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Canada's Metric measures up to fans

Leading a musical invasion from the north, the quartet has more than just rock on its mind. There's the whole role model thing, too.

By BRIAN ORLOFF
Published November 13, 2005


Sometimes the most exciting music is produced in the most surprising places.

Seattle spawned the early '90s grunge movement. More recently, Omaha produced a glut of influential acts like the much-publicized Bright Eyes.

Now, though, music fans are turning toward eastern Canada, where bands like Broken Social Scene, Stars and the Arcade Fire, of Toronto and Montreal, have issued riveting, challenging albums, all outside the confines of the major label system. And since members sometimes drift between projects or collaborate with each other, there's the sense of a cozy community way up north.

One of the bright spots of the so-called Canadian invasion is Metric, formed by James Shaw and feisty singer-songwriter Emily Haines. Metric marries elastic synth-based sounds with slick guitar rock, especially on its latest album, Live It Out, which matches progressive politics with danceable grooves. On Wednesday, Metric will bring its dance-friendly show to Ybor City's Orpheum, continuing Canada's musical invasion southward.

But first, an outspoken, brash and often charmingly funny Haines called to chat about Metric's place among Canadian bands, its expanding sound and her distaste for rock 'n' roll excesses.

Critics are fawning over all these Canadian bands. Is there a musical renaissance happening?

I think it's definitely not a lie. It's really happening, and what will keep it from really being just a scene is that the music is so different.

It's not like everyone's always together at some big barbecue, but there is some shared intention in everyone's desire to improve the quality of popular music. That isn't to suggest that we're better, but it's just hearing musicians who haven't had to contort so endlessly to become commercially viable, which has so often been the case.

It also has a lot to do with people having more access and less borders musically, because people can find their music in other ways.

Musically, Live It Out is more expansive, but it also feels to me like a natural followup to 2003's Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? Do you think about your music in terms of a progression?

James and I started out as a duo. We were a studio project and then we were in England and we decided to come to New York because waiting around for somebody else to realize our potential was never going to be a fun life. So we came back to New York, and that was right when the Strokes came out. It was a really great time to have an epiphany about live music, because apparently so did everybody else. So we put the band together.

Josh (Winstead) and Joules (Scott-Key) are much more involved now in writing their own parts, like writing themselves into the music, which I think accounts for a lot of the musical content that was missing from the first record.

In your work, you criticize the supposed rebelliousness of the indie rock scene. How do you think about that given the attention surrounding the band?

That's really been on my mind, because I felt the change. We used to say, "Maybe we were only anticonsumer because we didn't have any money." (Laughs.) So, it's kind of the same principle. I think the antiquated image of a rock star is one of the more repulsive humans.

I know that we love to congratulate total selfishness, greed, vanity and irresponsibility, but I'm not really interested in perpetuating that, especially since there are young girls who are really into the band. I feel like the last thing they need is another lame female stereotype.

I'm not an angel, and no one in the band is an angel, but it reminds me of politicians, in a way, where the politician so rarely remembers that it's the people who elected them to that post. It occurred to me that it's the same thing in music. You belong to the people who brought you to that place. Whatever. I don't want to be too . . .

Strident?

Yeah, or theoretical. I'm not a nun. I'm a rock musician.

And it's a little different because you are supposed to have fun.

Yeah, it's not so serious, and I really don't want to give you the impression that I'm sitting in the candlelight with a quill pen. (Laughs.)

PREVIEW

Metric, 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Orpheum, 1902 Avenida Republica de Cuba, Ybor City. $10. (813) 248-9500