James Shaw, Joules Scott-Key and Emily Haines, live in 2010
|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||Indie rock, alternative rock, New Wave, post-punk revival, synthpop, dance-rock|
|Labels||Metric Music International|
Last Gang Records
Arts & Crafts Productions (Mexico Only)
|Associated acts||Broken Social Scene, Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, Bang Lime, Lou Reed|
Metric is a Canadian indie rock band founded in 1998 in Toronto. They were also at various times been based in Montreal, London, New York City and Los Angeles. The band consists of Emily Haines (lead vocals, synthesizers, guitar, tambourine, harmonica, piano), James Shaw (guitar, synthesizers, theremin, backing vocals), Joshua Winstead (bass, synthesizers, backing vocals) and Joules Scott-Key (drums, percussion).
The band started in 1998 as a duo formed by Haines and Shaw. Initially, the duo's name was Mainstream. After releasing an EP titled Mainstream EP, they changed the band's name to Metric, after a sound that was programmed by Shaw on his keyboard in 1998. In 2001, Winstead and Scott-Key joined them.
Haines and Shaw also perform with the band Broken Social Scene. In 1996, Haines has released the album Cut in Half and Also Double. Under Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton moniker, she released in 2006 the studio album Knives Don't Have Your Back, followed in 2007 by the EP What Is Free to a Good Home?. Emily Haines has been a guest on albums by artists like Stars, KC Accidental, The Stills, Jason Collett, The Crystal Method and Tiësto. Shaw issued the studio album Life on the Clock in 1997. Scott-Key and Winstead have their own side project, Bang Lime.
Metric released five studio albums so far: Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (2003), Live It Out (2005), Grow Up and Blow Away (2007), Fantasies (2009), and Synthetica (2012).
Their discography includes also one soundtrack album: Cosmopolis (2012); seven EPs: Mainstream EP (1998), Static Anonymity EP (2001), Live at Metropolis EP (2007), Plug In Plug Out (2009), Spotify Acoustic EP (2010), Spotify Covers EP (2010), iTunes Session (2011); one live DVD: Live at Metropolis (2008); plus a string of singles.
Their first official studio album, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, was released in September 2, 2003. It was followed by Live It Out, released on October 4, 2005. The album was nominated for the 2006 Polaris Music Prize for the "Canadian Album of the Year" and for the 2006 Juno Awards for "Best Alternative Album".
Their third studio album Grow Up and Blow Away was recorded in 2001 and it was initially planned as their debut album. The album was delayed for many years and it was finally released in June 26, 2007, with some changes in track list. Some songs were also slightly reworked.
Metric's fourth album Fantasies was released in April 7, 2009. It was shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize for "Canadian Album of the Year", and won the "Alternative Album of the Year" at the 2010 Juno Awards. Metric won as well in 2010 "Group of the Year". Fantasies also became the band's most successful album so far.
The fifth Metric studio album, Synthetica, was released on June 12, 2012. The band won two awards at 2013 Juno Awards: "Alternative Album of the Year" for Synthetica and "Producer of the Year" for James Shaw. The art director/designer/photographer Justin Broadbent also won an award for "Recording Package of the Year" for Synthetica.
Born in New Delhi, India, and raised in Cache Bay, Ontario, Emily Haines grew up as a dual citizen of both Canada and the United States, the latter due to her American-born parents. The daughter of poet Paul Haines (best known for his lyrical collaboration with Carla Bley in the 1971 jazz opera Escalator over the Hill), Haines left London at the age of three. Paul would often make cassettes of rare and eclectic music for his daughter to listen to, and her early influences included Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt.
Haines attended Etobicoke School of the Arts. There she met Amy Millan (future member of Stars and Broken Social Scene), and Kevin Drew (future member of Broken Social Scene). Haines and Millan briefly formed their first band around 1990 while at ESA. Haines attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in 1992–1993, at Toronto in 1995, and at Concordia University in Montreal in 1995–1996. She distributed in 1996 an early album titled Cut in Half and Also Double with a limited number of copies, that included songs written and recorded during her student years.
