Q&A with Metric’s Josh Winstead
Four years ago, Metric burst onto the indie music scene along with a slew of young Canadian bands no longer content to be another Can-Rock clone (big in Canada, unheard of anywhere else). Like the Arcade Fire, Death From Above 1979, and anyone remotely associated with Broken Social Scene, Metric took the indie world by storm. This past year has been one for Metric side projects like lead singer Emily Haines’ beautifully morose record, Knives Don’t Have Your Back, and the hard-rocking, Best Friends In Love, by bassist Josh Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key under their Bang Lime guise. Metric recently reconvened to begin writing their hotly anticipated new record and are going back on tour to road test the new tracks. They return to Halifax September 14 for a show at The Cunard Centre. Ian Gormely spoke with Josh Winstead in late August.
IG:Are you in Toronto right now?
JW: No, we’re in New York City.
IG: What are you doing down there?
JW: Joules and I are playing in Bang Lime and we had a Brooklyn show last night. We have a Manhattan show today.
IG: How are the Bang Lime shows going?
JW: They’re going really well. Last night was so much fun, I can’t even believe it. It was mind-blowingly fun.
IG: Is Bang Lime headlining its own tour?
JW: Sometimes. Some places nobody knows who the hell we are. But last night was our show. Tonight’s…we’re not headlining tonight.
IG: What made the Brooklyn show so great?
JW: The vibe was just really great. The place was beautiful and the people that came out were really fun. We’re living here and there were a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. There were some people that didn’t even know we were playing that just showed up and didn’t know it was us. All the guys from TV on the Radio were in the other room and they were listening through the walls. And they were like, “Let’s go check out this band, they’re really good.” And then they were like, “Hey, wait a minute. I know those guys!” It was really fun and it was a nice surprise because we’ve known them for a long time. It’s been good to watch each other grow with different projects. It was just one of those nights that I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. You write music and you’re excited to play for your friends and strangers. Brooklyn’s such a musical town that the people who didn’t know us were really great and the people that did know us were great also.
IG: How did the Bang Lime project come about?
JW: Joules and I have played together for a huge number of years, so we’ve played in every band together. There was a need to let out some ’60s rock-driven stuff. When there’s down time I’m always writing music. I was like, “Look, I’ve got all these songs. Let’s make this happen.”
IG: Will that ’60s rock vibe come out on the new Metric album?
JW: I don’t think so. We were doing this thing for a while and we were just taking influences from places. Maybe it will a little bit, but not the heavier side of it, more the songwriter’s side. The new Metric stuff is really exciting. The four of us have been writing a lot together. We each pull in different directions. We actually verbally do it: “Think about this time in music. Let’s mix it with another one and push it towards the future.” The writing’s been really fun.
IG: Is the album going to be self-produced again? [Guitarist James Shaw recorded and produced Metric’s last album Live It Out in his own studio]
JW: I don’t think so. We were demoing tracks and giving people options if they want to hear it. I don’t really know yet. We haven’t reached that stage of finalizing that idea.
IG: How far into the recording process are you?
JW: Nothing’s recorded. We demoed it so we’d remember what the hell we were doing. There’s so much stuff going on in everyone’s lives that it’s really good to remember it and you can sit back and listen to it. But nothing’s recorded in the sense of finalized tracks. We try to record demos in the highest quality we can so if we do want to use it we can, but nothing’s finalized in that way either. There are a lot of songs written, let’s put it that way.
IG: In the collaboration process, you’re actually writing face to face in the studio?
IG: Do you find it intimidating?
JW: Oh no. We’ve played together so many times, and been in so many weird situations. We’ve seen each other so high and so low. If we’re going to try and bust each other now and try to hurt each other’s feelings, we should know that now so this thing can end. But it’s not like that at all. Everyone’s really supportive of each other.
IG: Is Metric hitting the road again to try out some of the new songs in a live setting?
JW: Absolutely. That’s exactly why we’re doing it. We want to let the kids tell us what they think. We’ve never had this opportunity before, of being able to do this in between the recording and the touring. Before it was always like, record and we’re playing the last album and we’re not playing the new stuff and nothing’s finished. Now we’ve got this large amount of time that we’ve been given and we’re using it to see what they think.
