Metric, the brilliant Canadian rock band, just released its fourth album, Fantasies, last week. It’s their first in almost four years and was self-released on their own imprint. It is, so far, one of my favorite records to come out this year. It’s a great collection of dance-rock songs that sound huge either coming out of your earphones or being blasted through a rock club (or bigger). On my favorite song on Fantasies, “Gimme Sympathy”, singer Emily Haines raises the age-old question that only matters to music nerds, “who would you rather be, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” before dismissing it when she says “oh seriously.”
Haines answered my questions via e-mail about self-releasing Metric’s latest album, where exactly the band calls home and, yes, Beatles or Stones.
Metric plays at The Showbox at the Market on June 4.
Last time I saw your band play was in Seattle in 2007 and if my memory serves me, I thought you said something onstage about putting out your next record on your own timeline. Was that one of the reasons you are self-releasing this record? Other reasons?
We spent a lot of time setting up a new infrastructure for the band which spares us the endless wrangling with record labels that are not forward thinking. We are really excited to finally be in a position where we can do things on our own terms. For as long as I can remember people have been telling us that what we want to accomplish can't be done. We disagree!
Fantasies was recorded at Bear Creek Studios, which is about half an hour outside of Seattle. Why did you decide to record there, as it's a considerable distance from your home?
It’s a beautiful studio in the woods, and being far from home was the whole point.
How does Fantasies differ from Live it Out (and the previous Metric albums)?
Every record we make is a step in a new direction for us, we don't really set out to change in a conscious way but like everybody we as people and as musicians are constantly evolving. We don't have any interest in repeating ourselves!
Also from that 2007 show, I thought there was a lyric in the song that became "Gimme Sympathy" that was something similar to "meet me at the gates of hell, I'm on the guest list" but it didn't appear in the version of the song that appears on Fantasies. Why did you decide to remove it?
We have lots of versions of lots of songs. Sometimes things sound really clever when you first put them on paper but don't hold up once you play them every night. We road test new material in its early stages as playing live is part of the writing process for us, it doesn't happen in a vacuum.
One reason I've really enjoyed Metric so much is because of the way that the melodies and lyrics work with each other. How does the band write songs?
Mostly I write the songs on the piano or guitar and bring them to Jimmy (Shaw) to interpret. Jimmy also writes some fully realized songs that just need lyrics and a melody. Sometimes the whole band hangs out in a room together and writes a track on the spot. Words are my domain, the rest is free.
Aside from just putting out Fantasies, what are the plans for Metric in 2009? Beyond?
On the band's Wikipedia page it says the band is based in four cities: LA, New York, Toronto and Montreal. Does each person live in a different city? How does that effect the songwriting process?
Didn't they just change the rules on Wikipedia and make it so that they have to actually fact check?
Ha ha… For the record, Jimmy and I live in Toronto, Josh (Winstead) lives in NYC and Joules (Scott-Key) lives in Oakland.
What are your favorite cities to play in? Why?
It’s always great playing in Toronto, NYC and LA as these places feel like Metric's hometowns. We all met in New York, got our start at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles and are part of an inspiring and supportive community of musicians and artists in Toronto, where our studio Giant is.
What kind of music do you listen to, outside of your own, of course?
What are your favorite albums to listen to?
Robert Wyatt, Nothing Can Stop Us; Two Koreas, Sessions E.P; Boards of Canada, Music Has the Right to Children.
I really enjoyed Knives Don't Have Your Back, your solo record from 2006. Is there any chance of another solo record?
Thanks! And hell yeah!
Beatles or The Rolling Stones?