"I wanted to slightly reframe the sixties..." hmv.com talks to Metronomy
With the new album Love Letters released on Monday this week, we caught up with Metronomy's Joe Mount in Paris to talk about Michel Gondry's model-making skills, doing remixes for food, and going analogue on the new record...
You’ve taken a different approach with this album, recording at Toe Rag studios using all their analogue gear. What made you decide to take this approach with the new album?
“A number of reasons really, it was my first venture into a proper studio and I kind of imagined the experience would be much more foreign that it actually turned out to be. We still ended up using computers to edit things and it ended up being more like home recording than I’d imagined. So I just wanted to get the feeling of doing something really different – personally, for myself – I just thought the logical conclusion was to do it in that kind of environment. When I first started playing in bands and stuff we were recording in that kind of way, but it’s been so long since I’ve worked liked that I wanted to see what effect it had on my music.”
Did working that way present any unexpected challenges?
"Yeah, lots, but the challenges that came up were the reason I did it in the first place, I wanted to be challenged, really. So yeah, that was part of the process."
Did that recording process change your songwriting approach, compared to albums like English Riviera?
"Yeah, I like the idea of writing something on the guitar or a keyboard and singing, and the idea that then anyone else can recreate that song quite easily. It’s a different kind of thing. I think the previous albums were like all the individual bits the made the song sound the way it did, if you know what I mean? It would be hard to sit down and play, I don’t know, 'The Bay' for example, without a few pairs of hands! I just liked the idea of writing in a more traditional way."
You’ve called the album Love Letters, does that represent the lyrical themes on the album as a whole?
"Well it does in some ways, I mean it’s taken from a track title obviously, but it does kind of fit the general mood of things. But I tried not to give it a theme or a concept, I just didn’t really want to approach it like that, but then it’s odd because this theme has just sort of emerged. It’s funny because if you say you’re making a concept album you know that people will find it kind of pretentious, but when you try to present a record which doesn’t have a theme or whatever, people always seem to want one! So it does kind of have this theme because I wrote a lot of it when I was travelling and away from my girlfriend and my family, but it’s more of a headspace thing, just where you’re at when you’re writing the songs."
You worked with Michel Gondry on the video for the title track, how did that come about?
"It was just luck really! We have a French record label - or rather a big part of the label is in France – and they’re all sort of chummy with each other, so we found out he was interested in making a music video again and we went about convincing him that it should be ours. He didn’t take much convincing really, I think he works on the basis that if he likes the song then he’ll imagine he can work with it, but it was very lucky and very unexpected."
What’s he like to work with? We heard he built a scale model of the set or something?
"Yeah, he came round to my flat to show me this model, it was really nice actually, he’d made this transportable paper model and that way of doing things I can really associate with, he has the enthusiasm of someone just starting out. I like that he’s achieved as much as he has but still has this enthusiasm for the idea. I guess, if I was to force the point, it’s similar to the way I have of working, it’s the idea and the way of doing it that’s the most exciting part."
Are you still self-producing?
"This was produced by me and co-produced by Ash Workman, and he’s a much more technically minded person than I am, so working in a place like Toe Rag I wouldn’t know how to do anything if I was entirely on my own!"
He’s your studio guide?
"Yes, he is, exactly! But he also did the last record as well and I trust him. It’s hard having someone around when you’re making records, when you’re still trying things out and experimenting, you need someone around you’re not so embarrassed in front of, he’s good at that."
Is there any music that has been a particular influence on the new album?
"Well, I mean the stuff that’s kind of been mentioned like the Zombies and all this psychedelic, progressive sixties music, but there’s a particular kind of person that has kind of stolen that sixties aesthetic and they don’t necessarily represent all the people that are really taken with music of that period, so I wanted to slightly reframe the sixties!"
Do you know what you’ll do next? Would you record this way again?
"Yeah I would, definitely. Not necessarily with Metronomy, I think I want the next thing I do to be kind of modern. Everything I do I try to let it inform the next thing I do, I try to learn and take stuff from it. I still feel like I’m kind of working towards this, erm… (sheepish laughter) masterpiece!"
Are you still doing remixes?
"Not really, to be honest I don’t really have the time or inclination right now. Soulwax have just done a remix of Love Letters and I guess if it’s people like them, if the right people asked then I’d do it, more as a favour as opposed to doing for money, whereas for a while I was doing it so I could buy food! But I’d much prefer to work with people than just do remixes for them."
Is there anyone in particular you’d really like to work with?
"I definitely wouldn’t rule anyone out, I would consider anyone I think! I really like the idea of getting involved with someone who’s just beginning, someone who I can help create their sound. A young band or artist maybe. Nobody in particular springs to mind though."
So finally, what are your tour plans like for 2014?
"They’re ambitious! I’m heading to London now to do a Maida Vale thing for Zane Lowe, then we start our tour. Lots of gigs, festivals, we’re going to places like South America and Australia so it’ll be pretty full-on I think."