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Metric Discuss ‘Synthetica,’ Loving Justin Bieber + More at Lollapalooza 2012 – Exclusive Interview

Emily Haines, Joules Scott-Key
Dave Mead/Lollapalooza

Canadian indie rock outfit Metric have been together for over a decade now, initially garnering attention with their 2003 debut album, ‘Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?’ Metric just released their fifth full-length record, ‘Synthetica,’ in June to widespread acclaim. Diffuser.fm sat down with bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key before their set at this year’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago to chat about their new album and their take on how the music industry has evolved — and why they admire Justin Bieber.

‘Synthetica’ seems to be your most ambitious and driven album yet. Was that something the band was striving for since its conception?

Winstead: Absolutely. Every album we’ve tried to push it every single time, both writing-wise and performance-wise.

Scott-Key: Each new record is a challenge to stay motivated and involved and inspired. Metric is not a band that is asleep at the wheel. We like to stay busy. Otherwise, go get a business degree or something.

Like previous Metric albums, ‘Synthetica’ was independently released, this time through Mom + Pop Music. Few artists have been able to enjoy consistent success while staying indie like you. Do you attribute that to more of the artistic side or smart business strategies?

Winstead: I think there are a few things: The music, smart business people, and we work really hard. Like Joules was saying, we’re not asleep at the wheel. We play a lot of shows, we’re definitely watching all the time what’s happening on the management front with record labels and things like that. I think it’s one of those things that you can’t say it’s just one of those factors. It’s a bunch of variables that has kept us going, and it’s really the people. If people don’t like it anymore, you will disappear. If people don’t like your album, you play a few shows and you’ll be like, “Hey, let’s make another one,” because nobody wants you to play anymore.

Scott-Key: And if you’re not actually surviving in the business, then you’re going to try to change things in order to stay relevant. In this day and age, you have to be a little smarter than just playing your instruments. You have to know the atmosphere of the business and change with it. And the business sure has changed.

Obviously the music industry has been struggling for quite some time now. It seems like record labels and management companies were slow to adapt to the changing climate.

Winstead: They definitely were slow to adapt, but I think they were slow to accept the reality. I think people tried to force the old models to persist when that’s the exact opposite you have to do. Everybody knew. It was all over blogs and techie newspapers that MP3s were killing it and this is what’s about to happen. But people tried to squeak out every last bit of money they could out of artists, and artists revolted really quickly and a lot of them are doing what we do — release albums themselves, release it online or pay what you want. Now if you’re just a made up band that people put together and play a couple of shows, people don’t like it because you’re not a honed, seasoned musician. But the people who’ve worked really hard and play a bunch of shows get respected. I think they just ignored the writing on the wall as opposed to not seeing it. They were part of making it happen [laughs].

The Internet has been such a great tool for bands to find success without necessarily needing the support of a label. But you also have pop stars like Justin Bieber who just posted YouTube videos and were discovered.

Winstead: I love Justin Bieber. I really do. I watched an interview with him and I thought he was fantastic. When I say I love Justin Bieber, I love that he’s a musician. He was playing guitar and drums and he was really good, and that’s respect. Do I care about the pop culture around him? Not at all.

If you were a band starting out and saw that Bieber got all this success through YouTube instead of hacking it out at local bars and clubs, would you feel a lot of resentment toward him?

Winstead: I think people will resent anybody who’s famous and wildly successful — and really cute [laughs]. You cannot be more handsome than that kid. I could definitely hate that guy because he’s 100 times more handsome than I am, and probably more talented. But I have no hate for him. What I respect is that he was in love with music.

As much as social networks like Facebook and Twitter have connected people in more ways than anyone could have imagined, the opposite effect has happened as well. We see so many concertgoers on their phones checking statuses and tweets while bands are trying to blow them away with great performances. Does that bother you when you see that?

Scott-Key: It’s kind of depressing to watch that. When I see that, I’m not as offended as I am just feeling bad for their experience. Like, “You’re really not here, are you?” Obviously when I started to go see shows that wasn’t an option. I was actually looking at the band instead of some tiny screen and I was present. That’s why I just feel bad because they’re not getting the entire experience.

Winstead: I think the experience now is the experience of sharing it with someone else later as opposed to feeling it at the moment. They’re more into like, “What can I show my friends?” or post online so that people can have the experience of being like, “Oh, Wendy went to the show.” But it’s not about Wendy being at the show. It’s about posting something online. It’s a bit of a bummer.

When are we going to see a new Bang Lime record [side project of Winstead and Scott-Key]? It’s been five years since your last one.

Winstead: In all honesty, that was more because we had a summer and a half off. I needed to get out of New York and Joules is like, “Come out to Oakland and hang out with me,” and I never lived out there before. So I was like, “Great! Let’s do a record.” But we’ve been busy. Some people have a family now and things like that.

Scott-Key: It was about free time and we had some free time and we like to stay involved. So we said let’s do a little side project.

Winstead: We’re like, “Let’s make a noisy, garage band,” and we did it. But we’re really busy right now. And that’s what Bang Lime really was. There was some time off and [vocalist] Emily [Haines] was going to do her solo thing. Maybe after this Metric album or the next one, we’ll keep doing other music for sure.

Watch the Metric ‘Youth Without Youth’ Video

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