We have all developed (and often abandoned) new skills during 18 months of lockdown – but can any of us claim to have used ours to produce anything as sparkling and vibrant as Metronomy drummer Anna Prior? Holed up in a town over the bridge from her adopted home of Lisbon, she spent the pandemic getting over a relationship, DJing on Soho Radio, starting a record label and teaching herself how to craft gorgeous, sun-dappled sad bangers.
Her debut solo single, Thank You for Nothing, bounds in with a cheeky reggaeton drumbeat and invites you to the beach for a litre of sangria before revealing itself to be the breakup song its title suggests. As a lifelong drummer for other people’s musical visions (Prior played for Dev Hynes’s indie band Lightspeed Champion before joining Metronomy some 10 years ago), she is revelling in finally doing her own thing.
“It’s always felt like there’s been something missing there for me, you know? I’m excited [when a Metronomy album comes out] but there’s a limit,” Prior says over video call as a breeze slams a door shut in her Portuguese apartment. “This time I was waking up at midnight and waiting for the song to come live on Spotify. And then I got up early when it was played on BBC Radio 6 Music. It’s really exciting to have something out there.”
Prior didn’t intend to embark on a solo career: the track’s first iteration was a file named Housey_4.mp3 as she strove to write a house tune that could slip easily into her DJ sets. But then a lockdown task set by Metronomy head honcho Joe Mount set her on a different path.
“I had to cover a Buena Vista Social Club song,” she recalls. “I got super-obsessed with different types of rhythms. I switched out the four-to-the-floor for this reggaeton beat, and it became this poppy thing, which I didn’t really expect to come out of me. But that’s what came out.”
Rather than sit around and wait for label interest, Prior took the advice of a friend who told her: “Just start your own label.” So she did, Beat Palace Records: a female-run, female-staffed home for female and non-binary artists for which – aspiring musicians, take note – she is currently spiralling down YouTube rabbit holes seeking out her first signings.
Portugal is still under strict Covid restrictions, so the label has been a great distraction for Prior as she watches other artists post on Instagram about the return of festivals in the UK. “I saw Bicep posting from the stage looking at the crowd and it almost made me cry,” she says. “I’ve missed that feeling so much.” Perhaps next time she’s out there, it’ll be watching a sea of people vibe to Thank You for Nothing in the early evening sun. See you down the front!