Metric coming to Victoria with new album in tow

IN CONCERT

What: Metric with July Talk and Murray A. Lightburn
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St.
When: Wednesday, April 17, 6:45 p.m. (doors at 5:45)
Tickets: $36, $50.50, and $60.50 available from selectyourtickets.com, by phone at 250-220-7777, or in person at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre box office

Metric has always prided itself on being a fan-first entity. Group members Emily Haines (vocals, synthesizers), Jimmy Shaw (guitar), Joshua Winstead (bass) and Joules Scott-Key (drums) have an open line of communication with their supporters, through everything from meet-and-greets to social media, and fan feedback is both solicited and taken to heart.

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The Toronto outfit doesn’t spare itself from criticism, either. Metric often takes a hard look at itself in order to improve. The work begins the second their concerts come to a close. “I want everyone to get exactly what they want, because I value people’s time,” Haines said Thursday from Los Angeles, where she spends part of the year.

“The minute we walk off stage, we’re already having a conversation about things we can improve. Sometimes, I’m like: ‘Can we just take one second?’ But every day there’s a tweak.”

The band, which kicks off a Canadian tour in support of its new album, Art of Doubt, in Victoria on Wednesday, recently wrapped a two-month run through the United States, in which it had the opportunity to try out new material. Metric spent considerable time in advance staging its set, and sharpening its setlist, in order to be ready for its high-profile run through large Canadian halls and arenas.

“You really do get back what you put in,” Haines said. “And we’re putting in more than ever.”

Three-time Juno Award winners, Metric shifted gears for Art of Doubt, their first album of new material since 2015. Its predecessor, Pagans in Vegas, was a high-concept turn from the band, and the task of translating the songs from the studio to the stage was difficult. Not so for new album, Haines said.

“Because of the way we recorded Art of Doubt, which was just the four of us in a room, we just basically put it on stage,” she said of the sessions, which were recorded at Metric’s own Giant Studio in Toronto. “It was one of the easier albums to adapt.”

The band has been off the road since March 25, following its headlining run through the U.S. and a previous tour supporting the Smashing Pumpkins. Haines has been enjoying her downtime in Los Angeles, but feels a sense of increased pressure looming. When the group tours Canada, the stakes are always high, she said.

“The love is so deep and sense of gratitude so profound it’s definitely in my consciousness. Even when we were playing to 50 people, we were playing to an arena in our minds. But there’s always a way to give more.

“From a production standpoint, we get to do things in Canada on a bit of a bigger scale than our U.S. runs, and all the stuff that we worked on throughout the U.S. tour is now going to get put in action.

“We used America as our guinea pig, and Canada gets the good stuff.”

The Art of Doubt songs are sounding great in concert, Haines said. The recording of the album — which feels more upbeat than its dark predecessor — was the first time in 15 years that Shaw did not produce or co-produce the sessions, a move that gave him time to focus exclusively on his guitar parts.

Haines said she can feel Shaw’s energy when he performs new songs in concert, as production was turned over to Nine Inch Nails bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen in the studio. “Jimmy was so excited for the break,” Haines said.

Metric remains one of the most popular and successful groups in Canada more than a decade and a half after its inception. Much of its success was born from sheer tenacity and hard work, and the intense desire to oversee, if not manage directly, key parts of the music business.

With members spread out in various locales, from California to Toronto to New York, the quartet made the decision in 2009 to run its own imprint. Metric now works in “partnership” with managers and publicists and labels, as opposed to “for them,” Haines said. It was a risky, but rewarding, financial move, becoming their own bosses.

With ownership comes added pressure and responsibility, she said.

“Being at the mercy of someone else’s agenda wasn’t going to work. There are a lot of benefits to [major label life] that we miss out on, but when you take the DIY attitude that we are based on, and you’re prepared to do the work of five people, you also have to know when you can let someone else in.

“It’s not like I wanted to do 20 times the work. And it was not about control. It was matter of: ‘This has to get done, so I guess we’ll do it.’ ”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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