Taken from the Spring 2014 issue of Dazed:
Joe Mount, aka Metronomy, zips up his anorak, jumps into his parents’ car and drives half a mile in bastard wind to a hillock above an underground reservoir in the picturesque Devonshire estate of Dartington Hall. The unassuming spot inspired the bedroom funk of “Reservoir”, a highlight of the 31-year-old’s lounge-y, cognac-doused new album, Love Letters. Mount, who’s lived in Paris for the past few years, recorded it with his band in the analogue haven of Toe Rag Studios in Homerton, east London. Today, he leads us up the grassy knoll, under doomy skies and through drizzly rain, striding purposefully through a gate despite a sign warning “no admittance”.
Dazed Digital: How did you discover this place?
Joe Mount: It’s about half a mile from where I grew up. It’s the highest point around here, and we used to come when it was stormy and lean into the wind – that was a big pastime from when I was three or four. We’d go up with friends and neighbours. It’s fun being in blustery conditions. I describe it as ‘a mound of earth on a hill’.
DD: What did you do up here?
Joe Mount: There was a period of time when I flew kites here, and I used to go up if there were family arguments. Then shortly after that it would have descended into going up and smoking weed. There was a dirty magazine up here at one point.
DD: Who left that here?
Joe Mount: I have no idea! Because of how high up it is, if your parents were looking for you and you were doing something they didn’t know you were doing, like smoking weed, you’d think, ‘I can see them before they can see me.’ If it’s a clear day, you can enjoy the benefits of being high up. You can see Dartmoor. You can probably see for 60 miles. But it’s not really a beauty spot, is it? It’s quite understated.
DD: Is it a make-out spot?
Joe Mount: I tried to make it into one! I’ve taken my girlfriends here before but it didn’t take off. Last time I came with the mother of my child, I was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to go up there, it’s a really beautiful night.’ We walked up and the grass was very high and something brushed against her leg, and she was just terrified the whole time. She was convinced it was a badger. It seemed a bit far-fetched for me, but it ruined it.
DD: What bearing did the reservoir have on Love Letters?
Joe Mount: It’s funny because I was aware of that reservoir before I was aware of real reservoirs, beautiful reservoirs. It’s a word that’s been in my vocabulary from quite a young age and it’s quite an odd word. For a long time I thought it was a nice name for a song.
DD: How important is a sense of place in your music?
Joe Mount: It’s very important. I learned how to write songs quite slowly, and I’ve always needed something to latch on to as an idea. With the last record (The English Riviera, 2011), it’s obviously all about Devon, and for the one before that (Nights Out, 2008) a lot of the inspiration came because I’d just moved to east London. I don’t know if it’s just people from the country, but people round here are drawn back to this place.
DD: There’s a splashing sound on your new song. Where did you make your field recordings?
Joe Mount: The splashing was recorded in Tuscany, on the first holiday I went on with the baby – I took this little tape recorder with me. The last time I was in Devon I went out with my dad, and at the very end of the album, on ‘Never Wanted’, there’s the sound of a car going past, which was recorded locally.
DD: The single ‘I’m Aquarius’ references astrology – are you a believer?
Joe Mount: No! It’s quite romantic. Part of the reason I wanted to write a song which alluded to astrology was that there’s a nice cosmic tradition in songwriting. I quite like cosmic vibes. But obviously, people that are really into it are just displacing issues and blaming things that are happening on the cosmos. I’m a Virgo – we’re supposed to be quite laidback.
DD: Where did you write the album?
Joe Mount: A lot of writing happened when I was touring. Basically, I was trying to get ideas together when I was away, and then when I’d get back to Paris for three or four days I’d do some demos. I knew I had this deadline. To record like that means you have to be really focused.
DD: Did you get the album done before the birth?
Joe Mount: That was the plan! It was finished in one way or another before, but it still needed another two weeks. I was in the studio for probably two months. You have to learn to be more decisive, which is the one thing that anyone could benefit from being if you’re a modern musician: not overthinking things.
Love Letters is out now on Because