Emily Haines has spent her most formidable years as the lead singer in Metric, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She founded the band in 1998 with her longtime friends Jimmy Shaw, Joshua Winstead, and Joules Scott-Key, and they are still going strong, touring constantly. They released their seventh studio album, Art of Doubt, last Friday, and the twelve tracks on it are driven by massive rock guitars and soaring synthesizers, but also by Haines’s vivid, poetic lyrics that tell the stories between the notes. Twenty years in, Haines could be forgiven for feeling nostalgic, but the album is anything but backward-looking.
I chatted with Haines while she was on the road—a place she’s very familiar with—after a night opening for the Smashing Pumpkins in Omaha, Nebraska. We talked about her band’s impressive longevity, Twitter wars, what is missing in pop culture these days, and, naturally, the wonder of rompers.
Melissa Locker: What do you feel you have learned over the last twenty years?
Emily Haines: Jim and I met in Toronto and then moved to New York with that cliché big-city-on-a-Greyhound-bus dream, and met Joshua and Joules. I find it astounding on a daily basis that this relationship between us could continue to evolve, not only musically but as a friendship. Every time I get to spend time with these guys, I feel like they’ve grown as people and there’s no stagnation. Some people have a trajectory of their life where they feel like they peaked at twenty and they are trying to get back to that. For whatever reason, all four of us have a different model for our lives. I look around and I’m like, Yeah, I think we pretty much all look better than we did. We definitely have better clothes and a better style. I think that every day you’re getting closer to the person that you want to be.
ML: Do you still manage to have fun with it?
EH: The band is still very much actively our lives, particularly speaking for myself as a writer. I’m still very passionately subscribing to the belief that my role is to live things, push myself to have experiences that are maybe uncomfortable to put myself out in the world, write about it, make it, and craft it into a song that I then perform in front of thousands of people. It is a very different commitment than having something written for you or faking it or coming up with a persona. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I feel like I’m still very much connected to the person I was when I started out on that mission—and I feel very lucky to get to do it, but it’s hard, especially right now. There isn’t really an environment right now for people, particularly rock music. Like, rock just feels pretty. It’s like rock music and the Democratic Party both need a revamp. The idea of carving out a life that’s fiercely independent and owning your originality and all of those values, I don’t totally see that in pop culture right now.
ML: What do you think is missing from pop culture right now?
EH: I’m just a bit lonely for other bands, a lot of bands have disappeared over the years. I think that the reason that Metric continues its drive is because we just suck it up. We’ve weathered massive changes in the industry, all while having our own little business that we’ve been able to keep afloat and employ a lot of people. I’m committed to something that is, I guess, my own path, but I wish that I could look around and see more contemporaries.