Adopting the Metric system

Published

Metric’s Joshua Winstead talks to Oisín Kealy ahead of his band’s sold out show at Oran Mor.

You self released Fantasies, what was it that motivated you to do that with this release, had you experienced much friction with labels in the past?

Well we never really received the label attention and the deals we wanted. We were always too underground for the mainstream, and too mainstream for the underground, and people were always trying to give deals that don’t really work for the artist anymore, like three-sixty deals that take from touring because they are trying to survive. One of the things we realised was that with the deals they were giving us, we could make our own label and maintain our artistry and be in control of it in the way we want it, because who knows how much they are spending on publicity or whatever? As well a lot of times you don’t get to choose the crew you’re working with. We like to work with people we enjoy working with and make sure we are all heading towards the same thing. It seemed like, not the easiest, but the smartest way at this moment in time was to do it ourselves.

How did you react to the leak of the record, inevitable as it was?

At first you’re a little bummed, because when you work on something, especially art, you are doing it for yourself and to present to other people. When it gets leaked and it isn’t the master copy it’s kind of like a present but…it’s not finished yet, it’s not what you want them to hear. That was a little sad because we like to present something beautiful. On the other side, we were working with Nigel Godrich on putting this song out with an Andrew Wright movie and he gave us some advice. He was like “The only time it’s a problem is when the record is bad”, and we thought, well, you’re right. It’s a little easier to say if you are Radiohead because they’ve already succeeded in many many ways that are unimaginable to other bands, but he is right in a sense. That ability for people to reach you on many different levels, for them to get the music in any form kind of helps because there is so much competition and there’s not much money flying around. We were still proud of the album but it wasn’t quite what we wanted yet. It hasn’t really affected very much, people seem to still be interested in getting the finished product.

It’s been almost four years since the last record, but you’ve all spent the time with side projects like Bang Lime and obviously Emily with the Soft Skeleton. Do you think that was required to stop the band going stale?

Maybe for ourselves, but not within Metric, that really had nothing to do with Metric. It was more a thing that we had time off, but we all continue to do music all the time. It wasn’t a thing like “Oh I’ve been doing so much music I’m going to stop”. The business side is finally starting to work, so that’s a business, but even when I’m home not doing something else… I mean, here, I’ve been sitting around playing piano just because that’s what I like to do. I think it was a natural progression, a lot of people were asking if that was leading to the break up of Metric but that’s not even close. Everyone takes Metric as the main focus, but coming back after doing other things gives you insight into how to become a stronger musician.

Road testing was very important for this record, I followed it on Youtube and Myspace and a lot of the songs changed hugely. Gimme sympathy is a different song altogether.

Yeah, changed dramatically, There are many songs that changed a lot, which is great. It’s a luxury we never had in the past. Whether they became better or worse is arguable on musical taste, and because of that some songs didn’t make the record, but yeah they changed and it was great.

Would you have based the changes on you playing them every night, or the audience’s reaction?

Both, if we were bored or other people were bored. Sometimes you’re playing a song and you think this is going to be the best and playing it three nights in row you’re seeing that nobody is reacting to this one part that we really thought would be something. You cant ignore that. As well it’s like, you might just think it’s just not hitting me the right way.

In terms of composition, the chord structures of ‘Fantasies’ are a lot more straightforward than before, there used to be very surprising progressions. As much as I love the sound of Old World Underground I think it has really worked for this record. Was that a conscious move?

It was and it wasn’t. It was more like relaxing and being ourselves, and understanding that simplicity sometimes creates that magic within music. When you’re trying to standout sometimes you do those crazy chord changes but I think it was an understanding and belief in ourselves that we can still build up amazing music around pretty natural chord progressions. There’s a song called Roscoe by Midlake which is just three chords, and he’s got like six melodies that go over it and you don’t get bored of those chords, it’s amazing.

Front row deals with the relationship between fans and artists. This might be a bit of a tired question because everyone is talking about it, but the band has a twitter, and that has become integral in the past few months in closing the distance between bands and their fan base. Do you think it is a good thing closing that distance, or do you think it ruins the mystery? Like if Fleet Foxes write about not being able to find their socks or something similar.

Those are not the things we twitter about so I can’t tell you for everybody if it’s better, but we still maintain an air of mystery around us because that’s who we are. We don’t really want people to know if we can’t find our socks, that might what some bands do were they’re trying to be all “Oh come in, you can see our whole life!”, but we still understand that there is a part of entertainment and a mystery value. If you give us a curtain on stage, we will use it, and it will be dramatic and fun. I remember we were travelling to Japan one time and on my visa it didn’t say musician it said “entertainer” and I thought, you know what, that’s kinda true, that’s kinda right. Part of my job is to take you away from the reality of life a little bit. When you come to a show you want to be taken away, you don’t want to be thinking about what you did at work that day– or that you couldn’t find you socks either. Of course some days you can’t find your socks, I’m still looking for a T-shirt on the bus, but those are things we don’t really reveal about ourselves.