UK electronic outfit Metronomy have just left the country, having toured nationally on the back of the annual Parklife festival. Punters fortunate enough to see one of their live shows would have been presented with quite an interesting sight as the quartet quite literally lit up the stage.
Using an array of wearable DIY lights, the members themselves become part of the visual aspect of their performances, while blasting out indie-inspired electro-dance music written and recorded primarily by leader Joseph Mount.
What started as a side project between more serious endeavours for Mount has become a full-time occupation, with friends and fellow musicians recruited to fill out the live sound of the band, and help out occasionally in the studio.
Before they touched ground in Australia, Daniel Clarke had a chance to talk with Oscar Cash, keyboardist, vocalist and saxamaphone player about the band, his origins as a musician and the interesting dynamic that’s produced when one member writes most of the material a band plays live.
Music Feeds: So you guys played the Leeds and Reading festivals over the last couple of days. How did it go?
Oscar Cash: Really good thank you. It was probably one of the biggest gigs we’ve done all summer. It was really good, everyone stayed to the end, really good crowd. I think it was a success overall.
MF: When Jay Z headlined Glastonbury a couple of years ago there was a bit of a backlash against him playing. How have you found your response, being an electronic group at a rock festival?
OC: We’ve never had a problem whatsoever. The thing with Jay Z was mainly Noel Gallagher from Oasis, he was saying festivals are for rock bands, things like that. For a few years now it’s been very mixed in England, what sort of bands you find at a festival. People are just as likely to want to dance to electronic music as to rock.
MF: Do you think that’s a relatively new occurrence, traditional festival goers being more open to electronic bands?
OC: I’d say that the old electro bands from the 80s are still just as welcome, at least in England anyway. About three or four years ago clubs started to invite bands, rather than just a dirty rock venue, they were playing in clubs. So dance clubs brought bands in – that might have had an effect on music being made. We were just starting out around then and we got some lucky breaks because the hot thing to have in your club was a band playing dance music.
MF: Now, Metronomy have existed in one form or another since ’99 but it’s only recently you’ve all been together as a full band. How did it all come together?
OC: It was always Joe’s little project. He’s been messing around with electronic music since he was about sixteen. I don’t think he was thinking of it like a band, more like a hobby. Then three years ago he got a collection of songs together and someone actually wanted to put them out. So he thought “I better get myself a band”. So he got me and Gabriel, who used to play bass. There’s four of us now.
MF: You were originally in The Food Groups, which was Metronomy’s ‘backing band’. When did you actually become a full member of Metronomy?
OC: The Food Groups was a name that Joe quite liked but realised quite shortly afterwards that it would be a lot simpler for everyone if we were all just called Metronomy. So we’ve always been fully fledged members but it was a good few years before I had to lose my job to follow it properly. So that’s when I consider my real time with Metronomy began.
MF: So have you always been playing electronic influenced stuff? Were you ever in indie or rock bands?
OC: Yeah, the first time I got excited about music was when I was twelve and I heard Nirvana. Then I became a proper grunge teenager with long hair and everything. I did all of that in school bands, writing lyrics that were far too pretentious for my age. I think most people have a musical discovery and then get really sick of the thing that turned you onto it. People move along and maybe get into something else. It wasn’t until later on when I was a teenager that I started to get into dance and electronica.
MF: What was it that made you want to be a musician?
OC: It was really early on, the first music I heard was the stuff my parents were listening to. My mum was a really big Beatles fan. It was watching Hard Day’s Night and just loving the music. Also just seeing that it was a life you could actually lead. After that I think I’ve always wanted to be in a band, even though at times I thought I wanted other things.
MF: It’s interesting that you bring up the Beatles. They were the biggest ‘pop’ group of their time, and not particularly by virtue of the style of music they were playing. Do you think it’s fair to say that pop music transcends traditional boundaries?
OC: I think so. I don’t think pop has anything to do with genre. There’s some music that I like that is sort of difficult to listen to. But with pop music, whatever it is, you should be able to hear something in it right away. I think Metronomy’s got that, even our first album which was quite instrumental. People often ask us if we think our second album is more pop. But I think pop music is all about things that are there to grab your attention and drag you in. I think Metronomy has that pop accessibility but it’s still a little odd. It’s not too straight-forward.
MF: How do you guys write and record an album? Are you all involved from the outset?
OC: Joe always does the vast majority of the writing and recording but he’ll always ask me and get me to play on little bits and bobs. But other than that I have to give all the credit to Joe. One of the things about Metronomy is that it’s got a very distinctive sound and that’s all down to Joe.
MF: The last time you guys were here was in February, was there anything that made you want to come back to Australia so quickly?
OC: We came over in January not knowing what to expect and we had an amazing time. I don’t know if that was just due to the fact that we had a lot of days off. We had a great time in Sydney and met some wonderful people, so as long as someone was going to call us and say “we can give you these gigs” and if we could afford to come, then we will. It’s a no-brainer for us.
MF: The original bass player for Metronomy, Gabriel (Stebbing) left the band in between Australian tours to pursue his own group. Did that affect the sound of the band? How did you replace him?
OC: We’re very fortunate to know some lovely people who are very keen to do it. But yeah, it has changed the sound of the band because we’ve got drums now, it used to be more driven by the laptop. It’s different and we enjoy that difference. We’d been doing the old band as it was for quite a few years, so it gave us a new breath of life. We’re really enjoying it so we hope people agree.