Emerging from the solo work release of 2006’s Pip Payne (Pay The £5000 You Owe), that laid the ground work for the much anticipated Nights Out released in 2008, to the critical acclaim and splashy success 2011’s The English Riviera, leader and mastermind Joe Mount, who’s musical carpet ride is Metronomy, plays Portland’s Wonder Ballroom June 12.
Finding time between a busy European tour schedule on a patched transatlantic conference call, the easy going English gentleman took time from his hectic schedule last month to answers a few questions about the band’s 18-date tour of America.
Metronomy’s eagerly awaited third album, Love Letters, was released in March. The album builds on its past and captures the essence of Metronomy. It focuses on an introspective singularity that weaves its way throughout the album. Following the immense success of The English Riviera, and in a departure from digital recording, Mount decided to explore the analog recording experience and ventured into the famed English recording studio of Toe Rag Records.
With it striking affinity for the laid back sound 70s California rock featured on The English Riviera, many reviews compared it to the feel-good sensation made popular by The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. But upon further conversation with Mount, his initial experience wasn’t a fond one. The 31-year old musician recounted the memories of listening to... the music of his parents --- like being held hostage, and at the mercy of their musical tastes.
Asked to provide more insight to his experience Mount began in a friendly English manner, “The America rock of the 70s made me sad, because it was like spending Sundays with my parents --- driving around in my parent’s car listening to Don McLean on the radio, and thinking I hate this song (American Pie). But there was also David Bowie in the 70s, and Roxy Music, which was more of what I was actually listening to while I was a teenager.” Despite the institutional AOR industry format of the 70s, Mount’s initial disdain softened saying, “I think as I got older I started to realize that music was fun, actually really quite important to me, and that I actually had this connection to it.”
It was no surprise The English Riviera, freshly artistic and succinctly captured the feel, received critical acclaim. Its success manifested respect and appreciation for the 70s sound, with Mount admitting, “On the last album, The English Riviera, I was trying to channel my inner Steely Dan or something.” Although Metronomy's approach was more humorous and less cynical than Steely Dan's, there was certain evidence of the studio perfection that Mount accomplished, and mirrored the driven control of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.
Discussing further the impact of the 70s sounds he grew up with, Mount continued, “To make very slick music, it’s a very hard thing to do. And to do it you have to be very studious and technical. I realized to make an album like Rumors you have to be so incredibly technically minded, very musical and talented.” And with hearty laughter Mount added, “To do that, and to be crazy on drugs, is even more incredible. When I was younger I would have written it off because I thought is was kind of boring. As I’ve gotten older and learned more about music, I have had a renewed appreciation.”
Next Mount shared about the analog experience at Toe Rag saying, “It was partly because I was curious to see how a place like that works --- how you make a record like that and be in charge of recording it. The other thing was, I thought it would do something to the way I was writing --- thinking about the arrangements and recording. I did it as a kind of curiosity but also as a creative decision. I think I wanted it to change how I was writing.”
With the positive recording experience behind him, it begs the question, would he consider revisiting the land of analog? “Definitely. It was definitely a positive experience. The different things I learned from doing it, and about all kind of different areas of making the record, I’ll definitely take with me on the next album. I’m not going to stay living in the past, technologically speaking. Maybe in the future I will return to that kind (analog) of studio again.”
In addition to the positive analog recording experience, how did Mount feel about his writing experience of Love Letters? “The songs on it are quite refined. I’m amazed it’s the most concise song writing that I’ve done. Like the teenage me, I never really imagined I’d make a record like it, and I really enjoy the record. So I feel likes it’s something, which maybe, surprised myself.”
There’s an adventurous, yet relaxed freedom in Metronomy’s music, almost a whimsical feel. When asked if he considers whimsy a part of his approach Mount cautiously responded, “My character is not serious, but I’m very capable of being serious, of course. When I make music I take it incredibly serious. I feel likes it’s the most personal thing that I can do. People listen to something that’s quite exposing. I’m not very sure about the whimsical, because there’s a part of me I put into music that’s always on display all the time.” So suggesting that perhaps light hearted was more accurate, Mount warmly replied, “Yes, I’m a light hearted person. I think any musician I’ve been influenced by or musician I hold in very high regard --- Prince, David Bowie, or The Beatles --- they all seem to be people that aren’t incredibly serious people, and they seem to have a decent sense of humor.”
Sharing with Mount that the Wonder Ballroom’s webpage introduction of the Metronomy quotes Mount’s discussion about The English Riviera, it references his fantasy about Devon, England, being a cool place like Portland, Oregon. Of all the cities in America, how did he pull Portland out of the hat?
Mount thoughtfully responded, “I think in America you’re kind of lucky to have these strong musical cities there, and cities create themes. In England there are not so many places that are like that. There’s London, Manchester and Glasgow, but Portland is one of these places you can go and realize there’s a wealth of music going on there. It’s almost like when you turn up, you feel like you're full of music.” Mount continued, “In the place where I grew up, it didn’t have a music feeling to speak of, at all. You relax around places like L.A., New York, Portland and Seattle, you know what I mean. I’m sure that sounds crazy to you.” Then in a quick, politely apologetic reply, Mount caught himself and added, “I shouldn’t mention Seattle, should I?” Assured there was no offense taken Mount complimented, “You (Portland) have a nice identity.”
Making their fifth appearance since 2009, including opening for Coldplay back in March 2012, Mount will be joined by band mates Oscar Cash on saxophone/guitars/keyboards and backing vocals, drummer/vocalists Anna Prior and bassist/vocalist Gbenga Adelekan, and all are ready to tour America again.
Mount enthusiastically shared, “We were all talking today about how we suddenly realized were packing over to America next week, and how excited we are. Afterwards, it will be like a gig but we just really like hanging out there so that will keep us amused. Every time we come, I love it! I love traveling around America so much. We’re quite happy to keeping coming back and working there.”
Concluding our time together, and with their show just around the corner, what can fans expect? A little surprised, Mount again replied cautiously, “A good night out.” Softening the question and asking what fans can look forward to, Mount easily responded, “The record is one thing, and for us, the live show is another thing. I think if people are going to come out watch us and pay money for a ticket, they should be treated to a show. We try to put on a show. I mean, we’re not crazy or anything, not like a circus, but something we’re proud of. We like to make a stage show, like the Ed Sullivan show, with a TV stage set. That’s kind of our thing at the moment.”
In the ever progressing musical chemistry that Mount and Metronomy venture to explore, Portland is invited to ride along. Whether it’s the adventure of Nights Out, the regal fantasy escape of The English Riviera, or the romantic, emotional overtures of Love Letters, Metronomy delivers. Treat yourself to the tightly crafted pop from Totnes, Devon --- England’s Metronomy.