that The Beatles recorded in, but you know it’s impossible to escape the history. 

Also headlining various stages of Glastonbury always feels pretty significant; now we’re at a stage where we’ve done the John Peel Stage, the Park Stage and the rest but it still has this feeling. It’s probably to do with the fact I went to Glastonbury as a teen, so to look out into the crowd and see yourself in the past almost is never lost on me. 

You’ve talked about the second phase of Metronomy. How direct was this feeling or realisation, and do you have any idea what it’ll entail?

I think it’s just exciting; it’s like what we said with the anniversaries, you’re like ‘oh sh*t, that’s a career’. It’s like you’ve stuck at the same job for ten years, you should get some medal or trophy. So now it’s like what happens to professional footballers: you could become a pundit, a manager… I mean it’s not quite the same because they stop playing football. But you think, what kind of a mature musician do I want to be? Do I want to be a Nick Cave character? Or an Elvis Costello? There’re all these different ways you can grow up in music. I feel like I’ve done so much to get to this point, and I feel I’m gonna become more self-indulgent and less public, ha! That’s what I anticipate.

Metronomy - Right on time (The Abbey Road Sessions)

Metronomy are heading on tour around the UK from 22 April – 05 May. Tickets can be found here.