Everything about Emily Haines is Metric. Intellectually, her mind quizzically dissects politics, and theories. Emotionally, she rationalizes issues from feelings. Musically, electronic layers are instrumentally precise. Even opting to self-release their latest album Fantasies, while originally seemingly brazen, became a calculated success. Before the group’s March 24th performance at the Fox Theater, SFCritc spoke to Emily as she took a cab home from the airport.
SFCritic(SFC): Why did you opt to self-release Fantasies?
Emily Haines (EH): We wanted to see who would be with us and embrace the changes that were happening in the industry, instead of just “everything is going to hell, and no one is going to survive.” Luckily, we are immune to that now because after talking to a lot of people we realized we could do more in setting up our company, and doing things are on our own terms than trying to get into a system that is flailing and afraid of taking risks generally.
Instead of feeling like we were employees at a record label, we just hired lots of people. It’s not like it’s just us, total DIY. It was kind of scary there for a minute, because everyone was saying, “No one is selling records,” but then we sold more copies in the first month than we did with the previous record in four years. I guess as usual we’re on our own path that doesn’t have anything with the larger trend.
(SFC): Well congratulations.
(EH): It’s always fun, or more intense, the more you invest yourself in something the more you get back.
(SFC): I’ve heard you discuss journalist and theorist Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar, in which he discusses the relationship between artist and spectator. Particularly, the issues of the changing meaning of art as institutions such as museums, universities, journalists, etc. make their own critiques. What interests you about Hickey and this book?
(EH): I am really inspired by writers, and weirdly–respect music journalists, which I think makes me the exception amongst most musicians. I think it’s a craft. I think it’s been really neglected—sadly. I think about the days of the great legendary rock critics. Who’s going to become that when magazines and newspapers don’t pay anyone properly or don’t seem to respect the history or research that is required?
Regardless, I love to read about music and about art, but I don’t try and take things about mythology or guidelines as to how I’m to behave as an artist. It’s the realm of intellectual debate. Actually, more and more my direction is trying to get further away from being self-conscious of what the parameters are of the mainstream, where it intersects with the underground.
(SFC): I understand that, and respect that you look at us journalists as artists in our own way.
(EH): I do. I hope that something comes of the new voice that writers are being given thanks to the online world. I know that everyone in print thinks that that (print) is more important, but I think if you look at the actual impact, and the daily meaningfulness that people take from the opinions of writers, I think that the online writers are more part of what’s happening sometimes.
(SFC): Is the issue of trying to be “new,” which is a problem in rock, also a problem with today’s journalism?
(EH): Here we are–all we can do is romanticize a time when it looks like everyone got to enjoy the invention of rock ‘n roll. You look to blues musicians who pre-dated that, they probably argue “No, the Rolling Stones did not invent rock ‘n roll.” There are all types of conversations you can have in that department. Maybe even then people felt like they were rehashing.
The nature of making music and making art, what motivates me is that it’s interesting. It’s interesting to listen, to really listen to other people’s point-of-view. Take in their work. Listen to the way they sing. Listen to the way they write lyrics. What they are trying to express. Ideally, we can see that we’re all trying to carry on this sort of lineage, but if 2000s is about recycling, then so be it.
(SFC): Do you think “rock stars” in this whole rock recycling idea connotes the same thing today as it did with the rock legends of Woodstock, or the grunge rockers of the 90s, or whomever you want to compare?
(EH): No. I think it has changed. I think it has changed for the better. I guess it depends who you ask. I read something really funny in Time Out New York about another indie-beard-band. The guy was saying, I like them, it’s good, it’s earnest, it’s genuine and it’s real—but man, I would kill to see someone in a leotard right now!
(SFC): Can we ever see you in a leotard?
(EH): I feel like I’ve come pretty far with my superhero onesies. I’ve explored the pallet. The one thing that I don’t think anyone misses is the decadence and stupidity of the 80s. Right? Does anyone miss that—maybe they do. I don’t.
I think our generation of musicians feels more accountable, and more engaged in the cultural narrative as a whole, instead of just ideally in your own little world where you’re the star of your show. I have so many friends who are musicians who I really respect.
(SFC): Always this is a question from journalists, so I’m going to try and take a different stance on it. Is your gender an issue in the rock world, or is it more of a topic for the press?
(EH): I don’t know. It’s of course a “something.” Being a girl is a something. Being a boy is normal and then everyone else—girls–anyone who is not a boy is the exception. I’m excited for a time when there are enough female musicians that it stops being a genre.
(SFC): I agree.
Metric performs at the Fox Theater on March 24th. Tickets are $25. The show begins at 8pm.
This article is republished from SF Station.