When Joseph Mount of London-based Metronomy listened to Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, he realized he'd have to change the direction of "Boy Racers," the most upbeat song on his band's 2013 album, Love Letters. He had intended to have the song include a German narrator speaking about how fast boy racers can go, but when he heard the helmeted duo's "Giorgio by Moroder," on which the architect of disco himself tells his life story over grooves created by the electronic music icons, Mount wasn't sure where he wanted to go with the song.
"The whole premise and outcome of the song would have been very different [from Daft Punk's]," Mount says. "The reason why I had been thinking about it was because we had been spending a lot of time in Germany. There's something about the language and its delivery that always seemed quite nice, like Kraftwerk, with the German monotone voice."
The track became an instrumental piece. "Boy Racers" really didn't need vocals on it, anyway. It's the perfect standout song on an innovative electronic album that looks for warmth in analog. Love Letters, inspired by '60s psychedelia and '70s soul, was recorded at East London's Toe Rag Studios, where all recording is done on magnetic tape (White Stripes recorded Elephant there). This forced Mount to take his time with the songs.
"Every time I get a chance to record an album, I like to take the opportunity to learn something about production," Mount says. "You can't manipulate [the recording] half as much as you can on a computer."
The result is a mix of cold instruments giving a tenderness to songs that deal with the most benevolent of emotions: love.
"I find it easier to do with that instrumentation," Mount says. "When you use the traditional tools of music, it means that emotion equals strings, muted horns, or whatever. I think there's another language that deals with electronic instruments and synths that can be expressive in a different way. To go back to [Random Access Memories] and Pharrell and Julian Casablancas singing, I was thinking how that relates to my music. To me, the best songs on that album are the ones where Daft Punk are singing into the vocoder and you can hear their French voices. They're trying really hard to make it sound like it's not them. I think a French man singing into a vocoder is a more emotional thing to do than just using your voice."
Metronomy band started as a side project for Mount. He started making songs on an old computer he received from his father. The band started to gather a following for their amazing live shows and remixes, and around 2005, it became Mount's main focus.
"It's slightly misleading to call [Metronomy] a side project because I never really imagined it would be the thing to get me a name," he says. "It was something I was always doing. I would make my music and have these little ideas. I always thought it was kind of niche or something, but it turned out to be more than that. I stopped thinking that was the case when people started to show interest in it. Maybe I had been playing it down too much and started to think I should go for it."
The group's main influences are post-punk, glam rock, and some '80s new wave, but it was Metronomy's breakthrough 2011 album, The English Riviera, that combined Brit rock with a California sound and became a hit and earned the band a Mercury Prize nomination.
"There's something about the music that people seem to get and really enjoy or they don't. We might be slightly more contrasting than other bands might be," Mount says.
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