Founded in Toronto in 1998, Metric is a four-piece electronic band known for their downtempo music with driving drum beats that is both danceable and introspective. Their unique sound results from layering catchy melodies and edgy lyrics sung prettily in lead singer Emily Haines' distinctive, airy soprano voice. Metric has sold over a million singles, and 500,000 albums worldwide.
The band received big breaks with the use of their songs in several high-profile media ventures: the song "Grow Up and Blow Away" was used in a Polaroid commercial, "Gold Guns Girls" was used in the documentary Miss Representation and in several television shows, "Eclipse (All Yours)" was used in the Twilight series, and "Black Sheep" was used in the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Nominated for a Grammy Award in 2011, the Twilight soundtrack landed Metric on the Academy Award nomination short list for the theme song they co-wrote with composer Howard Shore.
Haines attended Etobicoke School of the Arts in Toronto with Broken Social Scene bandmates Amy Millan and Kevin Drew, each of whom went on to have successful solo careers. Haines met James Shaw in Toronto, and they then moved the band to be based in Montreal in the late 1990s, before relocating to New York City. Shaw was born in the United Kingdom, and studied music in Boston and in New York City, at Julliard. For years, Metric band members shared a loft apartment in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn with fellow indie rockers in the bands Liars, Stars, TV on the Radio, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Initially the band was called Mainstream, and their first release was titled the Mainstream EP. They built a following in Europe, signing a deal with Chrysalis Records early in their career, before returning to the US to build their live act.
On the subject of their straightforward band name, Haines told Spin magazine, "It came from a song that Jimmy [James Shaw] and I were working on back in Toronto in the early days, like '97 or '98. Jimmy had a song that involved a sound he'd programmed into his keyboard and called 'Metric.' When we saw that word on the keyboard's LED screen it looked so electro. It had a no bulls--t vibe. It was a little cold and standoffish and we're down with that. It works for us. Some people think it has something to do with the fact that we're from Canada - which uses the metric system. That was coincidental, though at the time we were into arty electronic stuff that was coming out of European countries that also use the metric system. But if we'd wanted to use a name that evoked Canada, we would've called ourselves the Toques or something." The band name is also a reference to the group's musical precision.
Stephen Hague, the influential New Wave producer who helped acts such as New Order come to prominence, aided Metric's transition into studio recording in the early 2000s.
The band told Northwest Public Radio that for their 2009 album Fantasies, they embraced true independence in their release. Metric founded the company Metric Music International to distribute the record, organize a tour, and handle promotion without the support of a major (or minor) record label.
Synthetica was the 5th studio album released by Metric in summer 2012. They followed the self-distribution model for this album as well. Synthetica refers to an artificial world the band dreamed up, where there lives a woman who is "this sort of robot, soulless woman who I named 'Synthetica' — someone who was so free of flaws that she made being human seem repulsive," Haines told Northwest Public Radio. The album melds the eclectic styles Metric has built in their first ten years as a band.