The last time Metronomy played together live was their headline set at Festival No.6 in 2015. In the intervening 18 months they have released an album, produced solo by Joe Mount and deliberately not taken on the road as a band.
This summer they make their return to the stage, with their first show outside the UK coming at the iconic Primavera Sound in Barcelona, a festival they last played in 2014.
Ahead of their live return, we caught up with the man behind it all, Joe Mount, to see how he's feeling after a bit of time away.
How's it going Joe?
Yeah good thanks. How are you?
Very well thank you. Where are you speaking to me from?
I am in Paris at the moment, but I'm heading to London this afternoon.
I ask really because I wanted to speak a little bit about Paris. How long have you lived there now?
Probably 6 or 7 years now. I mean when we're touring I'm not here, but basically it's kind of felt like home for about 6 years.
How much do you think being in Paris has shaped your musical and creative output? Do you think it has changed from since when you were in the UK?
Yeah I think it has in a way. Although for a lot of the records I've made since being here I've gone back to England to record, and I feel I've kind of learned how much of a thing being English is for me, and how it has a lot to do with how I sound and stuff.
I think the significance I would place would be more on leaving London than on coming to Paris. Basically when you leave London and you get out of that music scene there, it really opens up your mind and you realise that it's not just London where stuff is happening.
Since leaving I think it's made me more open minded really, to what I do and how it is seen by people.
It seems like that has come into play with the videos, recently working with the likes of Mr Oizo and the Dent de Cuir collective. Do you think that those collaborations are part of this 'escape' from London and discovering these new creative places and people?
I guess in a way, but I suppose the nice thing about videos – especially in 2017 – is that you can kind of work with anyone, you can find out about directors from all over the world.
Obviously someone like Mr Oizo, I've known about him since I was a youngster, but I think [moving to a new country] definitely puts you in closer circles with different types of people.
With Mr Oizo we've now got lots of mutual friends, so he was probably more open to the idea than he would have been if I'd just been some London chancer.
How do you go about approaching people to direct videos for you? And how much creative input do you get to have in it all?
It's actually kind of more boring now than it would have been when we were starting. When you first start making music videos you haven't got any money and you're trying to find young directors who have this hunger and excitement to do it, so when we started out we were looking for graduates online.
Now I think because we have this reputation for nice videos, it means the label are much more involved with suggesting people and getting in touch with them. But it's still really up to me or up to us how much involvement we have.
You can ask someone to make a video and say: "We'd like it to be like this, or like that...", but in a way I prefer it when you just let a director do what they are good at really. My suggestions to them could be like someone meddling in what I do, sometimes it can be useful but sometimes not. So I think you can do as much or as little as you want really.
Finally on the videos the thing; what was it like working with Michel Gondry on Love Letters? Obviously he's a legend of the form and he's gone on to win at the Oscars and things like that...
The great thing about Michel Gondry is that he still has that thing I was just talking about, the real excitement about projects and ideas that you see from young, fresh-out-of-university people. Actually everyone I've worked with has still retained that excitement for the idea, which is really great to see.
But someone like Michel Gondry, he's a little bit more exceptional, partly because he doesn't really do music videos so much now, but basically just because a director who loves making music videos.
I think him especially, because he's made so many seminal videos, he seems to think about music videos and appreciate them in a huge way, which maybe some people don't. Some people basically just want to make films and music videos are a stepping stone to that, but I think he really understands the value of them as single pieces of film.
Yeah that really does come across.
I also wanted to ask about playing live. The latest album wasn't made with touring in mind, and it's been quite a while since you've played an extensive run of shows. How do you prepare as you approach a summer full of music festival appearances?
I don't know (laughing). No, no, we're gonna start rehearsing in a couple of weeks. I mean, I think it's great, stepping back from playing live gives you the chance to really think about what it is good for, and what you love about it. So I think we're gonna just prepare by re-learning everything...
There's this thing when you're in the thick of it, touring a record, and you're tired and you have some really great gigs, some bad gigs, and you end up taking it all a bit too seriously. I think that's really counter-productive to good performances and shows.
So I think we'll come back with a really fresh and excitable show. But we'll see, I haven't started rehearsing yet so it could all be a washout (laughing).
Do you anticipate it being a bit more difficult to get back into the swing of things, or do you think this new lease of life and refreshed feeling will help?
The thing is, once we're all in the same room together, it's not quite like riding a bike but it's the same sort of thing. It will be really easy to get back into the swing of things, but I'm sure we're going to be pretty nervous for the first shows. I for one will certainly be shitting myself.
One of your first festival shows is at Primavera Sound, which is obviously a hugely respected festival, and somewhere you've played before. Does playing somewhere like that affect the nerves more?
I don't know really. The thing with Primavera, the last time we played there it was insane, it was probably the highlight of the last bunch of festivals we did. So I think there's something about knowing the kind of attitude of the audience which helps, the audience are really cool there.
I think this year it's a different kind of stage and setting. We're playing the same day as Arcade Fire and I think we might even be one below them on the bill or something, which is a bit daunting I guess.
At the end of the day, you know, it's a gig and if we stress too much about it it won't be much fun, so I think it's all gonna be brilliant.
You mentioned a bit about the crowd there, how do you find audiences differ on the continent as opposed to in the UK? Do you find you find you're relatively universally received playing across Europe, or does it differ from festival to festival?
I think by now festivals have become so international, which might sound like a slightly stupid thing to say.
Basically I think the blueprint of what a festival is has been repeated all around the world, so in the same way, I think the way people are at festivals has become more and more similar all round the world.
It comes down to basically everyone is spending a not insignificant amount on a ticket, and they just want to have a really good time. So generally I think everywhere has the same attitude of wanting to have fun, and not really think too much (laughing).
You do see the subtle difference in say Spain or in Germany, but ultimately everyone is just getting drunk and dancing.
Before we let you go, we just want to ask a little bit about what the future holds for Metronomy.
With every album we've seen new directions and new approaches. Do you have any idea what will come next musically, or is the focus more just on the live shows right now?
No I am working on stuff at the moment, and I seem to get more and more interested in, I guess, how you refine songs and how you make them pop, and how you can distill stuff into really neat little three and a half minutes of music.
So I think I'm gonna do something overtly pop – if that word makes any sense these days. But the thing is, I think it's always gonna sound like me – it has my voice, and I have things that I can't really help myself from doing now when I write.
But yeah it might sound slightly more produced and refined than previously.
Is it likely to be more of a 'solo project', like Summer 08 was?
I think it's always a bit of both really. It always has been a solo studio project, but once we're out and touring, it becomes a band. And I'm probably in way too deep now with all my little idiosyncrasies for that to change that much.
But I think with the next record we're probably going to tour it in a much more obvious way [than the last record] so I think it will be a bit of both. I've got no idea really, sorry [laughing].
Well we look for to it whatever it is. Thank you very much for talking to us Joe.
No problem, nice to speak to you.
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