Metric’s new album “Art of Doubt” is a quintessential record from the Canadian rock band. But it was almost the complete opposite.
The quartet first approached the follow-up to 2015's "Pagans In Vegas" with a bold plan.
"We had a very ambitious idea of these two polar opposites sounds, splitting the atom of what makes us us," singer Emily Haines says.
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She says they mapped out a sound that was far removed from the guitar and synth-driven rock anthems on Metric’s previous six albums.
"We were gonna make the warmest Neil Young 'Harvest' album," she says. "Huge string arrangements, pianos, all that stuff."
It was a fun experiment. But they realized something when they listened back.
"It bore no resemblance to the band we want to be," she says.
Guitarist Jimmy Shaw says the lesson was clear.
"We needed to stop trying to make music because we found that interesting and we needed to make the music that was actually really the identity of the band," he says.
So they started over. But the band wasn't sure how to get back to that identity after all that work to get away from it. They needed some outside perspective, which came from their old friend Justin Meldal -Johnsen, a musician and producer who’s worked with Beck and Nine Inch Nails.
He knew the band well. He was at some of Metric’s very first shows in the late 1990s, when there were just 50 people in the audience. Haines says he was the perfect producer to get them back on track.
"It was a bit like a feeling of creative friendship," she says. "Someone who understands why you wanted to dye your hair blue, but can just be like: 'Look, that's not really you.'"
With Meldal-Johnsen running the recording equipment, Metric could play together as a full quartet in the studio. That was a novelty for the band. Shaw says he’s always had to multi-task.
"I’ve either produced or co-produced every record up until this point," Shaw says. "I couldn't be at the helm and also playing the instruments."
Metric wrote and recorded “Art of Doubt” in just a few months, more quickly than any of the band’s previous albums. The band members say it’s a great snapshot of the signature sound fans hear at their live shows.
Moving away from the band’s identity ultimately led Metric to embrace it even more. Haines says there’s still opportunity to experiment. But on “Art of Doubt,” Metric is the band they want to be.
"There’s a million things you can do but we’re not gonna do a million things," Haines says. "We’re gonna be the four of us. That's what makes us special, and why people keep coming back seven albums in."
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