Metric's Emily Haines Makes Style Poetic

Over the course of more than a decade together, Metric has solidified itself as one of the aughts' most powerful rock bands. Yet even after five albums and numerous world tours (the band counts collaborating with Lou Reed and opening for the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden among its accomplishments), lead singer and creative force Emily Haines hasn't slowed down or rested on her laurels one bit.
A year after completing Metric's last album, Synthetica (and still amidst touring relentlessly with her band), Haines has turned her energy toward a new collaboration between Fleet Jewelry and HearMe — an organization with the goal of increasing children's access to music programs in public schools called FLEET4HEARme. Haines hopes that the proceeds from her joint effort will inspire kids just as she was inspired as a child. "I feel like anybody who wants to play an instrument should be able to," says Haines. Needing to know more, we caught up with Emily to talk Metric's evolving live shows, her number-one musical icon, and the ongoing inspiration from her poet father.
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
How have the songs from Synthetica been fitting into your career-spanning live sets?
"It's an interesting thing about this band. You know, we're five records in but we always feel like we're curating a larger body of work. When you're doing the preliminary rehearsals, it's really how the new songs are going to fit with who you were before — with every stage of your progress as a person and a musician. And they fit right in. They pick up where other themes left off."

Emily wears a vintage T-shirt and shorts and a Fleet x Emily Haines Unchained jacket.
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
After playing a song for a year or five years, does its original meaning start to change for you?
"Songs just get more life and more meaning for us. It's like repeating a mantra. I've started to realize that you really are writing a script for what you're going to experience. I try to leave room in the lyrics for myself to reinterpret them along with the audience. Every time you play them, there's a different way you can feel about what you're repeating to yourself. Like, 'Hey, I'm not synthetica' — sometimes it feels like a totally victorious statement and sometimes it feels kind of beaten down…but it's just rock 'n' roll, you know. I'm not meaning to be pretentious about it at all."

Dolce Vita boots.
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
Tell me about that unbelievable leather jacket!
"It's called 'Unchained.' What I love about [Kate Power of Fleet's] designs is that she manages to really push it — it's really intense, but it's also really versatile. Those panels on the back of the jacket are removable and can be replaced by a little more low-key fabric. You can wear the pieces as a scarf or a necklace. They're really adaptable to how you feel from day to night."

A closer look at Emily's gold wings.
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
Is there any advice you would have given yourself when you were first starting out?
"It's hard to say that I would do anything differently because I'm very happy with where I've arrived at. The thing is with those guys and the friendship that we have, the whole point of the band was to make it as challenging as possible. And to be quite stubborn about what we wanted to do and the way we wanted to do it, because the victory is so much sweeter. There are a million things that I could have done that would have made it less difficult in the beginning, but the moments I'm most proud of are those first shows where we managed to get 15 people in a random bar to be committed to what's happening with the music. I know it's hard for people to imagine that would be the hardest shows we've ever played. I've played with Lou [Reed], I've played to tens of thousands of people, I've played for the Queen, but nothing is harder than those moments when you have the conviction to play in front of those 15 people and own it."
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
Where did you find your gold dress?
"We've played Japan a couple of times and always had just about 24 hours to stay there. We had to be at the airport in two hours, but I wandered off into Shibuya and found this amazing piece. It used to have this huge mane on the back, which I retired temporarily. That's the incredible thing about traveling and playing music: I've been able to discover so many unknown designers — then, I show up in Paris and Margiela has filled my dressing room with incredible clothing and good vibes."
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
Who were some your music or style icons growing up?
"For me Carla Bley was a really important role model. My kind of style icon is a style icon who would be pissed if you called them that. Which is a kind of a contradiction in the world we live in now, where you're expected to be gung-ho about peddling brands — I mean, I'm doing it right now and I don't mind. I love fashion, I really do. I really respect the art in itself. But someone like Carla Bley — she was a jazz composer. They started their own label to put out Escalator Over The Hill, this incredible album they made. My dad did all the lyrics for it. 1970s New York. She had an incredible blonde fringe that was her trademark look. White suits. She was an arranger, composer, ran the record label. Just a total badass and incredibly stylish all at once. She was a huge influence on me growing up."

Brian Atwood shoes.
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
What makes a good outfit for the stage?
"The image that I keep in my mind is being shot into outer space. There's so much movement and what you might think of what would be a normal thing to wear for going out, you can't. I have to think of everything that can move. I also have a pack for my ears for singing. It's not like a world problem, but the preparation for me is to basically secure all flying parts so you have a combination of movement and total security. No wardrobe malfunctions please."
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, do you have a go-to outfit that you usually gravitate toward for keeping in causal?
"It's kind of funny, because as things have stepped up and I've had access to more high-end fashion, my daily style has become more and more chill. I keep coming back to this one T-shirt, which I wore in the shoot. The Liberator T-Shirt that a friend gave to me. It's this really badass ode to cycling. Really more tomboyish where your body is the expression of how you're feeling rather than the clothes. It's like 'be fit, be healthy, be rested.' To be those three things and be in rock 'n' roll after 10 years is perhaps my greatest accomplishment.

Emily wears a vintage T-shirt, Japanese shorts she picked up in Shibuya, a Haute Hippie jacket, and a Fleet pendant necklace.
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
What's the vibe like before you hit the stage?
"We pace. We're a pacing band. A lot of circles. We're not serious before a show, but we're really protective of our hang. You can't risk having some random person in your space. You're just trying to create a feeling in the room that people want to be a part of. We start with that process with the four of us backstage beforehand."

Dries van Noten booties with an amber heel.
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
Can you tell me about your collaboration with Fleet Jewelry?
"Happily! I did a collaboration with my friend Kate Power and Fleet Jewelry. She came to me and connected me with a woman who founded an organization called HearMe. Its mandate is to get kids access to music equipment that they otherwise wouldn't have access to. It's something that's really close to my heart because I grew up in a shitty little town, public school, whatever. The benefit of music programs and access to a piano — some piano my mom got from a church basement — that was my doorway to music."

And that necklace you're wearing is part of that collaboration?
"Kate had the idea of making this pen. It makes a sound like sword when it comes out. And she engraved on there, 'Believe in the power of songs,' which is a line on Synthetica on a song called 'Dreams So Real,' which is the title of a poem my dad wrote. A lot of things back to Paul Haines and a book he wrote called Secret Carnival Workers, which I published. So, it's a lot of full-circle for me of just feeling gratitude for the fact that I was able to find and develop the skill of writing. If you have the ability to express what you're experiencing, you have a chance at escaping it. I'm the first person to cynical about the impact we can make with our one-off philanthropic efforts, but it's better than fucking nothing. That's the attitude that I've taken. And it's a beautiful piece and really practical."
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Photographed by Aliya Naumoff.
Speaking of writing, if you're ever having trouble finding inspiration, how do you get over writer's block?
"I leave. I'm a big leaver. For our previous album, Fantasies, I went to Argentina. I found that being away from the identity that you've put together or that other people have put together is the best thing for me. The advice that I would give anyone is just get over yourself and forget yourself. Realize what you don't know. And you have to be kind as well. I'm a harsh editor of my own work. I've edited things down until there's nothing left but one word. Don't be so precious about yourself."
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