Help I'm Alive
Metric has only recently won huge mainstream pop success in the United States, but the band has been around for almost a decade. And the band's four members have, of course, been playing music even longer. Lead singer Emily Haines turned to music as a kid growing up in a typical suburb in Ontario, Canada: "Probably out of boredom," she later recalled, "my brother would often invite me to come hang out in his room and listen to records. I spent many rainy afternoons crouched on the floor beside his turntable in awe of what was possible. Later, he bought me my first recording device, a Fostex X-12 cassette four-track. I used it to record my very first songs. It really helped me compose and develop arrangements. He loved to remind me that the Beatles had achieved greatness with just four tracks. He told me to aim high."
Fast-forward a decade or so: Haines is now in Toronto, feeling safe and uninspired. Jimmy Shaw, meanwhile, grew up playing trumpet, not what you'd expect from a rock guitarist. He explains: "I was a classical trumpet player as a kid, I played in orchestras, went to Juilliard, I was totally supposed to play the trumpet in the classical world. It was when I started listening to a few other records, Steely Dan, I thought wait a minute, I want to rethink that. I want to do that instead, that sounds like way more fun. After listening to rock. I think as a 17-year-old watching The Smiths' last concert, ploughing through bottles of Jack, I thought, 'I wanna try that.'" When the two met, it was instant musical chemistry and they took an overnight Greyhound bus to New York with the sole intention of forming a great band. Says Emily, "It was a fantastic cliché and we made it real. We arrived in the city with nothing. Looking back, I know we could have made it easier for ourselves, but I'm glad we didn't." Living in a carbon monoxide-infused industrial apartment in Manhattan where the oil-run heating system would randomly run out during the coldest winter nights wasn't exactly luxurious, but dealing with situations like this only made the duo stronger and made for some funny memories: "Friends from those days tell me their impression of me was of a stressed out and skinny Lady Macbeth with cropped black hair," Haines says, "consumed by her desire to bleach the stink of cat piss from her concrete floors, charging up and down Bedford Ave burdened with buckets and cleaning supplies, haggling with Sydney (the guy who sold used furniture that was basically garbage) or jogging with the junkies in McCarren park."
Around this time, the pair realized that a bassist and a drummer were essential. Serendipity delivered Joules Scott Key and Joshua Winstead at the perfect time in 2003 and Metric was officially born. After recording their first three albums, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now, and Live it Out, and touring almost nonstop, the bandmates decided to take a break from each other for a minute in order to write some new tracks in 2007. After putting many of these new singles to the "road test" to see how they and their fans liked them, the four musicians went on a recording journey from one studio to the next and the end result was 2009's Fantasies.
Always determined to follow their own path, Metric abandoned corporate record labels to produce and distribute Fantasies entirely on their own. As Haines explained to an interviewer, "It was strange having some real choices for the first time in our career while also feeling like whichever deal we chose was going to end up being restrictive and force us to compromise creatively. At one point, we just said 'oh f--- it, let's gamble,' took a deep breath and decided to put this record out worldwide our own way. I do think the old music industry has been more interested in trying to shut down the future than in developing new ideas. That's why Metric decided to put together our own label for worldwide distribution and make IloveMetric.com our international headquarters. The future is here and Metric delivers!"
So there you have it: a talented band, crazy recording locations, some killer lyrics, synthesizers, drums, and Emily Haines' haunting, powerful voice over all of it. And they did it all on their own. Metric is officially back, and from the looks of it, we'll be seeing them around for quite awhile.