Emily Haines is an artist that defies labeling. Frontwoman for Metric, she is proud to release her debut solo album, Knives Don’t Have Your Back this fall on Last Gang Records. Written and recorded over the past four years in Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto and New York, the record sites contributions from the likes of Scott Minor from Sparklehorse, Broken Social Scene’s Justin Peroff, Stars’ Evan Cranley and Metric’s Jimmy Shaw. A distinct contrast from Metric’s bold, danceable sound, Knives is an intimate and subtle collection of mellow, piano-driven tunes complimented by soft string and horn arrangements.
Toronto based Metric has climbed the ladder the good old-fashioned way. Years of writing, recording and performing have earned them their stripes as a bonafide success story. Their magnificent journey has taken them around the world, collecting accolades and critical acclaim as they went. 2003’s Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? went gold in Canada in December of 2005. Quick on its heels was their September 2005 sophomore release, Live It Out, which achieved a Canadian gold record in March of 2006. The band held their own during a twonight stint opening for The Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden earlier this year, appearing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on their day off in between. They performed at the prestigious Coachella festival and will appear this summer at both Leeds and Reading. These experiences and successes are the bold, exuberant part of Emily Haines’ artistic persona. Her solo effort, Knives Don’t Have Your Back, and the intimate live performance she’s created, illustrate her more introspective, personal body of work.
Haines’ decision to release a solo album was long in the making. She says, “When I was a little kid…I would creep downstairs to the piano and write rudimentary songs about imaginary places. I’m told the first song I ever wrote was a love song to a cranberry tree. I always used the mute pedal. I hated the idea of anybody hearing me. Everywhere I’ve lived while working with Metric, I’ve written songs on the piano and played them for no one. On the advice of a friend, I decided I’d better start recording them before they were forgotten. Four meandering years later I ended up with this collection of songs featuring a few of my favorite people, a group I call The Soft Skeleton.”
Each song on the album holds a personal story from Haines’ life over the past decade. One track, for instance, was written years ago while she was studying electroacoustics in Montreal, and is an homage to childhood heroes Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt. Several songs, including “Reading in Bed” and “Mostly Waving” were recorded in Toronto during the winter of 2002, while Haines was mourning the sudden loss of her father, poet Paul Haines. A handful of songs were conceived during Metric’s early years, when the band was struggling to make ends meet, while more recent tracks were written with a change in perspective, as Haines faced Metric’s growing success.
In the spring and summer of 2005, Haines enlisted local musician Todor Kobakov to add string arrangements to a few songs, while friends from Broken Social Scene and Stars added horns to other tracks. Over the past few months, she has worked with producer John O’Mahony (Metric, The Strokes, System of a Down). O’Mahony introduced Emily to the final contributor to the album: Scott Minor from the band Sparklehorse, who added several instrumental tracks as well as “various mysterious noises from North Carolina.” Finally, as Haines says, “The scattered songs fell together.”