IG: Do you gauge it on audience reaction or do you get the opportunity to get out and talk to fans?
JW: Both, absolutely. Everyone’s always recording things on cell phones—there’s a few things that ended up on YouTube already. So you get to see the reaction from stuff like that. You get to watch them react and see if it becomes introspective or if they start dancing and stuff like that. And then afterwards, we’re always hanging out. We’re not the hardest band to find. You wait around 20 minutes and then all of a sudden, there we are. It’s a little hard for Emily because people tend to mob her a little bit. It’s kind of a bummer because she really likes hanging out with people, but there’s just getting to be too many of them. She has to hide away a little bit until it cools down. But for me, Joules, and Jimmy, it’s really easy to go out. Everyone’s always like, “Where’s Emily?” It’s like, “Oh yeah, she has to hide.” It’s a sad thing actually.
IG: Do you enjoy the level of recognition you’re at? People who recognize you are most likely fans of the band whereas Emily is more recognizable outside of Metric.
JW: Right, you can see her in magazines. She’s really beautiful as well so everyone’s always photographing her. I’ve never had any other type of recognition, so I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d like to be stared at all the time if I was a super-famous person, that doesn’t sound like a good deal. But it’s fun.
IG: As the new tracks are right now, is there a unifying theme or vibe to the record?
JW: Yeah. Like a futuristic space. We’re trying to add a space element to the past. But that’s only in a few dancey songs we’ve got going on. Again it’s got a wide range of places that it’s going.
IG: In the past Metric has said that it really wants to grow as a band. Is this album a step forward for the group?
JW: Absolutely. But everyone’s doing that all the time. That’s another reason Emily did the Soft Skeleton [Haine’s backing band on her solo record Knives Don’t Have Your Back] stuff and Joules and I are doing Bang Lime and Jimmy’s producing people now. We really do not want to be a one-trick pony. It’s not even about being successful, it’s about being happy, about being proud of the things you’ve done in your life because that’s what we’re doing—we’re living.
IG: Various members have said that they really want Metric to appeal to the masses. Where does this desire come from?
JW: I think that’s the things about being able to communicate, and understanding people and understanding yourself. If you’re having a conversation with somebody and they don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s a one-sided conversation. It might be because you know things that they don’t know, and you have to bring them up to speed. Or it might be because you’re talking gibberish and people don’t want to listen to what you’re saying. It’s not that not being understood is a bad thing. There’s something interesting in an ability to look at what you’re involved in, who you’re involved with, and try to figure out how to communicate with them. Music is called the beta language, verbal speaking is the alpha language. It’s about communication and being able to relate.
IG: Is there a band or musician that you look to as having the ideal career?
JW: No, not really. Not just one person. There are too many amazing musicians out there. It’s just musicians in general and artists in general. It could be anybody at all.
IG: Metric just re-released its first album, Grow Up and Blow Away, which was recorded before you and Joules joined the band. Will you be playing any of those songs live?
JW: We’ve been playing a couple tracks live already. After Bang Lime finishes, we’re going to go and have a couple days rehearsal and see what songs we all want to play. We had the idea of letting people vote on what they want to hear. We’ll give them a choice. Hopefully that’s still happening, because I really like the idea of getting people to vote on what they want to hear. We’ll see. We were trying to figure out how to do that on the Web.
IG: Is there any aspect of the band that gets overlooked when people talk about Metric?
JW: Not really. With the four members, everyone always gets their due. In fact, everyone always talks about how great Emily is, how great Jimmy is, how great Joules and I are, the rhythm section. That’s kind of lame saying how great we are. I’m just talking about in terms of praise; obviously people have issues with us as well—they don’t like certain things. But on the praise side of things, it seems like everyone gets their dues and musically, everything’s really represented. It seems really balanced.
IG: Last fall Metric played their first ever show in Halifax. How did it go?
JW: I’m really excited to come up there. I really enjoyed it last time. We had a really fun time.
IG: People here tend to really appreciate it when bands come through town.
JW: It’s something about living far away from a major city. It’s weird because most bands are like, “I don’t want to go there, the people are weird…” No. You go there, people are amazing and they’re really respectful. And they’re appreciative that you’re there and that you took the time to come out there.
This interview originally appeared on Halifax Magazine’s website in September of 2007.