UK born James Shaw was a student at a Boston music school and was friends with Torquil Campbell, a vocalist who would later form Stars, and Chris Seligman, the future synthesizer player of Stars. Torquil had plans to move to New York City and on his suggestion, Shaw applied to Juilliard Music School and moved to New York with him. After a three-year education at the institution, Shaw had acquired considerable classical training but did not enjoy his stay and knew his musical interests lay elsewhere. Shaw and Torquil returned to Toronto.
Emily Haines met James Shaw in Toronto in 1997. The two of them began dating and writing songs together. In the same year, Shaw released his studio album, Life on the Clock, which also featured Haines singing on some songs. Shaw also moved to Montreal where Haines was still living. In 1998, they self-released an EP titled Mainstream EP, that contained 5 tracks with an overall downtempo and electronic feel. Haines later revealed that the band was called Mainstream at the time: "the very first name that Jimmy and I had was Mainstream. We put out an EP under that name".
A bit later they changed the name to Metric. According to Emily Haines, the name "came from a song that Jimmy [Shaw] and I were working on back in Toronto in the early days, like '97 or '98. 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. Some people think it has something to do with the fact that we're from Canada -- which uses the metric system. That was coincidental, though at the time we were into arty electronic stuff that was coming out of European countries that also use the metric system. But if we'd wanted to use a name that evoked Canada, we would've called ourselves the Toques or something".
In the fall of 1998, Shaw moved back to New York City, this time accompanied by Haines, Campbell, and Seligman. There they shared a loft in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. During their two-year stay at the loft, Haines and Shaw were erstwhile roommates with future members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and TV on the Radio. In an interview with 91X FM radio, Shaw said that although this sounded like an amazing place to live, they were broke and "it was difficult for everyone involved".
That same year, Warner Bros. Records showed interest in the group and the band did a development deal with them. A producer in London saw the potential of commercial success from the demos they recorded in this period and offered to bring Metric to the UK for a possible record deal. Eager to take a break from the somewhat miserable conditions of the loft, Haines and Shaw set off to London in early 2000 and signed a publishing deal with Chrysalis Records.
With the help of the producer Stephen Hague (who had produced acts like Erasure, New Order, and the Pet Shop Boys), Metric worked on a new batch of new wave/synthpop drum machine paced songs. Although Metric already had a semi-mainstream appeal, they felt restricted by the confines of recording demos and were eager to return to NYC and put a live band together. In November 2000, they moved back to their Brooklyn loft.
Metric continued to work on their debut album in the first few months of 2001. Now dubbed Grow Up and Blow Away, the effort revealed a more musically layered and mature sound than the earlier Mainstream EP. Haines and Shaw completed the album in April and by this time had found a new label for their release, the L.A. indie label Restless Records. The album (produced by Shaw) was delayed for years by their record label, Restless Records. It will be finally released in 2007 on Last Gang Records.
Grow Up and Blow Away included uptempo songs such as the title track "Grow Up and Blow Away", "Raw Sugar", and "Soft Rock Star", downtempo songs like "White Gold", "The Twist", and "Rock Me Now" (which included singing by Shaw, spoken-word vocals by Haines in a manner reminiscent of "The Mandate", and had an overall jazzy vibe). "Parkdale", featuring trumpeting by Shaw and a fanfare intro, concerned the Parkdale, Toronto neighborhood.
In the same year, the band released Static Anonymity, an EP which consisted of 5 songs. Three tracks from the EP also featured on Grow Up and Blow Away. The EP was only available at Metric performances and on their official site.
