So Jimmy was like “Wow, this band’s fucking brutal,” and Emily was like, “I couldn’t agree more,” but they both had friends in the band so they had to stay and watch – we’ve all been there – and by the end of the night they’d decided they could do better, and, anyway, long story short, they started Metric. That was seven years ago in a bar in Toronto. Since then they’ve gained two members, released two records, supported the Rolling Stones, and toured so much it’s like they’re on the run from the police or something. Which they’re not, but you wouldn’t know that from the rock ‘n’ roll they make, which is desperate and unwashed and criminal, except for Emily Haines’ vocals, which are sweetness itself.
Their single ‘Monster Hospital’ has become an anti-war anthem. People call them a political band. Guitarist Jimmy Shaw isn’t, despite the name, so sure. “I just see us as four people who try not to draw lines between what you’re going to have for breakfast and what you think of foreign policy. Emily says if we’re a political band that’s a really scary state of the world, because all we’re doing is paying attention. You get called a political band just because you say shit other than ‘I love you baby and I want your ass’. But, yeah, we’re political people. We’re scared for the world.”
Not many bands have a moral crisis about the oil their tour bus is burning. Hummer wanted to use their song ‘Succexy’ in a TV ad, but Metric said no. (By the way, the lyrics to that go: “Invasion’s so succexy/ Let’s drink to the military/ The glass is empty/ Faces to fill and cars to feed/ Nothing could beat complete denial.” Good choice, Hummer.)
Sometimes they have too much passion for their own good. “We were playing in Nashville, and on the side of the stage there were these huge Budweiser banners, and Emily noticed how tacky they were and said we should tear them down. And the crowd were ready to do it, hundreds of people. But we saw the bartender looking terrified and looked up, and saw the banners were hanging from this massive lighting rig. It would have been a total disaster. For us it was a lesson that people are listening and people will act. But you can’t just tear something down because you don’t like it. In rock ‘n’ roll the most clichéd thing you can do is trash a hotel room, but to us it’s the most useless thing you could do, because the person who’s going to have to clean up after you is an underpaid maid. What’s rock ‘n’ roll about that?”
But surely they didn’t let corporate America win that little skirmish? “We went back a year later, the banners were rolled up in the back room. It turned out the owner had taken them down the next day. Non-violently.” The Metric system: changing the world, one gig at a time.
...if we’re a political band that’s a really scary state of the world, because all we’re doing is paying attention.
By Ned Beauman