Joseph Mount remembers the moment he officially became a professional musician. Sometime around 2002, the Devon, England-bred architect of nimble electro-pop outfit Metronomy was fresh out of university with $33,000 in student debt and the itch to find an income source. Mount met with a career counselor to discuss job prospects. “I was like, ‘I just finished a degree. I’m a musician.’ They were like, ‘Oh, so would you be interested in working in retail?’ I was like, ‘No, I’m 30 grand in debt. I’m a bloody musician now,’ ” the 31-year-old good-naturedly recalls. “I just decided I wouldn’t take a crappy job again, and I didn’t.” Thanks to a mix of skill, luck, and networking, Mount kept himself busy doing soundtracks for animated projects and remixing familiar hits while Metronomy’s indie-pop, electronic psychrock sound gained steam. As Mount recalibrated tunes by Gorillaz, Klaxons, Britney Spears, Franz Ferdinand, Kate Nash, and others, Metronomy transitioned from a one-man-show to a full band. We caught up with him before Metronomy embarked on a spring tour across Europe in support of March 10’s Love Letters, the act’s latest full-length.
THE RED BULLETIN: After declaring that you were a professional musician all those years ago, was there a crowning moment where your decision felt justified?
It was probably the first time I was doing my interviews, and I was able to go into record shops and find a CD or read very small things about Metronomy in magazines. For my parents and a lot of people, when you first get written about by a broadsheet newspaper—a real newspaper—that is like, “Oh, OK. So you’re a musician now, are you?” [Laughs.] Up until that point, they don’t believe you. You imagined the sound of Metronomy’s 2011 album The English Riviera as “music made next to the seaside.”
Did you have a similar concept in mind when you created Love Letters?
A lot of the tracks were written while I was touring the last album and between places, so I think it has the feeling of a bit of exploring something or somewhere. If there is a concept of this album, it was just that it was recorded in an incredibly basic, analog way. If it’s supposed to sound like anything, it’s a record recorded in an old studio. Elements of several styles figure into Metronomy’s sound, but above all, the project has always been rooted in electronic music.
Why is that?
I expect it’s something to do with drumming, really—the fact that I started [making music by] playing the drums. To learn about other instruments, I was using a computer to program stuff and play along. When you’re using that equipment, you’re relying on electronic [foundations]. There’s something I like about drum machines and the world those sounds make. I find that as pleasing as classic guitar pop. The idea of using remixes to elevate one’s profile, as you did, seems easy to do since there are all these other, bigger artists who could help you should a track take off. On the flip side, it also seems difficult to stand out since the Internet is nowadays glutted with remixes and covers of pre-existing artists.
What did you think of the remixing process?
At one point, it was very easy and enjoyable. At another point, it got to where Metronomy was a cool name to have a remix by, so I was able to ask for more money, but it was still something I enjoyed. Then I started to feel like I was part of the problem. Nowadays, like you’re saying, there’s this glut of remixes and cover versions, and they don’t really serve any purpose, unless you’re doing a big house or clubby remix. They just feed the blogosphere. For me, that world is not as interesting anymore as the world of genuine collaborations and genuine singles and things like that.
Imagine starting out in 2014 instead of when you did. Because of that glut, would you still use remixes as a way to boost your profile?
I don’t know what people use anymore. When I was starting, MySpace was quite a good thing. Now, you have Bandcamp and SoundCloud and all this stuff, but to me, it doesn’t present a musical community in the same way that, strangely enough, something like MySpace used to. [Laughs.] I’m quite nostalgic about MySpace. [Nowadays] I would still send stuff to record labels. When I was young, I actually went and did work experience at a record label. You really can’t beat meeting people and talking to people and communicating your passion in person. When I moved to Brighton and started going to the clubs, that was the only way I ended up getting anything released. Trying to network in the old-fashioned way as well as the new does the job.