Photo by Justin Broadbent
Metric are very much a 21st century band: They first shot to major public attention through a Polaroid commercial, they’ve been based out of five different cities in the past ten years, and for their most recent album, last year’s Fantasies, instead of going the conventional big-label route, they chose to self-release.
The band is nominated for three Juno awards—Alternative Album of the Year, Songwriter of the Year (Emily Haines & James Shaw), and Group of the Year—and they’re in town for a few performances. Martin Connelly got the chance to chat on the phone with frontwoman Emily Haines.
There was a lot of press when you released Fantasies on your own. I’m guessing it worked out pretty well, how did it actually work?
Um yeah, really well. That’s worth researching a little if you want that angle in there. I don’t really feel like reeling off statistics but you know, we sold more copies of this record in the first four weeks than we did in the previous four years in the US. So that was good.
So is self-releasing a model you would recommend to other bands?
I think the point is not so much that there’s a model that everyone should follow it’s that everyone should find their own way of doing things. People reference Radiohead all the time, saying, “well, it worked for Radiohead,” and then are foolish enough to think that it’s going to work for them. There are lots of bands who have been giving their music away for free for a long time and no one cares, right? What works for Radiohead works because of who they are. And what works for us works because of who we are. So if we’re going to be any kind of inspiration to other bands I would just say it’s to find whatever your actual path is meant to be, and never let someone tell you you’re supposed to do it like someone else.
So how does that fit in with the whole “death of the music industry” thing?
I don’t believe in the death of the music industry, so, I don’t think it’s happening. I think it’s changing hands. I think that there are people who were in power who don’t have as much power. And the average person, music fan… it’s different….you know? It’s a shift of power. It’s not the end of the music industry, it’s just a shift in power.
So what does that mean for music fans, do you think?
It’s not for me to tell you. I don’t know. “What does it mean?” I don’t know. “What do you think it means for music?” I don’t know. I’m not an oracle, but with online music there’s more… It’s much more democratic, people can find more music. It’s not so top down.
I read somewhere you said that music isn’t a monologue, it’s a conversation, so what kind of conversations are you having?
Well the point of that is that it’s not a spectator event when people come to a Metric concert, it’s like we’re all there together. It’s not as though you’re watching Metric on a big screen TV. We make the night, together with our fans. That’s why when I think it’s a great show it’s because the people who showed up actually understand that they’re the ones making that happen.
What’s the role of place in your songwriting? It seems like whenever you write an album you go to the woods or Argentina… What’s the deal?
Yeah, it’s true. I guess we sort of realized that we only recently realized that ourselves, that that was our way of working and I’ve been interested, I wonder for the next record if it will be possible for us to just be where we are, y’know? But I think what that’s about is really really trying to, because we’re so affected by, and so inspired by places to really sort of as an experiment, almost like setting a film in a certain location, realizing that’s going to affect the story that you tell, right? If you tell a love story set in Afghanistan it’s a lot different than one set in Seattle. So I think that’s why we’re drawn to placing ourselves in definitely unfamiliar places and see what we realize while we’re there.
Metric and openers the Arkells will be performing at the Delta Ballroom on Friday, April 16. The show is sold out, but 100 JunoFest wristband-holders will be permitted access. They are also performing at the Juno Awards Broadcast at Mile One on Sunday, April 18. Tickets and wristbands for both are available at the Mile One box office, 576-7657.