Metronomy has been around for quite some time now. Anyone who follows the group knows that they're a reliable band: a new record is put on the shelf every two or three years. This time, the architect of the band Joseph Mount was generous: Metronomy Forever is a feast for the ear with seventeen songs. “When I make a record, I don't think,” laughs Joseph Mount in Amsterdam. “I don't analyze anything until I start giving interviews.”
Written by: Daan Krahmer
Photos: Tom van Huisstede
Music obviously plays a major role in Joseph Mount's life. When he's not making Metronomy songs, he's working for others. And the names Mount surrounds himself with are becoming more and more famous: most recently he has worked with Jessie Ware, Dua Lipa and Robyn, among others. The sound of Honey can be recognized on new Metronomy songs such as 'Lying Low' and 'The Light', Robyn's insane sounding comeback record with a broken love as the common thread. Ironically, it was Robyn's ex-boyfriend, that guy Honey is about, a huge Metronomy fan. He pointed the Swedish singer to the British collective. “Robyn contacted me. She wanted to meet for dinner in Paris, where she was staying for a few days. Then suddenly, out of the blue, she asked if I wanted to produce her next album. I was overwhelmed, but then heard nothing for six months. I didn't think anything was going to happen, but we ended up working on the record for years."
“Robyn struggled with very personal stuff,” Mount continues. “Every time I thought: I can't do this. It was a slow creation process, taking much longer than I usually work on Metronomy material. As a producer there are only two options: either you force to work your way or you seek a compromise together. Robyn is a perfectionist, she wanted to make the right record. I have less of that ambition. Honey was a difficult record to make, but I'm glad I was able to accompany her and take on the challenge.”
"A record is never finished, but it doesn't get better with endless tinkering. When artists wait too long, people lose interest. Unless you're Robyn."
As Metronomy's bandleader, Mount takes on a different role. “My job as a producer is to give someone confidence. But I don't have to trust my band members anymore. At a certain point you know that people like your music, that uncertainty disappears. It is more or less a fact that people like us these days. We are not extremely confident, but we do feel the appreciation the band is getting."
That self-assurance is noticeable when listening to the diverse Metronomy Forever, especially when you compare the album with debut Pip Paine. “I am happier now than when I was 25. I have children, a nice relationship and my dream job. Yet I still love my first record. I wish I had been making instrumental music for longer. Elvis Costello once said that you have your whole life for your debut record, and only six months for your second. For me it worked the other way around. I felt like I didn't have time for my first record."
In his youth, Joseph Mount played drums a lot, but playing an instrument is not a prerequisite for a successful musician's existence, according to him. “Drums are not important. You hit it and it sounds like drums sound. Making music is mainly about having an imagination. That also helps with the music videos we make. I direct them myself these days, and there are many parallels between video and sound. Imagination is a greater talent than playing an instrument. You can take piano lessons, just like you can take tennis lessons. Anyone can learn it, but to do something in a creative way you have to have imagination.”
Mount has yet to make the first Metronomy video without ironic undertones. “Humour is an end in itself. No one wants to watch something that is only serious or sad. Of course we have to laugh at our own videos. Music works the same: music should always be fun in a certain way, that's what music was made for. I think the funniest thing about Metronomy Forever is 'Upset My Girlfriend', in which a drummer is kicked out of the band for playing too fast. there you go!”
It fits well with Metronomy, a band that hasn't lost an ounce of youthful naughtiness in twenty years. “When you build a house, the foundation has to be perfect. An airplane has to be perfectly put together. As a musician you don't have to be a perfectionist. For musicians, that's a choice, and I've chosen not to be a perfectionist. You can find special things within imperfection. Those are the things I am proud of.”
Mount thinks for a moment. “I don't like the concept of 'perfect'. Perfect exists in mathematics and in science. You remain human and humans are imperfect by definition. Just look at what the world looks like now. When you listen to perfect records, records that others give out of ten reviews, your instinct says it has to be perfect. Take Kendrick's To Pimp A Butterfly. That record is also imperfect. If I listen long and hard, I hear too many trumpets.”
A nice thought, but at what point did Mount know that Metronomy Forever was good enough to release? “I always let that depend on my label. I gave them 23 songs and then we evaluated them. In the end, 17 songs were selected. I thought that was fine. When I create I need a deadline. You can work endlessly on a record. It's never finished, but with endless tinkering it doesn't get any better. When artists wait too long, people lose interest. Unless you're Robyn. She has an extremely unique style. My biggest contribution to Honey is that Robyn became imperfect.”
“Do I have an ego? Uuuhm… yes! My ego is relatively small. I have met many young musicians with egos. Then you know they won't make it. You can't be rude and expect to be successful. One of the most rock 'n' roll experiences I've ever had was in São Paulo… We played on the same day as friends of ours, The Killers. We were invited for drinks at a hotel and they were with… Liam Gallagher. His public ego is an act. He was totally nice. I think you won't get anywhere in life without being nice and humble.”
“I'm confident about what I'm doing and how important it is. Music isn't important and that's why it's insanely important. Music can play a major role in people's personal development. And the music that speaks to you, that gets you dancing, doesn't even have to be good. It really can be any music. Music does not have to be approached intellectually. I really like it when people don't like music. Music can be anything you live for. But for others, music means nothing, and that's fine too." Metronomy Forever is about anything and everything, but fun is the main theme. Sex emojis, roof terraces and ice cream flavors. “At one point there was the taste of caramel with sea salt everywhere, wasn't it? At that moment I thought: hey, this should be written as a song! Do you know the song 'The King of Rock 'N' Roll'? In the chorus, Prefab Sprout sings about hot dogs and jumping frogs. They are words that sound good together, just like Salted Caramel Ice Cream. My favorite flavor is chocolate by the way.”
Without his kids, Metronomy Forever wouldn't have sounded like Metronomy Forever. “With this record I rediscovered to enjoy whatever comes my way. I lost myself in the process, not worrying about the record. I also discussed this with my band and wife: children can only be valued as children. With our first child I thought damn, when is he going to sleep?! Sometimes I wish I had enjoyed it more. That's why I decided: I live for the fucking ride, not for the end process. You can take it further: if you don't appreciate the process, you're throwing your life away. The most stupid things that you read on Instagram are actually true. It's not about the destination, it's about the journey.”
Metronomy Forever is out September 13. Metronomy will play in the Melkweg on Monday 28 October.
Editor's note: this article was originally published in Dutch. Some quotes may have been altered in the translation.