Haines on the band's DIY spirit, new album 'Art Of Doubt', and touring with Smashing Pumpkins
Metric singer Emily Haines has spoken of how their new album ‘Art Of Doubt‘ “100% reflects the political mess” the world is in, and focusses us people’s “flaws and owning the humanity of your existence”.
Released last week, ‘Art Of Doubt’ is the Canadian indie veterans’ seventh studio album – the first since 2015’s ‘Pagans In Vegas’, with the band returning to a more guitar-driven sound. While Metric have never been ones to shy away from having politics enter their music, they say that this record is more political than predecessors, but is a ‘true reflection of our time’.
“I think it’s incredible that there’s been this surge of awareness around sexism, sexual assault and abuse, but for anyone who’s been alive and working as a woman ever, this is not a new thing,” Haines told NME. “One line that has stuck with me from the new record is ‘I change by staying the same’. Blur said it well too with ‘Fall into fashion, fall out again’. What are your values as a person? You either have them or you don’t.”
Haines continued: “If you stay with them then all of these things are going to move around you but there’s a through-line of your life. The phrase ‘change the world’ creeps me out a little in 2018.
“I’m not doing that, all I’m doing is try to contribute something and have an actual identity with pure dedication and a fair amount of sacrifice. It’s really not that high-brow.”
How representative would you say that the singles that we’ve heard are of the album?
“It’s a pretty good sample, because ‘Dark Saturday’ was a little nod to everyone with broken hearts over the lack of guitars on [previous album] ‘Pagans In Vegas’. That was an example of just pure fun. Not only are there guitars, but it’s nasty and rude. You hear the amp, you hear the noise, and it’s not a slick, electronic reality. ‘Dressed To Suppress’ has some of the arena concert vibes that we always have, plus ‘Now Or Never Now’ in many ways is like a classic Metric jam – whatever that means. This record was about rediscovering what the essence of the band is. We like to take risks, but when we’re live on stage there’s something that’s undeniably us. We have put out any of the ballads yet, but I’m on there you can trust that there’s gonna be some heartbreakers – always.”
What is it about the character and spirit of ‘Art Of Doubt’ that sets it apart?
“I guess lyrically it’s a lot more observational. I stumble on this question because we work very nose to the grindstone, then we’re kind of discovering the record with everyone else. The through-lines present themselves in real time, but calling it ‘Art of Doubt’ is about owning your flaws and owning the humanity of your existence. That’s where all the good stuff happens. The glossed-over, perfected, photoshopped version of reality that we’ve all fallen for is fine, but it’s a bit boring. All the interesting things about people, art and conversation comes from people revealing their flaws. It’s about going to war with your insecurities and seeing if you can overcome them.
“I love Justin’s album cover. That shape is so unsatisfying. It’s like ‘Fix it!’ I find it so satisfying. We’re just crammed in the corner with this all-consuming, deeply-flawed shape. Then we ended up following that gesture. Stay with the thing that you doubt because it probably has something real in it.”
How much did the band absorb the horrible political mess of recent years, and how much can it be felt on the record?
“Well, the way that I dealt with this enormous cliff that we seem to be falling off like Lemmings in slow motion was to completely immerse myself in work since the summer of 2016. I did some work with Broken Social Scene, I produced this band called Beaches with Jimmy, then I made and toured a solo album before working on the Metric record. The world that we live in is 100% represented on the record, but not more so than on any other record. There’s no preaching or answers on a Metric record, but I’m deeply engaged in busting myself over my own bullshit while grappling with the real world without living within a protective bubble. Having your head in the sand is not really an option in 2018.”
Your fans are very tribal. What do you think a Metric fan is and what to they expect?
“Yeah, well I meet people all the time so I get a picture. It’s quite a point of pride because our shows are just full of interesting people. For the people who have found us and get it, it’s a really deep connection. We don’t fit and we’ve never wanted to. Even in the beginning, we were literally living in a garage in New York. Sam [Fogarino, drummer] from Interpol was our friend from the vintage clothing store, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and TV On The Radio all lived in the loft. We were the only ones of have synths. It’s hard to believe that in the world on synthesizers, but that was a big deal then. You couldn’t be rock n’ roll and have a synth, and we were like ‘Yes we can!’
We were contemporaries with those bands and our live shows were punk shows. It was never ‘correct’. It was never ‘the thing’. The bands who discover us even now, they get that. We’re not being contrary, we’re just being loyal to the authenticity of what we create. We’re not really willing to let anyone interfere with that and there have been costs and consequences as a result, but it feels so good. When you get up on stage and see the people who understand the point. It’s pretty profound. I can’t believe we’re on our seventh record.”
That’s ‘institution level’. That’s approaching ‘Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame’ shit.
“I know, right? I just want that endorsement so bad! If you saw the organisation that’s running this thing, there’s just four of us. You’re right. We’re a tribe, but an inclusive one.”
Without ever being ‘preachy’, do you feel as if people expect Metric to have ‘a message’?
“It’s all one thing. There is no separation between me and the statement. I am the statement, at this point. Every action and everything I’ve dedicated my adult life to is towards that. I do reference and highlight things, but to do more than that is redundant. If it’s not obvious, then that’s not my problem.”
If you’re running your own DIY operation, how much does it play on your mind about reaching a wider audience and the Metric tribe growing?
“I know more about the industry than I’d like to, but there was really no choice. The fact that we are able not only to survive personally but support out 10 person road crew and have our own little road crew. We’re not skimping on anything. We continue to reach people because we continue to invest and believe in the value of music, even though the day we released ‘Pagans’ was the day that Apple turned to streaming and decided not to pay anyone royalties.
“I didn’t think we were going to recover from that one, that was really scary. But we did and now we have a great relationship with those guys as we figure out how to adapt and exist. Despite headlining arenas in Canada with Death Cab For Cutie opening for us, we’re absolutely open to the idea of opening for Smashing Pumpkins across the US. That’s not something that a lot of bands would be able to stomach when seven albums and 20 years into your career, but the attitude we have is to grow and have new people discover us. It’s in direct proportion to us being free of ego while having complete confidence in our work.
“It’s cool to get that call. We knew we were up for that tour and then Billy Corgan heard the album and offered us the entire tour. It was incredibly perfect timing for us to get out there and play all the new songs. That’s all attitude on our part. We saw it as an opportunity, rather than focus on ‘the injustice of success’ or some shit. The kind of success that we have can’t be bought. We’ll continue to put ourselves in that position.”
Metric’s new album ‘Art Of Doubt’ is out now. The band’s upcoming tour dates are below, with tickets available here.
Saturday 17 – BIRMINGHAM, O2 Institute 2
Sunday 18 – GLASGOW, Queen Margaret Union
Monday 19 – MANCHESTER, O2 Ritz
Tuesday 20 – LONDON, O2 Kentish Town Forum