In the winter of 2001, Metric had gained two new bandmates: the drummer Joules Scott-Key (a native of Flint, Michigan) and the bassist Joshua Winstead (a native from Texas). Scott-Key attended college in Texas and was in town with his friend Winstead performing in the local music scene. Scott-Key (no relation to Francis Scott Key) and Winstead had known each other for about a decade and they met Haines and Shaw at the Brooklyn loft and at local performances.
Metric at the time was for the most part a studio band and live shows approximated the synthesizer-centered and drum machine-driven sound of the recordings. The recruitment of a drummer and a bassist, facilitated a stronger, more engaging live presence. Metric performed in New York in early spring and late summer 2001, personally circulating handmade CD-R copies of their unreleased music to fans at shows and by mail, eventually giving the music away for free on the internet.
Metric received their first major public exposure in August 2001 with the television commercial "Be Afraid", advertising Polaroid's I-Zone Pocket Fortune film. The music used for the ad was taken from the song "Grow Up and Blow Away", with the line "Why does it feel so good to die today?" changed to "Why does it feel so good to fly away?".
In 2003, Metric released their first official studio album Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? on Last Gang Records. The album was produced by Michael Andrews and it was recorded at Elgonix Labs, Los Angeles, USA. Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? received generally positive reviews. As of 12 December 2005, the album has gone gold in Canada.
The songs "Combat Baby" and "Dead Disco" were released as singles. "Combat Baby" was featured as a free single on iTunes in 2004. Also there were made six music videos for the following songs: "Calculation Theme", "IOU", "Combat Baby", "Succexy", "The List", "Dead Disco".
Metric was featured as themselves in the 2004 independent French film, Clean, directed by Olivier Assayas and starring Maggie Cheung. The band performed the song "Dead Disco" in the film and also acted in a short sequence. The film was nominated for the Palme D'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. The soundtrack also features songs by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Emily Haines, Metric and Tricky.
On October 4, 2005, Metric released their second studio album, Live It Out, on Last Gang Records. The album, produced by James Shaw, was well received by critics and fans. Live It Out was a success in Canada, already selling twice as many copies as Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?. The album has since gone twice platinum in Canada, selling over 200,000 units.
Three singles supported the album' sales: "Monster Hospital" (number 55 on UK singles charts), "Poster of a Girl" and "Empty". "Monster Hospital" was selected as NME Track of the Week and also featured at number 12 on NME Tracks Of 2006. Live It Out also featured at number 38 at NME Recordings of 2006.
During this time, Metric was approached by and agreed to open for the Rolling Stones whose tour coincided with theirs in New York City. The band did a UK-wide tour supporting Bloc Party as well as performing at Reading and Leeds Festival, The Great Escape in Brighton, Wireless Festival at Hyde Park in London and numerous club dates throughout the UK. The band has toured the world extensively for several years playing concerts in France, Germany, Iceland, Brazil, Greece, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, United States, Canada, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan to promote Live it Out.
On June 26, 2007, Last Gang Records released Metric's 2001 album Grow Up and Blow Away, with an altered track listing compared to the unofficial version. There were added the songs "London Halflife" and "Soft Rock Star" (Jimmy vs. Joe mix) from the 2001 EP Static Anonymity and removed the songs "Torture Me", "Fanfare" and "Parkdale". Also the order of some songs was changed and some songs (like the title track and "Rock Me Now") were slightly reworked.
Throughout the summer of 2007, four new songs were road-tested by the band, tentatively named "Black Sheep", "The Hooks", "Stadium Love", and "Up in Flames". On October 4, 2007, Metric played a live webcast show on Myspace's "Hey Play This" programme. Fans sent in requests and the band played a selected few. Along with old material, they performed several new songs, including "Freddie" (aka "Black Sheep"), "Standing in Line", "Gimme Sympathy" (aka "The Hooks"), "Twilight", "Joyride" and "Stadium Love".
