Written by: Gemma Mastroianni
Photographed by: Gemma Mastroianni and Jared Burke
I sat down with Metric's lead guitarist, James Shaw, at Osheaga this year. The Canadian music legends were taking the Coors Light Mountain stage at 6:15 p.m. (which they absolutely killed), and I got to hang out a few hours before and chat all things Metric, guitar pedals, and streaming.
This was Shaw's eighth time at Osheaga, being one of his favourite festivals. He admires playing in Montréal to begin with as he generally loves the city, appreciates the side by side stage setup, and believes that Osheaga has a great vibe and energy overall.
Metric's most recent album, 'Art of Doubt', dropped this past September. Stylistically, they wanted to revisit an older version of their sound, and collaberate it with their newer releases. He described the earlier days as "scrappy, wirey" and "rough around the edges." He went on to explain that over the years thing became more produced and intrically arranged including more synthesizers with a broader palette.
In order to get this sound, the band felt as though hiring an outside producer was the way to go so that Shaw could strictly focus on playing guitar.
"I didn't really want to have too much of a critical ear in the process. I just wanted to create and not be judgemental of myself, or primarily anyone else in the band. Giving that role to somebody else really helped accomplish that."
I wanted to dive a bit more into the technicalities of their old and new sound that he described so intricately. We could've gotten super in depth and technical, but we kept the conversation to guitar pedals. In the past, Shaw used a Boss OC-3 pedal, which goes for approximately $49.00. He said that he never turned it off, "I'd have to drive all the way down and the level control was my volume, and that'd be my basic tone. Now, there's a lot of things to create that basic tone."
Nowadays, Shaw said he uses lot's of H9's, which he said is "very underrated." He explained that people understand that it does so many things but are afraid of it because of how complex it can be to coordinate.
"You have to go deep with it and program on an App or computer, and it's kind of daunting for people. Once you get in it just sounds so good, and so maluable."
As for the overall progression of the Indie Rock scene, Shaw is unsure of how things will evolve. As things have become much more synthesized and electronic over the years, it was something that people could see coming.
"When we started, Emily was playing with a bunch of circuits at the front of the stage, like an analogue mono-synth. People in the indie rock scene thought it had to go, like it wasn't White Stripes or garagey enough for people. It was a synth from the 80's and not like a piggyback amp from the 50s, which was way more on trend at that time."
He explained that around that time, synths progressively became more popular but now, it feels as though this has all been explored, in a good way,
"There doesn't need to be a huge resurgence of something because everyones using everything. There's Indie bands using ableton, and there are DJ's using banjos, so where do you go from there?"
One thing that Metric ensures is that they take listening to their fans very seriously, which is how they have grown succesfuly with their audience, "There has to be a conversation and care for what they want out of us." Although they do deeply care about what their fans want, he did explain that it has to be a combination of what they want, along with what the band is feeling because true fans want to see them do exactly what they want to do.
Shaw is inspired by careers such as Neil Young, Johny Cash, and Leonard Cohen. He explained to me that there were low points in their careers, yet they continued to be successful because of their dedicated fanbase.
"I'm kind of becoming more fascinated with artists that somehow have an amazing beginning of their career, middle, and amazing end. For an artist like Tame Impala, they're still in the begining, they haven't even entered the middle. I feel like for us, were just now entering the middle, and it's going to be a long interesting road for the middle."