As Joe Mount, the brains behind indie stalwarts Metronomy, turns 40 and his band celebrate two decades of music, a new album is on the way. PA's Alex Green reports
Joe Mount’s last album as Metronomy was a misty-eyed nostalgia trip.
His latest, however, is quite the opposite: a record rooted in the here and now, inspired by nature and ageing.
“I often make records that react to the record that’s gone before – and Metronomy Forever was this intentionally spawling thing in terms of ideas and sounds,” the singer-producer explains.
“After that record, I knew that I wanted to do something much more focused and precise. It was this idea of making something that felt controlled in a way that the previous album didn’t.
“And sonically as well, I wanted to make it much more coherent.”
Metronomy’s sound, image and line-up has evolved continuously since their 2006 debut, Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe), with Mount, originally from Totnes, as the main lynchpin and creative driving force.
His propensity for pop melodies ensured albums like 2011’s The English Riviera and 2014’s Love Letters charted well, while his inventive tendencies and offbeat aesthetic earned a Mercury Prize nod and other accolades.
Now Mount, who turns 40 later this year, is thinking about the music he wants to make as someone firmly graduated to adulthood.
He is no longer the indie wunderkind but a professional creative, with two young sons, and a producer for hire.
The result of all this is Metronomy’s seventh album, Small World, a collection of tracks about domestic bliss and the big questions.
“You’ve got to really think about what you want to sing about for the rest of your life,” he muses. “Because you can’t just sing about meeting girls or going to clubs.
“There’s a point at which you have to admit that the world you operate in – the world of music – doesn’t really match up to your actual life. And I wanted to try and start writing songs that are a bit more open and a bit more personal.
“The predicament that everyone is in… For me it meant I was suddenly living a domestic life and thinking much more about what my family means to me. And so that was my truth in that situation.”
This is audible in songs such as Things Will Be Fine and It’s Good To Be Back, both of which express simple sentiments while also addressing existential questions.
Mount is describing a kind of avant-garde midlife crisis, but with less angst and set to pleasing and upbeat electronic melodies.
“For people who are in a band or have success in their mid-20s, there are a number of paths laid before you. It might be that you or your project doesn’t actually make it into your 40s. And if it does, then you have to decide, ‘What’s it about? What does it mean for me?’
“I guess one thing is to ignore it and to pretend that you’re still 20-something. But that doesn’t really sit very well with me, and when I see people do it it feels a bit desperate. I’d rather try and grow into whatever the next Metronomy is.”
Before the pandemic, Mount relocated from Paris to the English countryside with his girlfriend, who is French, and some of the work on the album was done in the nearby seaside town of Margate.
Many of the songs were formulated in his home studio, around family and nature, and both inevitably influenced Small World.
“I’ve become quite hippy-ish in my 30s,” he jokes.
“No, there are certain things I feel very aware of and probably during the lockdown one of the great things about it was that you realise that you don’t need any of the… Everyone is quite well trained to be consumers of stuff and to be part of the capitalist way the world works.
“I really enjoyed how little I needed to be happy. The whole thing when people were allowed to get their exercise during the lockdown – and certainly people rediscovered the outdoors, and rediscovered that completely free pleasure of nature.
“I’m proud that I realised that’s all I need in terms of spiritual nourishment.”
After a pause, he adds: “Obviously, annoyingly, you still do need money.”
This return to nature bled into the album – amplified by the manner in which lockdown forced Mount to re-engage with it.
“I grew up in the countryside so I’ve always needed a hit of green-ness,” he says, laughing.
“Definitely for me as a child, it really had a good impact on my upbringing and the kind of person I became.
“I was happy to move just outside of Paris but my girlfriend is very Parisian and she was like, ‘Well, if I leave Paris, I leave France’. It was quite a dramatic decision.”
Mount’s side hustle as a music producer for hire has reached new heights since 2018 with the release of Swedish pop singer Robyn’s acclaimed album Honey, on which he co-produced a number of tracks.
This was accompanied by work with British singer Jessie Ware and a collaborative EP titled Posse in which Metronomy worked with up-and-coming artists such as rapper and beat-maker Pinty and soul-tinged Irish singer Biig Piig.
“I feel like young music should be left to young people,” suggests Mount.
“The get-out clause that I have is that I’m also a producer. So when I produce music for other people, if you’re a good music producer then you get to work with young people.
“I’m totally content to help a young voice become heard and become popular, whilst being able to offer anything I’ve learned as a producer to that person. You can still feel hip and with-it by working with young people.”
Mount looks at the craft of pop music with an anorak’s eye. This is obvious both in Metronomy, through which he delivers chart music with an inventive slant, and in the way he works with other artists as a facilitator.
“I love the history of pop music and I have an understanding of how bands and artists change perceptions of themselves,” he explains.
“I enjoy sitting down with someone and thinking like, ‘Oh, you know what you could do? What would be really cool is if you did this – and I think people would really like it if you did this’. I have more of a meta view of it and I quite enjoy playing with that.”
Mount wants to stress that, despite writing an album addressing turning 40, he does not think he is old – and has no problem with reaching the milestone.
“The only reason it feels pertinent is because the business I’m involved in is focused around youth,” he declares. “For me, it’s more that I don’t want to get stuck into that thing of pretending that I’m as young as I used to be.
“When you see bands doing that and still trying to reach that teenage market, I just find it a bit of a shame really. I feel like creatively you should deal with that.
“I find it more interesting writing a song about trying to write a song for young people – and failing – than actually doing it.”
Small World is released on February 18 via Because Music, and Metronomy tour the UK in April and May - they are at Bristol O2 on May 4.
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