On November 13, 2007, Last Gang Records released a trailer on YouTube for a Metric DVD showcasing a live concert at the Metropolis Theatre in Montreal, as well as all three music videos from Live It Out. The DVD titled Live at Metropolis was released on February 12, 2008. A three-track audio EP was released on iTunes in December. The EP features the live tracks "The Police and the Private", "Too Little Too Late" and "Patriarch on a Vespa" from the DVD, as well as the DVD trailer.
The band performed select dates in 2008 in Canada, Mexico and Brazil while continuing to record their upcoming fourth album. They performed at Coachella Festival on April 27, 2008, and at the 2008 Ottawa Bluesfest on July 11, 2008 in addition to playing at the 2008 Pemberton Festival in Pemberton, British Columbia on July 25, 2008 and All Points West Music & Arts Festival in New Jersey on August 9, 2008.
During December 13–23, 2008, Metric toured across Canada with Tokyo Police Club, The Dears, and Sebastien Grainger and The Mountains, to raise money for various charities under the name "Jingle Bell Rock" tour. "Help, I'm Alive" was officially released as the lead single from the upcoming album on iTunes on December 23, 2008 in Canada and January 1, 2009 around the rest of the world.
Their fourth record, Fantasies, was self-released on April 7, 2009 through their own label, Metric Music International. The album was produced by Gavin Brown and James Shaw and it was recorded at Electric Lady Studios, New York. Fantasies was issued in multiple versions: standard edition (featuring 10 tracks), deluxe edition (including 4 more tracks), deluxe edition UK edition (including 10 more tracks), and later, Expanded Edition (a second disc with 10 tracks).
Fantasies was generally well received by critics and fans. As of 2012 it has sold 500,000 copies, becoming the band's best selling album so far. All 10 tracks were previously performed acoustically by Haines and Shaw on September 7, 2008, at Union Pool in Brooklyn under the premises of an Emily Haines solo show.
The music video for "Gimme Sympathy" was released on Myspace on March 16, 2009. Emily and Jimmy completed a mini tour of exclusive acoustic shows across Canada, with stops in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Victoria in late April with cooperation from local radio stations. The band finished a Europe tour in May 2009 and toured the US (with Sebastien Grainger and The Mountains and Smile Smile), UK, and Canada at certain music festivals during the summer. They then headed to Australia for their first ever Australian tour in early October, as well as one show in Tokyo.
On August 30, 2009, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park fame made his remix of the track "Gold Guns Girls" available for streaming on his website. He used the remix as the theme for his art exhibition Glorious Excess (Dies), and later became part of a compilation album set up by Linkin Park's Music for Relief for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
On October 27, 2009, Metric released a 5-track EP called Plug In Plug Out containing acoustic versions of songs from Fantasies. The EP was available exclusively on Amazon for 30 days.
Emily and Jimmy performed an acoustic version of "Help I'm Alive" on January 22, 2010 for the Canada for Haiti telethon. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Metric, along with several other Canadian music acts, came together in Vancouver to re-record K'Naan's song "Wavin' Flag" to benefit Haiti in a movement called Young Artists for Haiti.
The track, "Black Sheep", was released on August 10, 2010, and became available on the band's Myspace page. The song is on the soundtrack for the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In the movie this song is sung by Brie Larson who played Envy Adams in the film. Scott Pilgrim author Bryan Lee O'Malley said he was inspired by concert photos of Emily Haines while originally drawing Envy's singing poses.
The band toured in Western USA, before playing shows in the Canadian Maritimes and Eastern Ontario for most of March 2010. Metric also toured with Sarah McLachlan for part of her 2010 Lilith Fair.
Metric won two awards ("Group of the Year" and "Alternative Album of the Year" for Fantasies) at the 2010 Juno Awards.
On June 8, 2010, the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack was released featuring Metric' song "Eclipse (All Yours)". The song was written with the film's composer, Howard Shore. An acoustic version of the song can be found on the Expanded Edition of Fantasies. On July 21, 2010, the band performed the song on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
During October and November 2010, Metric opened for Muse for seven shows of The Resistance Tour. Later that year, the band was part of the lineup for Voodoo Experience 2010, which took place over Halloween weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana, US.
