Joe Mount hasn't always been the songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist auteur Metronomy fans know and revere him as today. Eight summers ago, he was – in his own words – “25, constantly drunk, single and living in London desperately trying to be cool.” Then a fledging bedroom producer, his second album, Nights Out, was a few months away from release, and life was a restless whirlwind of boozy cab rides from gig to gig, grimy London dive to grimy London dive. “I can't remember a single night in, sat in a nice room, just watching the telly,” he reminisces now. “It was quite manic, remembering it.” Instead of burying that wild-eyed time in his memories, Mount's about to return to it. Summer '08 is his sequel to Nights Out. And it's album he's waited eight years to make.
“It's not a regressive record at all,” says Mount, who wrote it – playing every instrument himself, as on every Metronomy album – from his newly adopted home city of Paris “between tours and breast-feeding” (he's recently become a father of two). “I'm always listening to the world, what's going on. But to help my creative process, I tried thinking back,” he says. “So, here's what happened. Nights Out came out in September. The summer in the run-up to that was the first time I started touring and I haven't had a summer off since. The symbolic nature of that summer, it was when it all began, really,” he explains.
“At that point I didn't know what the next 10 years were going to be like. I hoped my life would change. And it did.” The blitz of hype he found himself immersed in as the album became a cult-acclaimed hit, landing a top 10 spot in the NME best albums of 2008 list, was a lot to process, so he put together a plan. “I kind of immediately wanted to write an album called 2008. About that year and all its madness. It's great, but when you start touring and getting a bit bigger, the more successful you become, the more chance there is you'll not be there for people. You miss friends' weddings, birthdays, whatever.”
2008 was supposed to navigate those feelings: the guilt at spending key moments in loved ones' lives in the back of a tour bus, the confused mania of finding himself a critical darling (Pitchfork described Nights Out as having moments of “synth-pop supremacy” while the BBC observed Mount had left behind the “obscure laptop larks” of his debut album Pip Paine... in favour of some of the best “pop songs of the year, if not the decade”). Instead, another opportunity came his way and 2008 was made to wait. “Because of the success of Nights Out, I had the resources to go to a studio and do a different type of record,” explains Joe, who'd till then crafted his sonic experiments surrounded by piles of laundry and mess in his bedroom.
What followed was the expansive and even more acclaimed The English Riviera, a record reflecting on his Torbay homeland that cawed with seagull sounds and romance. It bagged a Mercury nomination and elevated Mount to British pop visionary status, landing him with “a different agenda” when it came to album four, 2013's massive, Motown-inspired Love Letters. How far could he push his pop writing credentials, having flirted from the fringes on The English Riviera? The answer: a top 10 spot in the UK album charts on release, their biggest ever single in the form of its glittering title track, and sell-out dates at London's Brixton Academy and Alexandra Palace. “So 2008 was made to wait again,” says Joe.
When touring Love Letters came to a close, Mount knew: the time was finally right. “I had those other albums out of my system, those ideas of how I wanted to record in bigger studios out of my system. I wanted to make another record with the naivety of Nights Out. I wanted to bash out another record that's in that spirit. 10 tracks, straight up, up-beat: write another banger, then another, and don't really think about it.”
Musically, Summer '08 seeks to fill a hole in Mount's music taste left by artists who simply aren't making the records they used to. “I love OutKast. I love David Bowie and old Daft Punk. All these people aren't making music anymore, or aren't making the sort of music that they used to. I wanted to do a mature, quite eclectic pop record in that vein. Oh that also had a scratch DJ on.”
Step forward one of the album's two surprising guests – Beastie Boys' turntablist and Joe's childhood hero, Mix Master Mike, who features on Old Skool. “I had decks in my bedroom when I was 16 or 17. He had this record, a really good record, called Anti Theft Device. I was obsessed.” So, Joe emailed him, because, well, why wouldn't you ask Mix Master Mike to be on your album? “What happens is, you send an email to his manager and they go on the internet, look you up and by now, if you look up Metronomy, you see I'm an established thing. So it happened like that. Dream come true! When you realise, hey, this is a childhood fantasy and I can make it real now, I don't give a shit – I'm sending that email.”
The result is a cowbell-clattered cocaine pop belter glimpsing '00s London from the backseat of an Addison Lee, that descends into a scratch frenzy. “Have a party in the west end, make some money, make more money, with your new friends have a party,” sings Mount over grooving low-end. “I love sex and I love dancing and reclining in your backseat.”
“I was living in East London in 2008 and felt like all this stuff was happening in the West end. It's nonsense really, but I felt it was this privileged end of town, all the musicians there had wealthy parents and were living in Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill. So that song's about being totally idiotic and just jealous,” Joe grins.
Elsewhere, there's warbling festival anthem-in-the-making Miami Logic, which sounds like Word Up as performed by Devo; an early East Coast hip-hop rough ride called 16 Beat about a love affair between man and drum machine (“my sweet 16-beat, the way you taunt me...” Joe sings); and a brilliant moment of Bowie worship titled Mick Slow. “I checked the weather... it's only getting wetter, man,” croons Mount, teetering between hilarity and heartbreak. It's the album's duet with Swedish superstar Robyn, Hang Me Out To Dry, mixed by Erol Alkan, that's the songwriter's favourite though. “It's a song I started recorded for The English Riviera. I always liked it, and it's finally realised its potential.” Many tracks in fact here have been kicking around in rough draft and loop form since that late '00s era. “It's liberating getting them out,” says Joe. “A really good feeling.”
Recorded in Black Box Studios in France and mixed by Bob Clearmountain (Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie) and Neal Pogue (OutKast), the album's his most daring yet for good reason – Metronomy won't be touring it anytime soon. “The nutshell is, I want to have a break from touring but I don't want a break from putting out music,” says Mount. “I've got two children. It's an important part of my children's lives and I want to be there. But I also want to put out music. One of my biggest gripes with the music world is you're expected to put out one record every three years. Which is fine. But in a 10 year career, you've put out three albums. Ask any musician, and I'm sure they'll tell you they're not satisfied with that ratio. No one is.” The decision freed him up to experiment in a way like never before. “Making a record with the thought of 'shit, how we gonna perform it?' is so counter-intuitive and really stifles creativity. Going into a studio thinking 'I do not give a shit how we play this live' is how you end up with a scratch DJ on your record,” he laughs.
The missing link between Nights Out and The English Riviera, Summer '08 is Mount's most funkalicious piece of the Metronomy puzzle yet. From the irresistible pull of Night Owl to the fizzing near-rap of Back Together (“perhaps you'll come to lunch with me? I'm sure I'll find some time inside my diary...”) it's an album that underlines Joe's status as one of Britain's truest dance-floor trail-blazers. “This record is a homage to a different time in my life,” he says. “I was a different person then.” A lot can change in eight years, the album attests. Where this pop auteur will be in another eight is unknown, but after the magical Summer '08 – anything feels possible.