Metric Talks Juno Awards, the Internet, and Its Influences

Metric has steadily built a career straddling the line between indie and pop without ever pandering to either audience. The Canadian quartet's newly released sixth album, Pagans in Vegas, doubles down on the synth-forward sounds of 2012's Juno Award-winning Synthetica, eschewing guitars in favor of glitchy analog synths that carve spare, cavernous soundscapes, leaving wide-open terrain for vocalist Emily Haines to navigate.

"We really felt like it was cool to freak out some kids."

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Haines spoke with New Times as the band finished a leg of European touring to talk about the technological past and its dialogue with the digital present.

New Times: Synthesizers are nothing new to Metric. But what feels new on Pagans in Vegas is the particular choices of synth sounds. They seem to reference a very specific time period, 1981-82 OMD and Depeche Mode, just as analog synths were peaking.
Emily Haines: There's definitely a certain nerdy element to the meticulous recording processes that go into making every Metric record. In this case, part of that sound is we recorded to tape, which is a very unusual thing to do with synthesizers. I think a lot of people, when they hear certain sounds, they picture everything in the computer or everything in a box, and that's not the case with this. It was a pretty purist and faithful approach to replicating that sound.

One consistent thread across your work is a lyrical fixation on the digital future — adapting to it, exploring how people fit into the changing modern times. With Pagans you're evoking a time when computers and technology were still the bright, shining future, when maybe we hadn't seen the downside yet. Was that by design?
We've explored where that becomes nostalgia and where that becomes paying homage. I think we're somewhere in between on Pagans. It's always that struggle of coming to terms with great ideas and, when they come to fruition, where do they lead us? We could get started on late capitalism if we wanted to.

That's a whole discussion unto itself.
[It's] something that's always intrigued me. Where's the purity? What's at the source that was good? I think a lot of people are feeling right now that the sense of great promise of the internet democratizing things, allowing for more power, more freedom for individual people — particularly in music, that moment has sort of passed. The power did change hands, but it didn't really trickle down to what we could call the middle class of musicians and artists. The creative class has taken a beating in a lot of ways.

Over the past few years, you've toured with bands such as Imagine Dragons and Paramore. What do you take away from experiences like that, where you're playing with these world-beating, populist acts? Does it influence what you bring to your own live show?
Imagine Dragons was great because it really returned us to our art-rock roots. It was such an unexpected and amazing byproduct. We've never been a part of something that had that much broad, mainstream appeal. The audience is literally everyone. For us, it was really interesting to see that world. I didn't even really know that existed. And it returned us to being the total weirdos that we actually are. We really felt like it was cool to freak out some kids.

Fantasies and Synthetica won Juno Awards [the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy] for Alternative Album. With those kinds of accolades coming in, is there a constant pressure to top yourselves?
I think the pressure comes from inside. There's nothing to prove really. If there ever was, I think we were only trying to prove it to ourselves. The only pressure I feel is to not repeat myself and to continue to evolve.

Metric 8 p.m. Monday, November 2, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; Tickets cost $32.50 with fees via

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