On The Phone: Joseph Mount, the mouth of Metronomy

It’s not often I interview someone that I used to work with over a decade ago. I ran into Joe a few years ago at Hoxton Bar (‘And Kitchen’), and had the usual, ‘oh what are you upto?’ banter. Just writing for a magazine, just in a band. Which one? Metronomy. And now we’re talking about an as yet unreleased, unheard album. We go through the warm up chat, he’s sat in an airport waiting to fly to Berlin for a day of press - fun! - but I really kick things off when we start reminiscing about our previous job at HMV Brighton. The souless indoor Churchill Square one.

Joe: Yeah I was actually thinking on the way over here, what is [previous store manager] doing now? They’ve probably lost their jobs by now or moved on.

God knows. It's strange, being one of those jobs so many creative people do and you have this romantic notion of ‘working in a record shop’ and then you realise it’s about re-stickering and moving big piles of cds into little ones. You either go into retail or you start making music or writing about it, doing what you really wanted.

Of course, no one is really is there to work their way up the retail ladder. Apart from I guess, it was [previous manager] wasnt it? Apart from her. But now I’m of the age where there are a lot of people who I went to University with or knew from vaguely doing music and everyone seems to be know arriving at the position that they always wanted to be at if you see what i mean. It’s nice. So well done to you Bob, well done you!

Well, I think youre slightly eclipsing me on that front, but thank you. Do you feel like you’ve ‘arrived’ then?

Well, I dunno yet…. definitely - probably from the point at which I was earning too much money to be on the dole anymore, that’s when I think I arrived. I remember going to the job centre they were saying ‘oh, what kind of jobs are you after?’ and I was like ‘well, I’ve just done a degree, I’m a musician, so I’d like production jobs, if you know any people that have come to the Brighton Job Centre needing some pop production, I’m the guy’. and they’re like ‘ah, okay. so what about retail? any music retail?’ and i was like no, no I’m not doing that. Then not long after that doing bits of work, I was soundtracking animations and things like that. At that point I had to stop claiming job seekers allowance and I felt like I’d arrived. Since then, I’ve just been… failing. I guess the nice thing is that in the last 4, 5, 6 years or something I feel like with music and bands there’s always the real glut or wealth depending on how you look at it, of new bands at any one time and to end up being one of the bands or musicians after the inevitable people getting dropped or people splitting up, and still be putting out records, that makes it feel very good.

There’s one thing I’ve found with your music that’s always been integral, and this sounds bad but I mean it in a good way, is the kind of cheap drum beat sound…

Fuck you! This interview is over.

(over the faint sound of laughing) Nooooooooo - you know what I mean, it’s this almost bossanova-y sound that runs through a lot of your work. It’s counter intuitive to either indie or electro… and it sticks two fingers up to both. Like you’re not committing to either sound.

(laughs) I think in general, the proper drum sounds have got better, but there’s always… I don’t know, I still buy these little drum machines which have, there’s something about them that I find characterful. And the weird thing is that by now, a lot of these, it’s only after the full records and they have changed, developed quite a lot, it’s only after you’ve been given the chance to make that many records that you begin to notice the idiosnycracies or whatever. Like in a way, if I’m making stuff I’m doing it really without thinking too much about those kind of things but all of these things happen in their own way, so there’s something about those drum machines that I do like, but I can’t explain it (laughs). It’s in my bones!

Well with a whole day of press you’ll unpack a really coherent vision.

Ha, yeah. Towards the end of the day I’ll be able to explain it very quickly.

One thing your PR said to me - as we’re arranging the phoner and stuff - is that this album is ‘all about you’. And she obviously didn’t mean that in an egocentric way, just in terms of you being the best one to chat to, but it does beg the question in what way do you see it as all about you?

I wonder how many of these things are slightly chinese whispers in a way. I think the way that the music is released, that we tour, has always been my - well me writing and the first two albums were produced in a bedroom, they’re obviously me doing it. I think they’re wanting to re-introduce the band this time round and re-introduce me, and in a way she might - and I’m guessing here - she might have been talking about the album being maybe the most kind of literate thing I’ve done and maybe the most obviously self-referential? I’m not really sure. I think that’s probably what she’s getting at. But I don’t neccessarily see it as ALL about me. I guess I’ve got a bit more confident and being more confident about writing lyrics, I’m not an egomaniac or anything.

I guess now would be a good time to point out that I haven’t actually heard the album yet.

Well that’s the… I’m sorry about that, that’s kind of annoying isn’t it?

[it’s fine - we spring board into compulsory gay chat for the magazine interview I'm doing before the following comes up] The dilemma is then, you can either be cool, or you could earn a fucktonne of cash selling seven million times the amount of records - what would it be?

I see, I see. Well, hopefully… I think the weird thing is, and I guess even if the press lady hadn’t said that the whole thing was about me, the difference is, if for example you were one of Kings Of Leon, you can hide in the band - it doesn’t matter if you’re making seven million times the amount of money, you’re not the focus of the attention. But because I’ve got this very personal attachment to the music, it would be more damaging to me personally if I decided to suddenly try and sell out. I mean if that happens it happens, it was meant to be and I was never cool anyway. But for now, whilst I feel very personal about it, it probably won’t happen. Although i do have a son now, a child so if needs must, i will do. If he needs a pony, that kind of thing.

But you’ve had a lot of integrity in what you do - take the Lady Gaga remix, you could’ve quite easily done something more - this sounds awful - more popular. By which I mean more in keeping with Lady Gaga’s fans, but it was very much your song it just happened to have a singer who was Lady Gaga warbling over the top

Yeah but then I figure - and especially with that one - if they’re asking me to do it, it’s not like I’m someone know for scoring massive hit singles so I figured they’re wanting my personality as much as anything and I don’t know if you’ve heard the original of that one, that You and I one, it’s so horrible it sounds like some weird American… I can’t remember - have you heard it, do you know that song?

Yeah, it’s kind of like a big cowboy ballad

Yeah and I think that album for her was a massive weird cockup. Either she completely misunderstood what people liked - maybe I don’t understand - but I thought the first record was pretty interesting, the production was good and the second one came out and it was ‘ooh it’s a bit hit and miss this one’ so all I tried to do when I did that remix was try and make it the kind of song I would be interested in if she released that. If I do stuff like that, I try to turn it into songs that I find exciting. With that one as well, I prefer mine to the original. Which is what I tried to do.

Good job. So I should bring things back to this album that I haven’t heard. The only thing I can think of to talk about is the idea of Love Letters. Because there’s something really archaic about writing a letter. I mean not for me, it reminds me of being a teenager before the internet, writing to penpals or people in the back of Select magazine, there’s a lot of people that will be listening to the album that don’t have that context of writing letters.

Yeah and you know what it’s weird because I hadnt even thought about that until I started doing these kind of interviews. People are kind of like ‘ah, love letters, it’s a bit old fashioned’ and I’m like ‘oh fuck, it never really crossed my mind’. Because like you, I had penpals at school, and I remember I used to keep in touch with my grandma by writing. I mean they weren’t love letters as such, but it was letters. I remember every single relationship I’ve had has always invloved honeymoon periods where letters were sent. Even if I was in Brighton and I was going out with people in Brighton, it was this romantic thing you’d do. and yeah I guess maybe ive no idea, if people do that anymore.

It is a bit of a shock, cos I don’t feel particularly old, I mean we’re the same age…

I’m thirty one. This is what I was wondering, if teenagers now, if the post means Amazon, bills and stuff for their parents. I don’t know how many hand written envelopes come through the doors for young people.

You’ve missed a trick with Valentine’s post, your album is out just after…

I know, I guess that would’ve been too... let’s see what albums come out on Valentine’s day, maybe it was a good idea not to release it then. Well the single is out around, the song Love Letters, is the next single and that will be around February. So it’s around the right time.

Do you actually release formats any more? I can’t find them anywhere.

Single are now just 12”s and maybe 7”s. People release cd singles for a laugh. As a bit of a gimmic, but no one really does it any more. I was remembering actually, when I was at HMV, there was this woman - you might have met her as well actually, but she ordered in a cd single - the BaHa Men, Who Let The Dogs Out and she’d ordered it for her five year old son - and she used to come in practically every day to see if this cd had arrived because her son was driving her fucking mental. And it shows you why these shops have failed because nowadays, hop on spotify, listen to Who Let The Dogs Out on demand, and your son will stop being a pain in the ass. But 12”s and 7”s that’s what, that’s especially what like, I dunno, fans of hipster music like mine will buy them.

Has your son show any musical preferences yet?

He’s only ten months old so it’s a bit soon, but you know - I listen to music with him and now he goes to the creche and the woman there seems to think he likes what she plays on her - whats she got there? a vibraphone or, glockenspeil, she seems to think he’s into it. I think it’s probably too soon to say but I certainly wont be pushing him in that direction.

You can get Love Letters sent through the post. By Amazon.

Photo: Gregoire Alexandre