“If you see us looking lost in New York City tomorrow,” said Metronomy lead singer Joseph Mount a few Thursdays ago. “Come and help us out.” After flying across the pond the perform the first of two sold-out nights and NYC’s Irving Plaza, he and the three other members of the English indie pop group felt like fish out of water here in the States. “We've never played the same place two nights in a row out here [in America],” he added.
Maybe that’s because they’ve never been this big. Having released their third album, The English Riviera, last spring, Metronomy was recently tapped to open for Coldplay this summer during the U.S. leg of their world tour. Judging by their Irving Plaza performance, Coldplay fans are in for another UK treat. Each band member wore a glowing bulb on their chest that flickered in time to the beats of electronic grooves like "Heartbreaker" and Riviera’s "The Bay" during their tight hour-long set.
The following day, Complex met up with Joseph Mount and keyboardist Oscar Cash in NYC’s Dream Hotel. Over tea they discussed how their band came together, how some of their ex mates have been hating, and how fresh-faced Harlem rapper Azealia Banks got them their new gig with Chris Martin & co.
Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)
How did the band came together and what were you doing before Metronomy?
Joseph Mount: Before I tried to make music on my own, I was playing drums in a whole other band. Drummers are always kind of the joke of the band. They’re in the back, no one takes them seriously and I started having maybe like ideas about singing and doing my own thing. But I always felt a bit too kind of, I don’t know, like, self-conscious, to say anything to songwriters. So I just started, just for fun really, making music. At the time I was I was kind of going through my teenage Trip Rock phase. I was listening to some DJ Shadow.
I think I never really saw it as any more than just a hobby. Then I suppose I just got more into it. Then I moved to Brighton, which is a bigger city, and I just kind of met people there. So it just kind of rolled on. And Oscar—we’re cousins—Oscar was really my main partner. And we just started doing shows of my music.
As a duo?
JM: No, there was another guy called Gabriel who was in the first line up. And, yeah it’s weird. It just kind of took off in a small way, and we’ve just been touring ever since.
How long did it take you before you felt confident in your own stuff?
JM: Well, from starting to make music, to feeling enough confidence to give it to people that weren’t my friends, that probably took like three or four years. Because where I come from there’s no clubs, there’s no scenes. So when I moved to Brighton, it’s like a city where you can go to rock clubs, or you can go to hip-hop clubs, or electronic. So when you go from that you’re like, “Hold on,” there’s like a whole infrastructure or whatever. So I remember it being pretty nerve racking. And then singing—when I was playing people music, that was when it was completely instrumental. It was another like two years before I started singing.
Were you singing as a part of these other bands, or were you just strictly the drummer?
JM: No. I think I was probably always like, secretly… You know when you’re kind of sitting around and you can hear someone trying to explain something to someone else? And that person doesn’t really get it, but you kind of in your head think, “I get it.” I think I always wanted them to give me the microphone.
OK so Oscar, when Jon came to you saying he was going to branch off, what did you think?
Oscar Cash: It didn’t quite happen like that. I always just sort of knew, or had heard a little of what was on his computer before. I’m trying to think back to the time. I just remember hearing it and thinking like, “Now, if this was a bit more poppy...” [Laughs]. ‘Cause I was thinking of what am I going to do, and I was like, “I’m going to make in between what you do and N.E.R.D.
I just thought of that. I guess that’s the nice thing about the band, really: You hear about UK bands, and they’re kind of presented to you, like, “These guys are incredible,” and you’re like, “I don’t know who they are.” Which is probably the same as what we are. But I guess what happened with us is there wasn’t any point in which we were being pushed in people’s faces, even in England. So it happened really slowly, and I think it just kind gave the whole thing enough time to be quite genuine.
How would you describe what you do musically? I’ve listened to all of your albums and I notice that there’s a simplicity you’ve built upon since your debut.
JM: It’s cool that you listened to all of it. Because that’s the thing, a lot of people haven’t gotten kind of clear about the first one. So I think if you hear them all, you know that it kind of started with me kind of making beats. I guess it’s this idea, instead of sticking to the first thing. I kind of find it much more exciting to try and get back there, to try and like reverse it.
But then I think also it’s good, because Oscar makes music in the same way that I do. When you start making music and you don’t know so much about traditional melody or anything like that, you start using a computer, you end up learning about production at the same times that you’re learning about songwriting. So the one thing that kind of ties the records together, in my mind anyway, is that it’s about the production and the songwriting. So each album is me trying to be a producer as much as anything else. With the new [album] I just thought, “Imagine if a producer came on board.”
Like a real one?
JM: [Laughs] Yeah. They’d say, “OK, you need to like strip everything down, try to make everything simple, and let the song do its own thing, and you need to get a bit more confident.” I think, when you think about it like that, they start to make a bit more sense. But yeah, so I think the idea is just to get back there.
There’s more of a focus on instrumentation on this album and it sounds more like a full band. You became a “real producer,” huh?
JM: I’d like to imagine. [Laughs]
I would say so. So would you say there was a conscious decision to go in this direction, or did it happen naturally?
JM: Yeah, Oscar’s kind of been at the receiving end of everything as much as I have, in terms of like, us being out there and people talking about us. We kind of care. I think probably what I felt like, after the second record, was quite often I’d read that there was a lot of DIY stuff going on, and you’d hear like, “Oh anyone can do this, and anyone can do that.”
OC:It’s not like it was DIY for DIY’s sake.
The one thing I really want [people] to know is not anyone can do this. So part of the reason to record a record in the studio and to make it sound really good, is to take yourself a bit more seriously. Just to kind of prove to people that there is some skill there. - Joseph
Right, you didn’t have the resources and a big production team. You really had to do it yourselves.
OC: Yeah, it’s just the way it was.
JM: So a part of me felt frustrated, ’cause once you’re releasing music, and rightly so, no one really gives a shit about how long it took you to get where you are or anything. The one thing I really want them to know is not anyone can do this. So part of the reason to record a record in the studio and to make it sound really good, is to take yourself a bit more seriously. Just to kind of prove to people that there is some skill there. But then also, to do another record that was produced on a laptop at home would have just been kind of forced, you know? Because by now we are more popular and there is more money involved. So you might as well embrace it, rather than be like, “Ok we’re still going to make a record that sounds a bit shitty.”
Are you already in the beginning stages of some new work?
JM: Yeah. I’m just trying to do demos. I guess what I’d like to do with the next record is to have the studio equipped for a two-month stretch, and go in and know exactly what we’re doing. So I’m trying to do that. But it’s never that easy. I’ve just got a bunch of stuff, like a bunch of little ideas. And then some of them I’m trying to send Oscar’s way or whatever.