Canadian indie rock darlings Metric released its seventh strong studio effort Art Of Doubt last year. Now the foursome finds itself in the standard touring mode after coming back from a successful tour in the U.S. with July Talk and an expansive Canadian jaunt which hits Toronto’s Air Canada on April 26.
For guitarist Jimmy Shaw the reception to the album is gauged by what he sees each night in concert, not by what blogs, critics or media say.
“I’ve long stopped looking out into the universe to find out if what I did was good or not,” he says during a break between touring legs. “It’s just entirely subjective and there’s no point in listening to the Internet if you’re trying to find out some version of the truth. But what I see and what is genuine to me is when I get up on stage and people are in the room. I can see on their faces if they are liking stuff or not.”
The band, which also includes singer Emily Haines, drummer Joules Scott-Key and bassist Joshua Winstead, preceded Art Of Doubt with singles such as “Dark Saturday” and “Dressed To Suppress.” However, given how long the band has spent with the recently released material Shaw says that new album feel has worn off a little.
“To me most of the time long before it’s actually released it doesn’t feel like a new album anymore,” he says. “For me, the height of that feeling is right around the finishing of the album, around the mastering of the album. Usually, around that time you listen to it to death and you have lots of listening parties and all my friends get to hear it. Then three weeks after it’s mastered you’re like, ‘I’ll probably never listen to it ever again, maybe once in like seven years.’”
Since then the road has been Metric’s home away from home. But for Shaw, it’s been quite a ride. He says after supporting Smashing Pumpkins on some dates last year the group headed to Europe, performing in places they’d never played before to diehard fans finally getting their first chance to see them in the flesh.
Meanwhile earlier this year Metric co-headlined with popular Mexican rock group Zoe, a group Shaw described as “the U2 of Mexico.”
“They roll with a huge entourage and it’s a huge band,” Shaw says. “They’re just massive rock stars and it’s just so fun. It was a very interesting thing to be touring across America with two bands from Canada and one band from Mexico. Kind of like joining hands and saying, ‘Hey America, you got to pull it together, you know!’ We were joking that Canada and Mexico were building a bridge over America instead of a wall around it. It was amazing and the fans were great.”
Another pleasure with this current Canadian trek is having The Dears’ singer and guitarist Murray Lightburn on board as an opener. It was a no-brainer after Shaw, who has known Lightburn since 2002, caught his solo show in Los Angeles.
“He’s such a gem of a human and an artist,” he says. “And he’s been on such a crazy ride. He was in the Dears and the Dears started this whole thing. There were The Dears before there was Social Scene, Metric, Stars, Arcade Fire, Feist, any of it. So for us, we hold him in such high esteem and there he was with an acoustic guitar and a cellphone by himself. We were all just so enamoured by this guy who’s just dedicated to the craft that he didn’t really care what was happening around him.”
Perhaps the strangest thing Shaw has yet to masterfully is adjusting to downtime between touring legs. It’s a spot that isn’t comparable to being fully off the road as by the time most musicians gear down to some semblance of domestic normalcy they’re gearing back up for more shows.
“To be totally honest with you yeah, it’s really, really weird,” Shaw says. “I’m fine now but the first three or four days when I was home were among the strangest of all the down times for me. The North American tour there was July Talk and Zoe there were over 40 people on tour. We became very close, everyone knew each other and everyone hung out constantly. It was like you’re instantly in a giant family. You come home and the silence was just deafening. And crazy.
“I’m lucky to have a studio that is literally 25 feet from the back of my house. I just come into the studio and start tinkering around with something. Or just make sounds of some kind and the sort of existential questions start to go away.”
Metric has select dates later this summer including shows in Mexico and a slot at Montreal’s Osheaga festival in August. After that is a bit unplanned but Shaw says he and Haines are plotting their next step.
Whatever that step is it should work for a band now two decades into an impressive body of work. Shaw says Metric’s staying power came from a simple but effective outlook.
“I think there was always a part of us that would just refuse any other reality. I think that we stayed together and I think the main thing about being a band is that if you want to have a long career just don’t break up. Do what is necessary to allow each other to live and grow and be yourselves and do what you need to do. Give each other space and give each other care, love and attention and all of a sudden you realize you’ve been in a band for 20 years.”