Tuesday 24 October 2017

Metronomy frontman Joe Mount talks about his lost U2 remix

Ed Power

Ed Power

Joe Mount waited by the phone for hours but Bono never called. It was the summer of 2006 and Metronomy's songwriter and lead singer had just been asked to remix U2's bombastic spasm of a single, City of Blinding Lights. Rather than tinker around the edges, Mount had cheekily given the song a proper once over, throwing in rave beats, hooting sirens, the lot. Surely, U2 would appreciate his brave re-imagining?

He pictured Bono inserting the CD into his solid gold stereo, tapping a foot to the blistering groove Mount had conjured, a slow smile spreading across his face.

"I'm not a U2 fan," says Mount. "I thought, wouldn't it be an incredible thing if Bono or someone said, 'let's give this kid a break?' I was starting the whole remixing thing. Of course, it literally fell at the first hurdle. It was shot down by the marketing guy. In the end, it was nothing more than a bit of fun, really."

His slamming U2 remix may remain locked away in Bono's basement, doomed to never see daylight, but the rejection hasn't dissuaded Mount from big-name hook-ups. In recent years, he has remixed Goldfrapp, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Air, Franz Ferdinand and others. Just last week he was putting final touches to the album he co-authored with Girl Aloud Nicola Roberts (the ginger one with the show-room dummy complexion). Shrugging off early setbacks, this softly spoken, slightly nerdish chap from the depths of rural England is turning into a proper pop svengali.

"How did the Nicola Roberts thing come about?" ponders Mount. "I don't actually know. I did mention Girls Aloud in a lot of interviews as someone I wanted to work with. Realistically, I don't think that was ever going to happen with Girls Aloud proper. Either Nicola or someone who works with her went 'oh, this chap keeps rabbiting on about you. Perhaps you should get in contact'."

We'll have to hang on until October to hear the fruits of his collaboration with Roberts (the fantastic teaser single Beat of My Drum already has critics in a tizzy). In the meantime, there is Metronomy's twinkling, gorgeously droll third album to swoon over. Channelling Mount's childhood experiences growing up in bucolic Devon near England's south coast, The English Riviera is pop's answer to Babycham spiked with Absinthe, a retro record full of 80s flourishes but with something deeper and darker beneath the surface.

"The title English Riviera isn't meant ironically in the least," he says. "There really is an English Riviera , that's how it is described. The thing is, Metronomy has an international following. I was aware that people in Japan and America, and France and Germany have no idea that England even professed to have a Riviera. I'm sure they will find it quite bizarre. I thought it was an interesting title in that regard."

If, tut tut, you've only just discovered Metronomy, chances are that it is via their delicious new single, The Look. Shuffling on a ritzy beat, the tune evokes all that is gloriously hokey about the 80s, while communicating a heartfelt knowingness that is entirely 21st century. It's Heaven 17 recast by Shoreditch hipsters who listen to too much LCD Soundsystem.

The biggest surprise of all, perhaps, is that Metronomy have lasted long enough to evolve into a great pop group. When their second LP Nights Out was released three years ago, they found themselves precariously lumped with the nu-rave scene, just as that jokey 'movement' was about to jump the shark. Look at the eventual fate of supposed fellow travellers Late of the Pier, Shitdisco and New Young Pony Club and it is difficult not to see the 'nu disco' tag as a kiss of death. A laidback guy who, you sense, doesn't get too stressed about the business side of music, Mount is more philosophical.

"It's funny -- being lumped with that gave us chances we never previously had. Everyone who was in 'nu rave' knew it was a very loose idea. It was a nice way of grouping a bunch of bands together. It was a happy coincidence for us. Regardless of whether or not we'd been given that label, we were always going to move on as a band. This album was inevitably going to be different. It wasn't a response to anything, more a natural evolution."

The 'nu rave' association led to Metronomy being booked for a lot of club nights. They would go on stage at 3am to rooms full of swimmy-eyed ravers with glo-sticks aloft. Considering the often sophisticated and understated quality of their songbook, holding the audience's attention was a potential problem.

Terrified of being booed into the wings, Mount dreamt up a unique solution. Where a lesser group might have been content to hide behind their fringes, Metronomy strapped flashing lights to their chests and performed synchronised dance moves. They might have looked like a Home Counties Kraftwerk but they moved like Michael Jackson's gang in the Bad video.

"We were being booked to play places like [electro mecca] Fabric in London," Mount recalls. "From the word go, we were having to entertain clubbers. That is where it came from. It would be weird to now turn our back on it in a way. We would be turning our backs on the people who were into us from the start."

Clever-clever stagecraft is well and good in a glittering mega-club. Given that Metronomy play Oxegen in what has every chance of being a blustery Irish July, it seems reasonable to enquire whether the quartet will be able to do justice to its sophisticated lounge-pop in more inclement conditions?

"There are two ways of doing things live," says Joe. "One is that you try to be as truthful to the recorded version as possible. The second is that you think of it in a different way -- you play the songs in a style better suited to the environment. It's funny, we performed our first real festival of the year in Manchester the other day. And it was a proper baptism. We had problems with our equipment. It was pissing down. I remember thinking 'hmmm, this isn't how it's supposed to be'. But, in the end it worked all the same."

Metronomy play Oxegen next Friday

Day & Night

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment