"I would hate to be so jaded or uninspired that I couldn’t appreciate how amazing moments in my life actually are."
When the call goes through to chat to Metric's lead singer and songwriter Emily Haines about her upcoming Australian tour, she speaks matter-of-factly of a milestone that any musician would consider a peak of their career. “We're about to play Madison Square Garden,” she shares, “we're on in a few hours. We opened for The Stones here [in 2006], so I have great memories of it.”
Since forming Metric in 1998, Haines claims to be in constant awe of her life. “You find 'normal' within it, but if I ever stop being excited or grateful or amazed, that's the time to bow out. I would hate to be so jaded or uninspired that I couldn't appreciate how amazing moments in my life actually are. This tour we're on couldn't be better. We're playing in new places, with new bands and a whole bunch of new people are hearing our music.”
The latest place Metric find themselves in is the iTunes App Store. Not content with releasing their new album Synthetica, and a remix album Synthetica Reflections, the Toronto four-piece created an interactive app that allows viewers to isolate instrumental tracks within songs and effectively remix the album themselves. Crossing paths with app developer extraordinaire Scott Snibbe – the mastermind behind Bjork's Biophilia project – Haines explains that once they began discussing the idea, bringing it to fruition was imperative.
“There is no reason to put out an app just for the sake of it,” she offers. “It facilitated an idea we already had, and, just to be clear, I'm making zero comparison with what they [Björk and Snibbe] did – that was a multimillion dollar project, and it was totally incredible. For us, seeing Synthetica on the App Store, it's just a beautiful companion to the record. It's a throwback to the way listening to an album used to be an immersive experience. You'd buy it, take it home, put it on the turntable and stare at the cover and take in all this associated imagery. With the app, I love the swirling visuals and the way you can customise the music… it's perfect for kids and stoners I guess [laughs]. I really want to open it up to people. The whole premise is you get to be in the music and change it. Instead of predicting and pushing something, it would be great to get a sense of what people want and upgrade it to keep it accessible and enjoyable.”
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While Synthetica, the band's fifth album, is their most successful yet, there is never any sense from Haines that this is anything other than a point on a much longer journey. So far, the band's journey includes scoring Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and David Cronenberg's 2012 puzzler Cosmopolis. The band's strong work ethic is all over Synthetica. “I fought for every word on that record,” Haines explains. “I had to defend every idea and phrase, because… well, that's just the way we work. I do feel like Synthetica sounds confident, but doubt is never going to leave entirely.”
This inherent humanity and realism infuses their synth-driven music. “On this album, we contemplated: where does you, as the pure version of yourself, end and where does the external world begin? And how much can you inhabit it?” Haines explains. “These ideas can be applied to a sci-fi film, dance music or an indie-rock band. From the beginning our idea was always to make our way into wherever we didn't belong, to be that one song on the radio where people are like, 'Whoa, what's that?' And in a lot of ways, on Synthetica, we're really in this zone now.”
Haines visited our shores as part of the Lou Reed- and Laurie Anderson-curated Vivid LIVE festival in 2010 and her long-standing friendship with Reed is a topic that is still, understandably, sensitive. However, the mention of his name, after a silence, seems to inspire. “We can philosophise about ideas and direction, but in the end it's all music,” she muses. “The power of music is one thing no one can explain – why certain music lasts and how it connects. It's amazing to think how important this man was to so many people: he had one hit! All those records people grew up on and that kids are still growing up on now, it had the power to create something that people who would be strangers – the contents of a subway car, basically – could share. What is that transformative power of music?” She asks rhetorically. “I don't know, but it's something that can't be cheapened.”