What were you doing in 2008? If you were a young music lover in London, chances are you were wearing more neon than is strictly advisable, getting wasted on petrol-quality vodka and dancing to the MDMA-zing sounds of nu-rave: the fleeting-but-fantastic (no, really, it was) scene that somehow peaked with Klaxons winning the actual Mercury Prize and then, presumably, going on a three-week bender to celebrate.
If you had any sense, you will also have spent the year rinsing ‘Nights Out’ – the crossover second album by London-via-Totnes’ Metronomy. The first record to flesh Joe Mount’s project out into a full performing band following niche, largely instrumental debut ‘Pip Paine (Pay The £5000 You Owe)’ in 2006, it nestled itself into the peripheries of the scene but always seemed somehow smarter, less zeitgeisty than its boggle-eyed peers. Complete with a show that saw Joe and live bandmates Oscar Cash and Gabriel Stebbing attach charmingly shoddy night lights to their tops and illuminate them in formation, it was the crossover record that began Metronomy’s commercial career.
Now, with a special 10 year anniversary re-issue just released [although it’s actually 11 years ago… no, we’re not sure either…], we spoke to Joe about the making of the record, and how he always knew he was a safe bet…
How do you look back on circa 2008 as a period of your life?
Joe: I'd just moved up from Brighton. I think the thing is, while [something important is] happening you don't really know how significant it's gonna be or if it's gonna be significant at all, so at the time I just enjoyed it and let it wash over me. Now I look back, I realise that it was my moment of being part of a scene and being part of a thing.
Metronomy always felt more on the peripheries of nu rave, did you feel embedded in that scene?
I wanted to be more important in that world! I think I felt like we were aways attached to it but seen as also-rans, as a thing that would maybe not survive? That was my perception?
An also-ran alongside bands like Shitdisco...?
Yeah! Exactly! It felt awful! I remember being quite jealous, but the fact is the whole idea of nu rave and that period of time, people are very dismissive about it [now]. But had we not been attached to that thing, I'm not sure how much interest we would have had. It really helped, I think. It was very nice to be seen as part of 'a thing'.
Musically there wasn't any real synergy amongst the bands, but sometimes it's just the idea that something is happening that's enough to make something happen. But Late of the Pier I felt really close to, same with Klaxons - I felt like there was a nice connection we had with them. So it wasn't all rubbish!
Your debut 'Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe)' was a pretty underground release; was the idea with 'Nights Out' actively to aim for the mainstream?
Yeah, but only in the way that someone in their mid-20s, self-producing without a major label can do. I really hoped it would be some kind of commercial success, and it really was. But I saw it as this opportunity. I knew it was a big moment for me and for Metronomy; I was aware of the gravity.
But I think for me, Metronomy has always been more about a direct connection with fans. The way that it's enjoyed isn't on some mass broadcast way, it's a more of close relationship.
"Metronomy has always been more about a direct connection with fans."
— Joe Mount
That was also the album where you introduced the excellent, infamous push lights into the live show. What was the thought behind them
Because we were just standing around with keyboards without really doing anything, the day before the gig I was in the pound shop and saw these lights and thought – ah! I'll stick them to my top! It's so basic, but I guess that's maybe another reason why I felt like people thought we weren't gonna be around for very long...
If you'd have known you'd still be here, reflecting on this a decade later, would you have changed anything?
I'm 100% proud of everything. I think it's really funny how it worked out. I specifically remember supporting Kate Nash and her fans were so young, like 13 year olds, and after a gig some of them coming up and saying it was amazing and them becoming Metronomy fans. And I remember thinking, you're gonna be very proud of this one day. You're gonna be really proud of this moment, that you, aged 13, decided to like this band because I will never let you down. I didn't say it, but genuinely I remember thinking in my head: this is a great thing that you've done. But I've always had this duty to myself I suppose. You always wanna have integrity, and sometimes in order to have integrity you have to play a long game which means doing exactly what you want to do on your own terms. So 'Nights Out' as a record, you wouldn't listen to it and think it was gonna be a crossover record or a career-making record, but it kinda was. And it was exactly the record that I wanted to make.
Was there anything you rediscovered whilst preparing the reissue?
I've got this laptop that, once I finished 'Nights Out', I kind of just shut and put on a shelf. It's this weird time capsule from that period and I looked at it yesterday and found a whole load of songs which were made before I started properly understanding what 'Nights Out' was gonna be, songs that were halfway between 'Pip Paine...' and 'Nights Out'. So they probably should have been on this reissue, but I forgot about them.
Do you ever repurpose stuff that you find like that?
Yeah, I do – frequently! I used to be slightly averse to that, but now I understand it's part of it. You have this idea, this musical thought and you never finish it but it's still there and it still floats around until occasionally you're like, why do I know that thing? Oh, it's because I did it 10 years ago! And then you put it back into something.
What are you most proud of looking back on the album?
It's funny because I had this idea for the kind of album I wanted to make, and the artwork and the atmosphere and it was all just nailed quite well. To have latched on to people's lives a little bit, to have had that kind of impact - however small - on a generation [laughs] is quite something, and I feel very proud of that. There are fans who I've known since they were 15 years old, it's crazy. It's exactly that thing I was saying before of being like, you've backed the right horse here. I remember being whatever age I was, being into a band like Manson, and they're not around anymore making me feel like I made a good decision! But I'm still here!
'Nights Out: 10th Anniversary Edition' is out now via Because Music.