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Metric reveal the heart of their new album ‘Pagans in Vegas’

June 18, 2015

"If we don’t feel it, we won’t do it."

There’s a reason why most “songs of the summer” are released before the season even starts: summer is about anticipation as much as anything, the thrill of knowing that sun, surf, and sand might be just around the corner.

“The Shade” might seem, at first glance, a rather ironic name for a prospective summer anthem. But the glistening hit from Metric, released last month as the first taste of the band’s upcoming album Pagans in Vegas, ranks as one of the catchiest, most upbeat anthems in a discography with its fair share of crowd pleasers.

“That’s not a February song — that’s this summer, this moment,” says Metric frontwoman Emily Haines of the track. “It’s been really amazing playing it live, as we thought it would be. It just really feels great with an audience.”

When I reach Haines via phone in St. Louis, MO, Metric is just over a week into a 38-date North American tour opening for Las Vegas rockers Imagine Dragons. Haines says the offer of a featured spot on what might be the year’s biggest rock tour came as an honour. “This may not mean a lot to the outside world, but ‘very special guest’ means something within the music industry,” she explains “It meant a lot for us to be offered the position.”

The timing was perfect, too: a chance to get the band’s road legs back after nearly a year between gigs, and to do so at pretty much the perfect time of year to be out playing shows.

“I just really like touring in the summer,” says Haines. “You get reminded that it’s really fun to play music. There are definitely times in the middle of February when you’re hanging out outside a hockey arena and you’re just like, ‘Why?’ But when you’re touring in the summer, you step out into the sun, you drink your morning coffee in the parking lot, and with the endless trucks and so many people on the tour you feel like you’re part of a great travelling road festival.”

In addition to “The Shade,” the other new addition to Metric’s live repertoire this tour is the second pre-release track from Pagans in Vegas: “Cascades,” a song that goes all-in on the band’s electronic inclinations. Haines calls it “the heart” of the new record.

“It’s one of our favourite songs,” she says. “It feels good to put out something that you just love. I mean, that’s basically all we’re ever really doing: we try to be practical about considering various external factors with these things, but the reality is in the 15 years we’ve been doing this, if we don’t believe it and we don’t want to do it, it won’t work anyway. So we try to pay attention to what people tell us in terms of, like ‘that’s a single,’ or whatever, but I don’t know: if we don’t feel it, we won’t do it. And both [“The Shade” and “Cascades”] felt right.”

In addition to their place on Pagans in Vegas, the two songs are also included on a special cassette EP available on tour and through the band’s website — perfect for throwing into the old car stereo for a summer road trip.

Maybe a little too perfect? While Metric is no stranger to a big chorus, “The Shade’s” refrain — a hyper-positive, repeated “I want it all” — might be its biggest yet. I ask Haines if the band questioned the direction the song took.

“When you have six records and you have songs like ‘Patriarch on a Vespa’ in your life, and many more like that, I think for us it’s more like, ‘Look man, it’s three and a half minutes, it’s the summer of 2015, we’re not going to sweat it.’ It’s about a beautiful feeling of wanting to be alive, and letting things roll off you, wanting the good stuff and taking the bad along with it. And anytime I tried to give it a little more, like, throwing in climate change or something — which I totally tried to do — it was like hanging out with someone who refuses to enjoy the most beautiful August weekend.”

Speaking of August weekends, that month Metric will be headlining Elora, ON’s Riverfest. Before that, though, the band will return to Canada for three dates with Imagine Dragons: July 3 in Montreal, July 4 in Toronto and July 30 in Vancouver.

Pagans in Vegas is out September 18 on Metric’s own MMI label.

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