“Perfection isn’t compelling, trying to get there is…” - Metric open up to hmv.com about new album Art Of Doubt
Over the course of their 20-year-career, Canadian foursome Metric have built a reputation as one of the most dynamic and interesting bands around.
Blending slinky electronica with dark rock and roll and quirky arrangements, they’ve produced seven acclaimed LPs, the latest of which, Art Of Doubt is now on shelves
To celebrate, we spoke to singer Emily Haines about making the album, touring with The Smashing Pumpkins and why the pursuit of perfection is the enemy...
When did the songs start coming together for this record?
“I write all the time. Everything starts in a similar place, which is praying at the altar of the piano and then I decide where the song belongs. I made a solo record this year too, that’s a much more melancholy, cinematic collection, but all the songs start in the same place. The songs just turn into something else. Our songs are loud and energetic, but they all come from a very vulnerable place. They’re always on the line between falling into the abyss and climbing out of it.”
How easy is it for you to know if a song is for Metric or for your solo career? Do you know straight away?
“No, it’s really an ongoing process. I stockpile ideas and melodies and I won’t know what fits where. With this record, we had 18 songs and we kept working on them. After that it’s an elimination game, the strongest ones survive. That’s not necessarily the most commercial tracks, but the ones we feel the most for.”
Does everyone always agree on which ones they are?
“It’s a very democratic process in Metric. Democracy is taking a beating this year, lots of singular people winning, we seem to be admiring ruthlessness again but not in Metric. We don’t have a leader, there’s just a shared sense that it’s the right thing to do. Given we’ve had 15 years together, we know how to make it work.”
Was there a song on the album that took a long time to get right?
“That’s actually a song called ‘Underline The Black’, which I wrote back in Buenos Aires in 2007. Been sitting on that one for a while. That’s a song about coming home late and being judged and telling someone where to go.”
You did the album with Justin Meldal-Johnson, after self-producing for the last few years. Why did you decide to bring an outside voice in?
“It was Jimmy’s (Shaw, guitarist) call. He’s always wanted to be a producer and develop as a producer, so we’ve always wanted to help him go. But he realised that he was getting no attention, he’s a great guitar player and a great musician, but because he was focused on production, he would never think of himself. We always wanted this album to capture how we are as a live band, we’ve never captured it before. We only had one person in mind and that was Justin, we knew he could capture us as we are.”
Why did you decide on him? He’s worked with Paramore, Wolf Alice and a couple of other bands, but he’s not the most experienced producer…
“Jimmy had done his research. He knew what Justin would bring and he was really lovely. He brought the band together and he really focused on bringing out the best out of each member. I feel like producers try to divide and conquer within bands to try and spark a reaction from you and I’ve never responded to that. Justin knew what to do.”
What kind of album is this in lyrical terms? Does it have a theme?
“The theme emerged as the record came along, it wasn’t there at the outset. The through line is the title, Art Of Doubt, owning your flaws and your humanity. The idea of the best work you’ll do lies in the areas where you’re weakest and what you’re afraid of. It’s owning yourself.”
When did you settle on the album title? Was it there at the start of the process?
“No, it was a late one. We need a title to be three-dimensional and open to interpretation. In this age, with social media and Instagram we spend so much time trying to be perfect we destroy the energy of a moment. Perfection isn’t compelling, trying to get there is. It’s amazing how often you have an idea and you get it down and then you try and get it perfect and you drain all the blood for it. We feel like that about some of our previous records, a desire for perfection robbing them of what made them special.”
You’ve just been out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins, have you been able to test out the new songs?
“We have, it’s typical Metric, doing things backwards. Normally you test out songs in tiny club shows, but we started playing them in front of arena crowds and we were starting the show with three new songs.”
What was that like?
“It was really great actually. When you headline you have to respect your fans, you can’t just go in heavy on new material, but on those shows, the audience didn’t know what was new and what was old. So we got it all up and running.”
Was it odd going back to being a support band? You’re on your seventh album now...
“It’s why we’re still going. We’re able to put ego aside and take these opportunities. We’ve opened for Muse and The Rolling Stones and you have to take those chances. Billy Corgan heard the record and requested us for the whole tour. That’s pretty flattering. It’s crazy to me that you’d let your ego get in the way of shows like that.”
How’s your headline set coming together? You’ve got a lot of songs to pick from…
“It’s an art form in itself. But the new songs seem to find their counterparts in the set. I love the process of doing that. We can do a couple of songs from every record and then a few deep cuts for the diehards. That’s the right balance.”