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Q&A: Metric’s Emily Haines

By: Julia Simon

On “Monster Hospital,” the first single from Metric’s Live It Out, Emily Haines venomously croons, “I fought the war but the war won / I fought the war but the war won’t stop for the love of God.” But in an era rife with anti-war sentiments, Haines explained to that the battle she refers to is a personal one, waged against the overwhelming sense that inner demons were entrapping her. While resignation is a recurring theme throughout Live It Out, this particular war doesn’t actually seem to be winning at all. According to Haines, her foursome has never been stronger.

Considering that their debut, Grow Up and Blow Away, was never released due to label troubles, and that finding distribution with another label resulted in an unbearably epic tour (in a van, no less!) supporting 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now, it’s no wonder the Canadian quartet began contemplating a break-up. Haines, however, insists that Metric have found their moxie again, and this is in part thanks to Fruit Loops and a bacteria-imbrued teddy bear. The band played CMJ last week. How do you feel about playing a showcase like that? It seems like an industry orgy in a way, no?
Emily Haines: It was nice for us to play it and know that we didn’t need anybody’s help. We feel really good with the label we’re working with, so it was nice that we didn’t have to prostitute ourselves to the music industry.

You literally kicked off your shoes onstage last week. Where does all that energy come from?
[Laughs]. I don’t know! There seems to be an unlimited supply of it when I play with this band and I have no idea where it comes from. It must be those Fruit Loops I ate for breakfast.

Seeing you live you seem impervious to everything, which is especially noticeable given you’re a female and have a trio of boys backing you. Do you feel like you need to compensate for your gender at all by being extra balls-out, so to speak, on stage?
[Laughs]. If I were to give any advice to young girls who wanted to be musicians, the main thing that will put you on an even playing field with men is to actually be a musician. I mean, sure, my music comes from a female perspective because, well, that’s what I got.

There’s been a big buzz on MP3 blogs about this new album. A band like Metallica might take issue with it, but for Metric, do you think Internet promotion in this way helpful?
In our case, with Grow Up and Blow Away, it was perfect — anyone who wanted to find our music could find it. We would have loved to release it commercially, but building an Internet following worked better for us in the end. I think a band like Metallica relies on this huge, artificial industry, and they have a lot more to lose when people share their music. For us, I’m flattered. I hope that it means they check it out and then they buy it. And the artwork on Live It Out is so nice, too!

The band members are quite dispersed, geographically. How did this impact the making of the new record?
We were back in Toronto for the making of this record and we’re going to be touring until the end of the year. Being apart was good because it gave everybody a chance to get some air from the process and go on living their lives. The longer you spend in a band, the less sense it makes as a way of life. It’s like you’re in a gang but you’re not 14 anymore. And being apart was really perfect too because we built a studio and then [bassist] Josh [Winstead] and [drummer] Joules [Scott-Key] would come in and lay down all the rhythm tracks; they wrote all their own parts. And then [guitarist] James [Shaw], who sort of arranges everything, and I would have time to ourselves to put the finishing touches on the songs. When we’d all come together, there was definitely a sense of excitement because the whole process seemed like this great conversation. We were working toward a really democratic process.

We heard Metric almost disbanded after the Old World Underground tour. What’s going to be different this time on the road?
Well we get to a tour on a bus! Last time we lived in a van for a year, and I’m not whining, as most bands do it at some point in their careers, but it’s really hard. I just think it’s going to be more fun this time.

Is there something specific that will keep you sane when you’re on the road this time around?
I brought my teddy bear. I don’t know if he keeps me sane, but I bought him at this Goodwill in the northern tundra of Canada. His name is Bacterial Bear [laughs]. He’s probably loaded with small pox and other various strands of unwanted diseases.