On January 4, 2011, Metric released an iTunes Session EP exclusively on iTunes, consisting of 8 live tracks, including "Hustle Rose", "Empty" and a cover of the Buffalo Springfield song "Expecting to Fly", and a 30 minute interview.
In October 2011, Metric released a collection of remixes from Fantasies entitled Fantasies Flashbacks through a collaboration with website Indaba Music. The band released all the individual tracks as well as their stems so that the general public could remix the songs. The songs were then submitted online to Indaba and the band chose the winning remixes for the album. An unofficial album Electrified Fantasies featuring 14 remixes of songs of the album "Fantasies" appeared in January 2012. The tracks were selected from 1767 remixes that arose from the official remix contest and are licensed under a Creative Commons license.
In October 2011, Haines announced that the band was nearing completion of the band's fifth studio album. The album Synthetica was released on June 12, 2012 on the band's own label, Metric Music International, and received generally positive reviews. Synthetica was produced by Gavin Brown, John O'Mahony, Liam O'Neil, James Shaw, and it was recorded at Giant Studios (Metric's own studio) and Electric Lady Studios. The album also included a collaboration with Lou Reed, who sang with Haines on "Wanderlust". For iTunes pre-orders, they included five instrumental bonus tracks, that were the basis of five songs from the album. A deluxe version, with five additional acoustic tracks, was released on November 20, 2012.
In a letter posted on the band's website, Haines said "Synthetica is about staying home and wanting to crawl out of your skin from the lack of external stimulation... about forcing yourself to confront what you see in the mirror when you finally stand still long enough to catch a reflection... about being able to identify the original in a long line of reproductions. It's about what is real vs what is artificial".
The album's first single "Youth Without Youth" was released to the internet on April 30, 2012. This was followed by a sneak preview of "Speed the Collapse", which was released to the internet on May 23, 2012.
On May 29, 2012, the band started a hide and seek hunt for fans to access an early stream of Synthetica. The secretive stream became available on the band's SoundCloud page. A few days later the stream became publicly available.
In late 2011 it was announced that the band would be contributing to the soundtrack of David Cronenberg's 2012 drama film entitled Cosmopolis. Songs were co-written by the band with film composer Howard Shore as well as an appearance by K'naan on one track. This was the second time that the band collaborated with Shore after their previous work on the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack. The soundtrack was released on June 5, 2012 in Canada and on July 10, 2012 in the United States.
The band played Sasquatch! Music Festival on May 26, 2012, where they played a set containing songs from previous albums as well as Synthetica. They are playing select festival dates throughout June. On April 18, 2012, they announced a short UK tour playing three dates at Shepherds Bush Empire on July 2, HMV Ritz on July 7 and O2 Academy on July 8.
On August 21, 2012, the first episode of a documentary about the making of Synthetica was released on the band's YouTube channel. The documentary commences during the initial stages at the band's home studio in Toronto, Canada, and the camera is also present at the recording sessions that occurred in New York's Electric Lady Studios. Haines reveals in the first episode that none of the band members are religious and all work from "a feeling". The band wrapped up a 25+ tour dates US Tour on October 14, 2012. They embarked on their first arena tour across Canada, which started in Victoria, BC on November 9, 2012 and ended November 24th, 2012 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON.
On November 20, 2012, Metric released a deluxe version of Synthetica, which featured acoustic versions of songs on the album, as well as a cover of "Strange Weather" by Tom Waits. On April 12 and 19, 2013 they performed at Coachella Festival.
The band won three awards at 2013 Juno Awards: "Alternative Album of the Year" for Synthetica and "Producer of the Year" for James Shaw. The art director/designer/photographer Justin Broadbent also won an award for "Recording Package of the Year" for Synthetica.
