“There’s no way I could go back and live there (Doncaster), just because of what I’ve experienced in London and Leeds” maintains Anna Prior, as we compare our modest Yorkshire upbringings, whilst perched upon possibly the world’s oldest sofa in The Leadmill (Sheffield’s rock Mecca). But as Metronomy’s nearly-two-year-long hiatus settled in, going back to square one is exactly what Anna has done to unearth her latest musical fix.
We’re at Outlines Festival – the blossoming little sister of locally cherished Tramlines, and the first date on the UK festival calendar. Wedged high on the bill are the brand spanking new and still-under-the-radar supergroup, Shock Machine – the brainchild of ex-Klaxons frontman James Righton.
Years after sinking into the musical abyss, since ditching harmonic new-rave for family life alongside Keira Knightley, Righton finally decided ‘its not over yet’ and recruited a team of sidekicks under his new moniker from across the indietronica landscape.
“James and I have always been on each other’s radars” explains Anna, on being drafted in with Edd Gibson (Friendly Fires) and Mike Evans (Citizens!).“My friend’s boyfriend is an A&R with Shock Machine and it was just like ‘hey, you’re not doing anything for the next year or so; do you wanna come and be in Shock Machine?! He sent me the album and I loved the tunes. It was just a no brainer really”.
For many it would be a culture shock, waving goodbye to glittering headline shows and pampered dressing rooms for support slots in boxy Northern venues. But you get the impression Anna is as grounded as she was before Metronomy’s slow-burning rise.
After a mammoth 2015 tour concluded, she trained to be yoga teacher, performed the odd DJ set and began volunteering a couple of days a week. “One is in food waste and another one was working at a migrant centre. I’ve been prepping food; so every Wednesday morning I’d turn up and they’d hand me a sack of onions and I’d be crying at 9 o’clock!”.
It’s this hunger to carve out new projects that initially led Anna to London. After plying her trade in a host of bands across Yorkshire, the time came to explore wider oceans. “I jumped ship to London in about 2008” she recounts, on a time that proved to be the making of her. “It felt like it happened at the right time for me. I didn’t study; I didn’t go to university so I never really had that experience of partying and building long-lasting friendships and stuff.”
The most poignant relationship was forged when crossing paths with a youthful trio of synth-poppers. “I didn’t really know Metronomy that well”, she admits. “I was in a band before, called Lightspeed Champion, and we actually supported Metronomy at the Amersham Arms in London. That gig was raucous.”
A gloriously trashy, chest-light-wielding Metronomy of 2008 was, of course, a very different entity to the fully-fledged electro machine it is now. “Oscar (keys) had forgotten his special t-shirt, cos they had to have Velcro on their t-shirt. I remember being in this tiny dressing room with them all while they were gaffer taping his light to him like some crazy backpack!”
She clearly made an impression – soon after bassist Gabriel Stebbing left the band, Joe Mount (lead) decided to flesh-out his troupe with a live drummer. Anna was first to get the nod.
“Me sitting in a room with a drumkit, just me, I find so incredibly boring.”
3 albums and 3 children later, the band find themselves on the brink of touring a fifth album. “We haven’t started rehearsing yet! There’s nothing to give away” she reveals, as I attempt to prise out information. “It’s gonna be an interesting one this time around. They’re [the albums] all different, so its how we’re gonna create a show around that. Summer 08 was very much Joe realising some ideas that he’d had in the past, I think he dug up a lot of old songs and brought them to life again.”
For the first time, the band are selling out major venues and headlining a stretch of festivals. “Its just sort of gradually grown and grown and grown and grown to the point where, you don’t realise how well-known the band is until you get to a festival or a gig and there’s people waiting outside to meet you. I’m really lucky that it’s been a gradual thing, I think it’s the best way”
This sort of creeping success has become a commodity, especially from a band that bypassed a fleeting new-rave scene. The poster boys of the neon-lit wave of sleazy disco-rock, Klaxons, led a prime example of the opposite form of progression. Their rapid rise saw 07’s triumphant album Myths of The Near Future shift 350,000 copies. But 3 years down the line only 30,000 of second full-length, Surfing The Void, were sold.
However everyone deserves a second stab, and Righton’s Shock Machine embodies that notion – a project keen to play down its Mercury-winning origins, its star-studded members, top producers and an A-list celeb wife in a bid for ‘organic’ growth.
“We’re still tryina figure it out” asserts Anna. “To be honest we’ve not really done that many shows. We’ve been playing to a backing track from the start and now James is itching to get off it and for it to be more free and more raucous. So we’re gonna start doing that (during) the Lemon Twigs tour this month, we’ve got 4 dates with them so I think we’re gonna get off the track for that.”
Anna’s extroverted-yet-ego-lacking attitude is most apparent when asked if she’d ever consider going solo. “I get asked this a lot and I don’t think I want to do that. I don’t (make my own stuff), I enjoy creating with other people, I like to create music together. Me sitting in a room with a drumkit, just me, I find so incredibly boring.”
“I’d start my own band and it’d be my band, but we all wrote the music together. I would love that – that would be my dream” She gushes, while stretching to switch off a heater that’s slowly melting the back of our necks. “I love to create together with people rather than just sitting in a room”.
Whilst in her mind it seems a pipedream, if her glistening stage presence and ascending trajectory suggests anything, you wouldn’t bet against Anna taking the reigns herself and hurtling towards stardom.
Buy Shock Machine are currently touring with The Lemon Twigs.