The first line Metric frontwoman Emily Haines sings on Synthetica — the Toronto indie rock band’s fifth studio album — is “I’m just as f—ed up as they say.”
Haines says the original opening line to Artificial Nocturne was far less literal, that was until guitarist James Shaw encouraged her to scrap the subtlety.
“I was doing that thing where you hide behind the words instead of saying what you really mean,” Haines says.
“James asked me ‘what are you trying to express?’ Well, I’m flawed. We’re all flawed. I don’t want to pretend that I’m not and I think other people feel the same way. I think I’m f—ed up, just as f—ed up as they say. He’s like ‘bingo, that’s your line.’”
Imperfection is a theme throughout Synthetica. For instance, the song Breathing Underwater contains the line: “They were right when they said we should never meet our heroes.”
“The point of that is to realize the people you admire have become their best self through their work and a lot of times it’s hard for them to measure up as a human being,” Haines says.
“Everybody’s dealing with life and if you expect an artist to stand there and be a painting you’re going to be disappointed.”
However, some heroes don’t disappoint. Synthetica features a collaboration with Lou Reed, the New York rocker lending his iconic voice to Wanderlust.
“My vocal is so innocent and hopeful in the chorus, like ‘I’m going to go and see the world’, that idea of yearning to see things without understanding the consequences. I felt like I needed a world weary voice to represent the darker side of wanderlust,” Haines says.
It wasn’t Haines first encounter with the former Velvet Underground frontman, having first met him in 2010 at a Neil Young tribute concert in Vancouver.
“To my surprise the first thing he said to me was ‘Emily Haines, who would you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?’ which is line from our song Gimme Sympathy,” Haines says.
“That was a great moment for me, him acknowledging my writing. I shot back, ‘I’d rather be the Velvet Underground.’”
Metric brings its Synthetica Canadian tour to the MTS Centre on Saturday. Toronto indie pop band Stars provides support.
Tickets are $56.75 to $40.75 at Ticketmaster. Showtime is 8 p.m.