As South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have proven, Canada’s an easy target. But for all of America’s playfully derogatory fun at the expense of our neighbors to the north, even the hateful have to acknowledge: Canada has given us Metric. And Metric continues to grow their following with a vengeance decidely un-Canadian.
The new wave indie rockers from Toronto played the Voodoo Stage over Halloween weekend at Voodoo Fest, and Scene’s Kevin Barraco hung out with half of Metric backstage before a performance that prepared the stage for opening night headliner Muse.
“It’s a beautiful park, it’s a beautiful day,” said guitarist Jimmy Shaw. “There’s some cool bands on the bill and I think we’re playing on the main stage.” Both Jimmy and Metric’s frontlady Emily Haines seemed genuinely intrigued that this year’s festival held them in such esteem.
“I’m pretty excited we got such a serious spot. It’s nice,” said Emily as she sat on a bench behind the main stage. Jimmy continued: “We keep looking at the set list and we’re all surprised it’s not thirty-five minutes long. We were, like, trying to write new songs on the bus [to fill the space].”
Despite their prominent performance slot, Metric’s stop at Voodoo Fest was a brief near-pause on an increasingly demanding dance card. “So much has happened!” said Emily. “We’re wrapping up the touring and have started writing for the next record, which is really cool,” added Jimmy. “We’ve spent a lot of time in Toronto these days, trying to get in the studio and get the new thing kicked off. That’s exciting, and we’ll be doing that again in a couple of weeks.”
“We played our song, ‘Gimme Sympathy’, for the Queen,” said Emily. “We shook hands with the Queen, which was very nice,” Jimmy picked up. “We were told the only thing you’re not supposed to do is say, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ Because it’s obvious. And it was the only thing that we said.” With a grin, Emily agreed, “Our whole group was like, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you. It’s a pleasure to meet you. It’s a pleasure to meet you.’”
Personal performances for heads of state aside, Metric’s influence has been rapidly expanding, due in no small part to their recent inclusion in films such as The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Film is a natural fit for the band, and has been an important part of their growth on the road trip to superstardom.
“One of the first early breaks the band got was in a film called Clean, directed by French director Olivier Assayas,” said Emily. “He’s worked with Sonic Youth, he’s done really interesting stuff. He used our song “Dead Disco” in the beginning of the film. The movie starts with us performing the song [on camera]. And then that led to us meeting Sonic Youth in France, led to the beginning of our time in Europe, and ever since then, it seems that there have been interesting film opportunities to come our way. I like collaborating with directors.”
“We wrote the theme song for the Twilight movie with Howard Shore, the composer,” Emily continued. “The end of the movie is our song, written with him. He came to us saying, ‘Will you write a song with me?’ We needed to write the theme that culminates at the end of the movie, and then throughout the whole movie, you can hear that he took our melody that we wrote, and he has the strings playing it like seven times.” The result is a Twilight film, Eclipse, perhaps the best to date, that’s decidedly Metric-inspired.
“It was really nice to learn from him how the process works in composing. A very preliminary sort of glimpse, but that’s been exciting for me,” said Emily. “It’s always flattering when people ask you to do songs in a soundtrack, but it’s wholly another level when they ask you to write the score. That’s definitely something we’re interested in doing more of.”
In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, starring Michael Cera and directed by Edgar Wright, another major sequence was built around a song by Metric. In the film, a fictional band called Clash at Demonhead plays “Black Sheep,” with Brie Larson’s character stepping in as vocalist for Emily. Brandon Routh plays the band’s guitarist. “Their rendition of it…pretty happening,” Emily remarked.
The expressive synth sounds of Emily and the Boys are a natural fit for film, and the line between the film and music worlds is increasingly hard to see. “We went to Sydney, Australia as part of a festival with Lou Reed and Roy Anderson. They invited us personally,” said Emily. “And we did all of Fantasies with a string quartet and a piano, like a whole other rendition of the music. We go back to do it again at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in honor of director Kathryn Bigelow, who directed The Hurt Locker. A lot of good film stuff is going on.”
Metric’s aggressive touring schedule has brought the band to Louisiana twice in less than a year. While the busy itinerary is important to the band’s success, they said it leaves them little time to enjoy New Orleans. “It’s usually just work! Really the amount of time we get to spend in any city when we’re on tour is so limited,” said Jimmy. “The most that we can hope for is usually to find a great restaurant and try something.”
This trip, Metric made a special stop at 1614 Esplanade to visit The NOLA Art House, the type of tree that could only grow in New Orleans. “We were very fortunate this kid reached out to us,” said Emily. “His name is Justin Gordon, and he and his friends have, over the span of two years, this incredible tree house built entirely of salvaged materials from after the hurricane. It’s pretty incredible. We got to see it today and climbed up and got to hear about the process. It’s like totally a [securely constructed] thing. But he points out that sadly there’s sixty thousand unoccupied houses still out there in this landfill. So these guys are taking the initiative and building something really creative and beautiful in a tree. It’s a real sort of celebration of creativity and making the most of it.”
The theme of eco-consciousness was present throughout Voodoo Experience 2010, with booths by different organizations and companies devoted to it. “That’s one of the things we appreciate about the festival,” said Emily. “People have that awareness. We can’t all just be throwing plastic bottles in a landfill forever.”
To view photos of The NOLA Art House, go to the eco-recycling project’s official website at www.1614esplanade.com. For more information on the best thing Canada has to offer, including Metric’s music video for the Twilight-inspired “Eclipse [All Yours]” and upcoming tour dates, you can visit the band’s website at www.ilovemetric.com.
Photos by Ashley Merlin