Metronomy’s Joseph Mount crafts lasting ‘Love Letters’


Metronomy’s sharp-dressed touring lineup includes, from left, Oscar Cash, Gbenga Adelekan, Anna Prior and Joseph Mount. (Gregoire Alexandre)

As he toured the world behind Metronomy’s hit 2011 album “The English Riviera,” frontman Joseph Mount often felt homesick for his friends and family back in England.

“The funny thing about touring is that there are two things going on,” Mount says. “One is this massive enjoyment and very genuine pleasure of meeting fans and entertaining them. At the same time, this dream job takes you away from [people at home].”

As he started writing the songs that would become the band’s fourth album, they turned into little odes — ways of connecting to his far-away loved ones. It’s no surprise, then, that Mount titled the record “Love Letters.”

The result is a more intimate and downbeat record for a band known for idiosyncratic electropop.

The other reason for the stripped-back sound was the decision to record in analog at Toe Rag Studios in London. The studio, where Jack White produced The White Stripes’ “Elephant,” is known in the industry for lending a retro sensibility to rock albums. Mount wanted to see how the old-school recording style could influence his own work, which had made heavy use of synthesizers and computers.

“I thought it would be interesting to make my kind of music in a place that is thought of as a reserve for authentic musicians,” he says.

The goal wasn’t to be retro for the sake of being retro, but to inject the quality and rich sound of the past into modern pop. It also forced Mount to hone his skills as a musician. He compared the experience to handwriting something without spell check and being forced to remember whether the word “tomorrow” has one “m” or two.

While the album is still distinctively Metronomy — moody, melodic and electronic — it’s permeated by touches of psychedelic rock, Motown and other sounds of the ’60s.

Mount and his three-piece backing band also bring elements of that era on the road. The band’s new touring show harkens back to the playful seriousness, and serious suits, of mid-century music productions — a time when matching outfits and a choreographed aesthetic were de rigueur (picture the Tom Hanks film “That Thing You Do!”).

“It’s supposed to be a visual and musical feast,” Mount says.

Despite the vintage touches, “Love Letters,” released in March, doesn’t wallow in nostalgia. Mount sought to pay tribute to sounds of the past rather than be a derivative of them.

On “I’m Aquarius,” a synth beat seamlessly backs a shoop-shoop chorus. It isn’t stuck in the ’60s, nor is it of 2014’s relentlessly electronic moment.

Instead, the song shimmers and glitters timelessly, borne of Mount’s aspiration “to make records that outlive me.”

Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; Sun., 8 p.m., $18-$20; 202-667-7960. (U Street)

Rachel Sadon is the local news editor for Express
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