“Toe Rag has the kind of gear that would have been top of the range back in the ‘60s,” Mount explains. “It’s like working in the best possible studio from that era, the kind of place where The Beach Boys or The Beatles might have made records. Because it’s so wilfully stuck in the past, it has a very different atmosphere from the kinds of studios I’m used to working in.”
While based in Metronomy’s usual minimalist style, Love Letters has a warm and welcoming sound, which is partly the result of recording in an old-fashioned setting. “There are a lot of very striking bits of gear at Toe Rag,” Mount says. “One of the most interesting is a mixing desk they have, which was apparently built for Abbey Road, and it doesn’t look like any mixing desk you’ve ever seen before. It looks more like a Russian tank or something. It doesn’t have any of the conventions of a modern bit of gear – it doesn’t even have a volume knob that goes from zero to ten.”
Contemporary recording studios, Mount says, can feel a bit like modern offices. Toe Rag, by contrast, has the feeling of a mad scientist’s laboratory, which naturally made the band feel more free to experiment. Metronomy’s last record, the greatly acclaimed The English Riviera, told a story of love gone wrong in an English coastal town. I ask Mount if Love Letters has a similar concept behind it, but he tells me that he is determined not to think of this record in that way.
“The last one was a bit of a concept record, but after it came out, I found myself talking about that so much that the whole concept just started falling apart around me!” he says with a laugh. “This time around, I just wrote a lot of songs and whittled them down to the best ones. I mean, when you’re writing music, intentionally or not, there are going to be certain themes and ideas in your head. These songs were written in-between a lot of touring, so I was missing a lot of people and things. That may be the thread that connects them, but this definitely is not a concept album.”
Speaking of touring, Metronomy have an awful lot of tour dates coming up in support of Love Letters, more than the band have ever played before. It’s a simultaneously exciting and daunting prospect.
“In the early days, I’d live for the moment when we had enough dates that we could write them down and they’d look like the back of a t-shirt,” Mount says. “That’s in a real contrast to now, when I almost can’t bring myself to look at them all, because I know we’re going on tour for a long time. The thing is, it’s always great. The daunting part is leaving all our significant others behind and going on the road, but the actual experience of going away and playing is great. People are coming to our gigs, and it might be the one thing they do that week, so you start to feel like you’re playing a part in their lives, and you want to make it as enjoyable as possible.”
The one question remaining is whether or not Metronomy will make it back to Australia in this next round of dates. “Oh, we definitely will,” Mount assures me. “I don’t think it’s been announced yet, but I know when we’re coming, so don’t worry, we’ll be there soon.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN