You may recognize Metric‘s dynamo frontwoman Emily Haines‘s voice from Broken Social Scene‘s breathy classic “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” (which surely was an anthem to us when we were a seventeen), or from that lovely scene at the end of Eclipse wherein Bella and Edward make out in a field of flowers. Or perhaps you were turned onto them by Lou Reed, a notoriously hard-headed legend who shows up at the end of Metric’s fifth studio album Synthetica because he’s got a soft spot for Haines. We do too, and that’s why we are celebrating the prolific indie-rockers as our You Oughta Know artist for the whole month of December. And so for those just joining us and Reed in the Metric fan club, here are five things we think you really oughta know:
1. What’s In A Name?
As they tell it, the name Metric has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are a band from Canada, a land where roads are measured in kilometers and beers liters. Rather, they say the name sort of just found them: “Jimmy had a song that involved a sound he’d programmed into his keyboard and called ‘Metric.’ When we saw that word on the keyboard’s LED screen it looked so electro. It had a no bullshit vibe. It was a little cold and standoffish and we’re down with that. It works for us,” they tell Spin. A name that might have worked better? “The best band name ever is the Flaming Lips.” Unfortunately, that one was taken.
2. They’re Canadian, But Metric Began In Williamsburg, Brooklyn
As we mentioned, Haines made a name for herself as a some-times frontwoman for amoebic Canadian indie collective Broken Social Scene, but she told us that the dancier Metric has always been her “through line” and that the band was born out of Brooklyn’s notoriously hip Williamsburg neighborhood. “Back then,” they joke, they were hanging out with indie legends like TV on the Radio, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol. “People really live in the shadow of that time in New York,” Haines said, adding that “It was very much the 90’s, very much not the ’60s.” And of that Canadian bit, Haines assures that their heritage than “violins and beards, flowing like maple syrup across the border in a river of Molson Dry.”
Here they are playing in Brooklyn four years ago:
3. Keeping It Indie
Metric’s catalog has grown and their sound has evolved since their early days in Williamsburg, but one thing has remained the same through all the years: they keep it indie. Despite offers from several big record companies, Metric has released each of their five records through independent labels or on their own. This has allowed them to really take charge, to embrace “the future” (more on this soon) and to create their own sound:
4. They Are Inspired By Art, But Will Get You Dancing
“It kind of feels like different film and art inspiration come to us as we’re making music, and keep us going throughout the process,” Haines said, sharing that Synthetica was influenced in particular by radical architecture (like that upside-down house on the album cover, perhaps). You can see this in the arty video for their new single, “Youth Without Youth,” a song that might have you challenging “what is real and what is artificial” but only after you’ve torn yourself away from the dance floor. Metric’s albums are chocked full of insightful moments and artful lyrics that will make you think, but built around pulsing synths and lean guitar lines that make you dance.
5. The Robert Pattinson Connection
As Haines tells it, it was right after they met the Queen of England that the Twilight Saga‘s resident composer Howard Shore approached the band and asked them to help co-write the theme song for Eclipse. “You couldn’t have planned it,” she told us. “It was a bizarre and truly amazing experience to be involved in something that’s that much of a momentary cultural phenomenon,” James Shaw chipped in. “We’re a rock and roll band, we’ve been around for a while and we’re going to be around for longer. Rock and roll’s been around for a long time and it’s going to be around for a lot longer. That film, something went down around that really moved a lot of people and it was just mind blowing to be a part of it.” Things went so well, that Shore then asked them back to help on the Cosmopolis — another Robert Pattinson starring film — soundtrack. Make of that pattern what you will while you enjoy “Long Live,” their stunning contribution to Cosmopolis: