In the early 2000’s when Rock Was Back and every band in the world seemed to be looking for a wormhole to a 1970’s garage, METRIC frontwoman Emily Haines was hauling around — gasp! — an analog synthesizer as the band worked their way up in New York City’s clubs.
In the late 2000’s, when many bands were being strangled by the industry's power structure, Metric undid all their business entanglements and started their own company, Metric Music International (MMI) with the help of independent managers Mathieu Drouin and Françoise de Grandpré.
Today, they're unencumbered and directly plugged into their listeners' hearts. With single “Help I’m Alive,” they became the first band in history to have their first ever Top 20 hit at U.S. commercial radio without the backing of a traditional label (a feat they repeated with “Gold Guns Girls”). They’ve sold out arenas and headlined festivals. They’ve had a hand in scoring films for everyone from Edgar Wright to David Cronenberg, and they wrote the theme song for the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack with composer Howard Shore. They've even performed their song "Gimme Sympathy" at a private event for the Queen of England. For a band that had always been told they were Doing It Wrong, the Toronto-based quartet have grown into a fresh model for Making It Work.
If 2009's Fantasies was about escaping the familiar and exploring the world, Synthetica is about finding the courage to stay home and deal with your own reflection in the mirror. "It’s about facing what you know is true," Haines says. The band — Haines, Shaw, bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott Key — started work on the album literally the day after their final Fantasies show at the Art Basel modern art festival in Miami at the end of November 2010. They returned to Giant Studios in Toronto. They were emboldened by their fourth album's success (nearly 500,000 albums and over 1 million singles sold worldwide) and thinking big. But the real breakthrough came when pieces of vintage gear began fortuitously falling into their laps. Guitarist-producer Jimmy Shaw puts it this way, “Synthetica is the sonic culmination of everything we have done. We’ve always had a sound in our heads that we hoped to realize. We finally heard it coming out of the speakers this time. It's futuristic and synthesized and yet organic.” The album was mixed by long time METRIC collaborator and Grammy-nominated indie-rock specialist John O’Mahony at New York’s famed Electric Lady Studios.
The first sound you hear on opening track "Artificial Nocturne" — a pulsating, grimy throb — returns as the anchor on gut-wrenching meditation "Dreams So Real" and hypnotic morality twister "Nothing But Time." According to Shaw, "That sound is the foundation of the album. Oddly enough, it’s actually not a synthesizer. It's a '60s organ played through a homemade pedal dreamed up by a local wizard who posted an ad on Craiglist. Together they set the emotional tone." First single "Youth Without Youth" tackles the fraying social state with a bristling energy ("I've always wanted to do a song with the Gary Glitter beat," Shaw says). "Speed the Collapse" is an environmental anthem featuring what is undoubtedly 2012's most stadium-ready chorus.
Haines first envisioned the word “Synthetica” as the name for a particularly resilient skin-job from Blade Runner, a female replicant who voices an inner monologue of all your human imperfections. "If you imagine a nightmarishly fake version of me as a pop star, that’s her,” she says. "And this record was about me saying, I'm going to give more to the music than ever, but there's no way I'm going to turn into someone like that." As she sings on the album's hard-rocking title track, "We're all the time confined to fit the mold / But I won't ever let them make a loser of my soul."
Since their last album, Metric has picked up JUNO Awards for "Alternative Album of the Year" and "Band of the Year," contributed the lead single to the Scott Pilgrim vs The World soundtrack, and landed on the Academy Awards' short list for Twilight's "All Yours," which they co-wrote with composer Howard Shore. They have since partnered up with Howard Shore on another project: The score to David Cronenberg’s latest film Cosmopolis was composed by Shore and performed by METRIC.
Plans for the release of Synthetica are as forward thinking as its grand sound and the band is poised to top the success of Fantasies (which debuted in the Top 10 around the world on iTunes Rock Albums charts as a self-release). Synthetica will be a global self-release on MMI (with joint venture partner Mom + Pop in the USA). Metric's management has aligned with industry legends like Cliff Burnstein and Radiohead manager Brian Message in unconventional partnerships that embrace new technology and keep the artist in the driver’s seat. In a letter written to the fans, Haines gives us a glimpse of what’s to come:
“Synthetica is about insomnia, fucking up, fashion, all the devices and gadgets attached to our brains, getting wasted, watching people die in other countries, watching people die in your own country, dancing your ass off, questioning the cops, poetic justice, standing up for yourself, sex, the apocalypse, doing some stupid shit and totally regretting it but then telling everyone it made you stronger, leaving town as a solution to unsolvable problems, owning your actions, and owning your time.”