With Nights Out, Metronomy painted a blueprint for British indie’s weird and wonderful late-00s era.
Cramming in odd sampled sounds and a groove more befitting of east London’s underground clubland than the guitar-led indie discos of the time, Metronomy’s second full-length found figurehead Joe Mount exploring vocals for the first time after the instrumental sounds of debut album Pip Paine (Pay the £5000 You Owe). As a result, he paved the way for countless British pop wunderkinds, whose fusing of production oddity and earworm melody came to define a new era of British independent music.
Now, as the record celebrates its tenth anniversary with a special re-release, we called up Joe Mount to dredge his memory of the recording process for the iconic full-length – from drunken vents in his Dalston studio, to stripped-back recordings in Brighton house-share kitchens.
Nights Out (Intro)
“All of the trump-y sounds are from a sample I did of Oscar from the band playing saxophone. That’s why it all has this weird tail sound at the end – it’s really stretched and edited. I think, at the end of all that, I felt like it did a pretty decent job of setting the tone.
I quite like the idea of having intros to records; something feels like the beginning of something. Occasionally I do a few things while I’m making a record – a few more atmospheric-y things. I didn’t sit down and be like, ‘Right, ‘I’m going to do an intro’, but afterwards I thought it was a nice thing to have.”
The End of You Too
“That one’s kinda interesting. The first album was instrumental, and then I’d done a load of remixes – now, I was trying to write a second album. I found it really difficult to work without a vocal, so I had loads of attempts at instrumental songs again. Of all of the instrumental songs that I ended up with in that period, The End of You Too was the only one that was kind of… good. [laughs] That’s not the reason it’s on the album – a lot of them were good, but I just didn’t like them. The point that I realised End of You Too was going on the record was the point where I had a lot of other tracks. It felt like it worked.
I think it’s a curveball now, but back then no-one knew that I could sing! [laughs] Back then, Nights Out was the first record after a totally obscure debut, instrumental album. At the time, it seemed totally fine! But if I did that now, it would be a bit weirder, probably.”
“Radio Ladio’s the second track I ever did with vocals on it. It’s – like a lot of my best songs – really easy! [laughs] There’s not loads going on in it, and lyrically there’s not loads going on. But it’s quite intense; quite sinister, in a way. At that point, I felt like the easiest thing to do with my voice was to not even try and sing – it’s just kind of spoken.
To me, Radio Ladio was a weird kind of funk track. When you listen to George Clinton or someone, there are funk artists who don’t really sing, and don’t rap. It’s more just saying stuff, which is what I was trying to do.
Radio Ladio and quite a lot of the album were made in this bedsit I used to live in. I loved it, it was brilliant. It was ‘bedsit funk’, basically – a lot of the album was that kind of thing. If you listen to Radio Ladio, the sound world it’s in, you can imagine me in a bedsit making it.”
Heart Rate Rapid
“That track was recorded in London – half of the album was recorded in Brighton, and half was recorded in London when I moved up there. Heart Rate Rapid was one of the last three or four tracks I made for the record.
When I moved to London, I had a studio in Dalston, and I was going to classic London venues at the time, like Bardens Boudoir, The Old Blue Last, and places like that. I remember hearing ESG for the first time, and I remember thinking it sounded really cool. Before I even knew who they were, I went back to the studio and went, ‘Right, I want to make a song that sounds like that.’ So that’s what I did! [laughs] It sounds quite different, but that drum fill, and all that stuff was me trying to be them.”
“That track was the first track I wrote that felt like me. It felt like Heartbreaker wasn’t me pretending to be George Clinton or something. It’s the first, proper Metronomy-sounding track that I wrote. I remember having the bassline and thinking it was really good, and trying to play around with the track, and then finishing it and feeling like I’d… achieved something, I guess.
At that point, there were no singles off the first album. So to have a track, and to have it being played on any radio at all, was really exciting. It’s odd, that track, because I really love it, but I’ve never felt like we’ve been able to do it properly live. I don’t know why! I think it’s because I did everything on a computer, so there’s so much stuff going on. It’s quite difficult to work out what the most important bits are to do when there’s only five of you on stage. But we’ll keep trying!”
On the Motorway
“It’s funny, really. This really odd thing happens when you’re making albums. You think you’re doing one thing – you think you’re trying to get certain types of songs – and then when you sit back and listen to what you’ve got, you realise you need a totally different type of song to what you’ve been concentrating on.
On the Motorway was a song that I’d done, and it was really fun and kind of throwaway, and I’d forgotten about it. When I was putting the record together, I realised it was perfect. It’s what you’d call a classic Metronomy, wonky instrumental. I suppose I haven’t really done a song like that for quite a while, but in those days, yeah.”
“This song, again, is one of the few instrumental tracks that worked with me at that time, in my head. It’s this funky instrumental, which has this sampled recorder. It’s weird – in a world where you have singles, and then you have album tracks, you almost have these inverse singles; the bits of an album which are memorable not because they’re singles, and not because they’re good album tracks, but because they’re these things on their own. For me, Side Two is like a single in an alternate universe.”
“Holiday started as this track which was a Yellow Magic Orchestra-type instrumental song. There’s a version of it which has got vocal noises, but no lyrics or anything. It’s a bit of a proto-disco thing that I was trying to do.
Then I remember, once I was in London, I was out in Dalston, drunk. I came back to the studio and I did the vocal, late and drunk, and it became a song. I only just remembered that! At that point, it was at the end of a break-up, and I think lyrically it was this slightly spiteful song – a drunken, spiteful song. Not cool!”
A Thing for Me
“There’s a point at which, when you’re finishing an album, you give it to your record label, and the stereotypical response is, ‘Great, yeah – it just needs another single’. I went away, and I did A Thing for Me.
The nice thing about it, is it’s one of the last tracks that I did for the album, and one of the most positive. One night, I went to an indie disco at the Astoria, and I got off with someone who I’d really liked from afar for a very long time. I was super amazed at the situation! [laughs] When it’s someone you have really fancied for a very long time, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I never thought this could possibly happen!’ The song is about that, really.”
Back On the Motorway
“Back On the Motorway is another kind of classic Metronomy track that exists now – the ‘story track’. The idea that I thought was incredible was the idea of the hard shoulder of the motorway, and crying on someone’s shoulder… and that that someone is the motorway. [laughs] It’s a super A-Level way of thinking! But the whole song is building up to the punchline of crying on the shoulder of the motorway. So, there you go. It’s very, very clever.”
“On Dancefloors was the first track that I ever wrote vocals for. For a long while, it existed as an instrumental, and then it never felt right. I rearranged it and stuff, and turned it into a vocal track. The screeching sound in the chorus was there before there were any vocals, so I built the chorus around that screeching sound. I quite liked, at the time, a bit of Avalon-era Roxy Music. I liked that more than this song, [laughs] so I used some of that in this chorus!”
“Again, I’m not sure at the time I thought it was an album outro. I think what probably happened was that I recorded this basic guitar thing, and then when I knew it was gonna be the outro, I added the more out of control synth stuff.
I remember recording that in the downstairs kitchen of a house in Brighton, with a laptop mic and a guitar hanging around. They had a gas hob, so I had the kettle boiling on the gas hob. It was pretty cool.”