By Tiffany Razzano
Toronto indie stalwart Metric is coming down from a stellar high in the month of March. Not only did they open for the Rolling Stones, arguably the biggest rock band in the world, they played at Austin’s SXSW, arguably the biggest rock festival in the world, and played on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, one of the most well-known late night talk shows. Not many bands accomplish this in an entire career, let alone one month.
Metric was formed in 1998 by Emily Haines, lead singer, and Jimmy Shaw, guitarist, songwriter and producer. While living in Brooklyn, they brought in drummer Joules Scott-Key, meeting through him their eventual bassist Josh Winstead. After a couple of EPs, the band released Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? on Everlong Records in 2003.
For 2005’s attention grabbing Live It Out, the band switched labels, joining Canada’s Last Gang Records. “It was a big rush being on this new label,” Shaw said. “It was one of those serendipitous moments.”
Haines and Shaw wrote all the songs together. “Emily would write the lyrics and melody,” Shaw said. “Then she would bring it to me to turn into a Metric song.” The socially and politically conscious lyrics of the band reflect all of their beliefs, though the fact socio-poltical content is unintentional. “We just think that way. We’re awake and aware people,” Shaw said. “It’s who we are as people and it comes out that way.”
The band’s new label gave them complete creative control over their new record. Live It Out was recorded and produced by Shaw in a makeshift studio in his apartment in Los Angeles. Since the apartment was located on top of a bank, the group could only record at night when the bank closed for the day. It was a great experience for Shaw. “It was really free for me,” Shaw said. “No one was looking over my shoulder. The free, creative process was a lot of fun.”
It was this free, creative process that has helped to harbor the great, recent successes for the band. Mick Jagger somehow came across a copy of Live It Out and invited Metric to open for two of their shows at Madison Square Garden in the beginning of March.
“Opening for the Rolling Stones was really crazy. It was just a high to be offered it,” Shaw said. “It brings a credibility to the band that it never had before. It was the big OK from the sky.” Shaw got to see how a huge rock tour happened, and was in awe at the entourage of 400 that followed the Stones around, as well as the 30 tour buses they brought with them. The band played Conan the same week, even further putting them “in a total high.”
Days later the band found themselves playing SXSW. “Everyone had the time of their life,” Shaw said. The band received a lot of recognition, earning what Shaw said was one of the best slots of the festival. They also hooked up with a ton of old friends. “All of the friends [we] had in the world were all hanging out with free drinks. It took 48 hours to get over it.”
Metric is just one of many Toronto bands that have made it big in the indie rock world recently, including Stars and Broken Social Scene. They were able to meet up with many of their friends from the scene at SXSW, almost making the gig feel like a homecoming for them.
“The Toronto scene is pretty amazing. It usually doesn’t happen like that,” Shaw said. He pointed out that unlike other music scenes that revolve around locations such as the garage rock of New York City, the lo-fi folk revival out of San Francisco and late ’90s Brit rock, all the Toronto bands in the indie scene have very distinct sounds from one another.
“We’re unified by a vision, not music,” he said. “We’re bizarrely supportive of each other. It’s healthy competition. We’re constantly raising the bar.”
Metric just went on their final North American tour, which will be followed by a slot at the Coachella festival and a European tour. They’ll play some shows in Canada over the summer as well as more rock festivals, such as Reading and Leeds. After that, the group plans on holing themselves up in a house on the west coast to put together their next album.