Emily Haines and James Shaw also perform with Broken Social Scene. Haines featured as vocalist on BSS' albums You Forgot It in People, Bee Hives, Broken Social Scene and Forgiveness Rock Record. One of BSS' most popular songs, "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl", was sung by her.
Haines has also been a guest on albums by artists like Stars, KC Accidental, The Stills, Jason Collett, The Crystal Method, Tiësto, Delerium, k-os, MSTRKRFT, and Todor Kobakov.
In 1996, Emily Haines has released the album Cut in Half and Also Double. Under Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton moniker, she released in 2006 the studio album Knives Don't Have Your Back, followed in 2007 by the EP What Is Free to a Good Home?. The album and the EP are a collection of piano-driven songs backed with soft strings and horns. The songs "Our Hell" and "Doctor Blind" were issued as singles and also there were made music videos for them.
In 1997, Shaw released his studio album, Life on the Clock. The album featured Haines singing on some tracks. The songs "Down" and "Tortury" were later reworked as Metric songs. The reworked version of "Down" featured later on the 2001 EP Static Anonymity and "Tortury" (renamed to "Torture Me") on the unreleased version of Grow Up and Blow Away album.
Scott-Key and Winstead have their own side project, the band Bang Lime. The band released the album Best Friends in Love on August 14, 2007 on Last Gang Records.
Metric's music style has been described as indie rock and alternative rock, with elements of New Wave, post-punk revival, synthpop, dance-rock. Sounds generated by synthesizers are prominent in their songs.
Their sound evolved from the mellow/downtempo style of their early EPs and Grow Up and Blow Away album, to the new wave style of Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? and Live It Out, to the accessible indie rock of Fantasies, and to the more electronic Synthetica. Some of their songs (like "IOU", "Succexy", "Combat Baby", "Monster Hospital") include messages anti-war.
The band also recorded many covers from artists like Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Pet Shop Boys, The Church, Death from Above 1979, Brenda Lee, Tom Waits, Neil Young, Blondie, The Strokes, Morrissey and Elliott Smith. They also released many acoustic versions of some of their own songs on deluxe versions of some of their albums.
Metric is known as an excellent live band. They toured mostly in North America, South America and Europe.
During Metric live performances, Emily Haines sings and play two synthesizers and occasionally she plays a tambourine or a guitar. One of the two synthesizers is a Sequential Circuits Pro-One, which she played it on every live performance with the whole band since Old World Underground era. James Shaw plays guitar and Joshua Winstead plays bass. Both Shaw and Winstead occasionally play a synthesizer each, and also sing backing vocals. Joules Scott-Key plays drums.
The band is also known for their acoustic performances as a duo, with Emily Haines singing and/or playing various instruments (piano, harmonica, tambourine) and James Shaw playing the acoustic guitar and occasionally singing.
Metric performed at various music festivals like Coachella, Osheaga, Bluesfest, Pemberton, All Points West, Glastonbury, Bumbershoot, Virgin Festival, Download Festival, Pukkelpop, Squamish, SXSW, Sasquatch!, La Route Du Rock, The Great Escape, Edgefest, Reading and Leeds Festival, Rock Werchter, Wireless, Splendour in the Grass, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits.
They also performed at various radio stations (including KCRW, 3VOOR12, BBC 6Music, XFM) and various TV shows (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, VH1 Divas, Later... with Jools Holland, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Last Call with Carson Daly).
Metric opened for artists like The Rolling Stones, Muse, Billy Talent, Bloc Party, Hot Hot Heat, Modest Mouse, Death From Above 1979, Broken Social Scene, and Arcade Fire.
Bands that opened for Metric include artists like Phantogram, Crystal Castles, Holy Fuck, Stars, Hadouken!, Sebastien Grainger, Kate Nash, The Stills, Band of Skulls, Codeine Velvet Club, Bear in Heaven, Passion Pit, Nick Zinner (from Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and Chew Lips.
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