Metronomy Keeps the Beat Stateside
METRONYMY. PHOTO COURTESY OF PHIL SHARP
UK-based four-piece electro-pop-rock outfit Metronomy return to New York tonight, performing for free at Pier 54. It’s the first visit in some time, and this show is one of two they’ll do in the US (the other is in LA) before hopping the pond and picking up again in Europe, where they’ve been touring regularly since April. Their third studio album, The English Riviera, hit shelves in America this week and, lucky for us, it’s superb. A departure from their former hard-hitting digital sound, this album proves more accessible, with catchy, danceable songs. Not surprisingly, just last week the 11-track gem was nominated for a Mercury Prize. While led under the expert direction of leading man Joseph Mount, this audible shift is certainly due in large part to the new lineup, which includes longtime bandmate Oscar Cash and a couple of additions, drummer Anna Prior and bassist Gbenga Adelekan. We chatted with the band, and they were happy to share moments from the road, their awe of Los Angeles, and their opinion that Manhattan’s just like a movie set.
NELL ALK: Congratulations on the Mercury Prize nomination! That’s huge. How did you first react?
JOSEPH MOUNT: I felt ill. I was a bit feverish. It felt surreal, as far as I remember. It’s a big event; [nominees] stand in front of the [step-and-repeat] and do a little press run. We’ve never done that before.
OSCAR CASH: I didn’t feel prepared for that.
GBENGA ADELEKAN: The photo call was hilarious. A lot of the pictures you can see us laughing. There were, like, twenty photographers all papping us at the same time.
MOUNT: We’re laughing, but it’s not because we’re feeling particularly smug or anything. Afterwards, we all felt good about it. It’s exciting.
ALK: Who would you say is your greatest competition?
MOUNT: We were all thinking about it. Not because winning is something we’re fighting for or anything. I think being part of it is a really great thing. I think P.J. Harvey is probably going to win. But, I’m not sure. I could talk myself out of that very quickly.
ADELEKAN: There’s so many different ways to look at it. Are they going to let someone win who’s won before? Are they gonna let someone win who’s already sold, like, six million albums and is probably going to double that before the end of the year? Are they finally going to give it to the jazz album? There’s so many different variables.
MOUNT: It’s anyone’s guess, really. The funny thing is, it’s become this gambling thing. The press packet [includes] a description of each album and a press release with the odds. It’s ridiculous.
ALK: Peculiar. How do you think Adele measures up?
ADELEKAN: I’d be surprised if she wins, but, if she does, you could certainly make a case for why. It’s still supporting independent music. Who knows?
ALK: I recently interviewed The Kooks, and when I asked them which band they were into at the moment, they told me Metronomy. Luke said I just had to hear “The Look.” He was right, of course.
ADELEKAN: We’re playing at a festival with them in Australia. Maybe we’ll get a chance to say hello.
ALK: You’ve been touring pretty extensively. You’ve performed nearly 50 times since April 14th in Notting Hill. I counted!
MOUNT: We’ve been out since the record came out—and before. We’re having a busy year, and it’s great.
ALK: How’s life on the road?
MOUNT: It’s stepped up a notch this year. We’ve been using sleeper buses for the first time.
ALK: Something you enjoy?
ADELEKAN: The thing we like most is being able to lie in a bunk and wake up in a new city. Oscar and Anna brought their bikes when we toured Europe.
CASH: It’s been really great. We’ve always been in vans and spent most of our days driving, so to have a bit of time has been amazing.
ALK: Sounds lovely. What’s your favorite place you’ve played?
MOUNT: Nîmes. The Roman amphitheatre. That was nuts. It’s a proper ancient amphitheatre.
ALK: Tell me more about Thursday’s show.
MOUNT: It’s probably good that our first time in New York in a while is a free gig. [laughs]
ALK: Nonsense! What else?
MOUNT: We’ve got lights. We’ve had these lights since the beginning. We’re trying to keep the spirit alive. [laughs] We’re pretty excited. It’s been a long time [since we played in New York].
ALK: How do you like New York?
MOUNT: It’s kind of clichéd, but everything’s just so film-y. Every scene you see in New York you’ve seen before. Even the homeless people; you’re like, “He’s from that film!” It’s nice to feel naïve and touristy while you’re here. Yesterday we went to Times Square, had a look at the Statue of Liberty.
ADELEKAN: The first time I came here I was, like, 19, and it was the first time I’d been somewhere that looked the way it did in films and on TV, which I find quite strange.
ALK: [laughs] You write in your bio that next time you record an album, you may wish to do so in LA.
MOUNT: This album was inspired by a lot of the music that was recorded in LA. Those old studios. It’s the dream, isn’t it? To spend three or four months in a studio in LA? With, like, pounds of cocaine. [laughs] That ’70s thing. I quite like the idea of those pro old studios.
ALK: So, LA trumps New York?
MOUNT: Only in the crazy way of life they have there. We’d been to New York and we were like, “Wow, New York is incredible. We love this place.” The first time we went to LA, we were like, “Jesus, this is mad.” I think it’s funny because it seems a lot of Americans don’t really like it. But every English person I’ve met is like, “LA is ridiculous.”
PRIOR: What’s so desirable about it is that it’s not like New York or London or Manchester or anywhere else in the UK.
MOUNT: It exists in its own little world, and I think that’s quite appealing.
ADELEKAN: I’m going to be the dissenting opinion here. I prefer New York to LA.
ALK: I’m with you. So, how has it been recording and performing all together, as Anna and Gbenga are relatively new?
MOUNT: The music has never been as commercially successful as it is now. Everything that’s gone great for us has happened since there’s been four of us. In the first place, it was this real exciting thing for me and Oscar—and Anna and Gbenga as well—because it was new and felt refreshing. Now it feels normal and people seem to respond really well to it.
ALK: Love it. I wanted to ask you, Anna, what’s it like being the lone female?
ANNA PRIOR: I quite like it. [laughs] I don’t really think about it. Until I [am] spoken to by somebody outside of the touring party in a derogatory manner. I just think, “Oh shit, I am the minority,” in the fact that I’ve got a pair of boobs—
ADELEKAN: We’re working on our boobs. [laughs]
PRIOR: But, other than that, I don’t think about it much.
ADELEKAN: I think the thing is, we’re not a very dude-ish band—
MOUNT: Speak for yourself! [laughs]
ALK: Joseph, speaking of masculinity, I must say, you truly inject cool into organ music. “The Look” transforms my opinion of the organ.
MOUNT: [laughs] I bought it from New York. I got it shipped to England at some considerable expense. I was like, “Okay, it has to be in a video. Then I can justify the process.” Now that it’s in the video, I’m sure I could sell it for a bit more. I’m always thinking about investing in things and selling them. [laughs]
ALK: That’s great. Any funny stories from the road?
MOUNT: Nothing funny ever happens to us.
CASH: The things that we find funny aren’t funny at all.
ADELEKAN: That’s true. Whenever I get home and try to explain to my girlfriend [about] stuff that was going on, she’s like, “Oh. I guess you had to be there.”
PRIOR: Oscar has this rolling suitcase, and it falls over constantly.
CASH: It looks like it’s blacking out.
PRIOR: You let go of it and it’s gone. It’s got a potbelly, so we started calling it the pig bag.
CASH: This amused us for probably about a month. This is what I mean! [laughs]
METRONOMY’S NEW LP, THE ENGLISH RIVIERA, IS OUT NOW. THE BAND PERFORMS FOR FREE TONIGHT AT PIER 54. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.