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Hear and Now in L.A. 

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In 2001, Haines and multi-instrumentalist James Shaw launched Metric in Toronto, playing as an art-pop outfit and grabbing comparisons to Blonde Redhead and Elastica. Characteristically for the pair, they got fidgety, moved to NYC, then to London and back to New York, where they signed with L.A.’s Restless Records and promptly moved out west to work. When Restless unraveled, Shaw, Haines and drummer Joules Scott-Key decided not to follow suit, opting instead to conquer the scene, play live constantly, make a name for themselves and, of course, get some kicks. In their first year out as independents, they’ve managed to strike a deal with Enjoy Records for a debut album, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

Big fans of Steely Dan’s perfecto studio sound, for the album Haines and Shaw decided to put a lid on their walloping live shtick and fashion a slicker cocktail of glassy new-wave melodies and hummable walls of power-chord fuzz. Featuring Shaw’s warm piano playing, trumpet and orchestrations, Old World also homes quietly in on Haines’ fragile scenarios of love, languor and sex in clubland.

Metric have a veneer of coolness that’s mandatory for the indie-rock caste in any big music town. Haines, Shaw, Scott-Key and new-guy bassist Danny Denton seem innocent, too, almost geeky in their chummy quest for kicks. But whether this tight pack of buddies admits it or not, they do have a standout member — the girl. This has caused problems: An L.A. Weekly review described Haines as “a high-powered ingénue intent on landing a new record deal,” and the rest of the band as “an effective punch line for Haines’ swiveling hips.” Another rag said, “It’s Haines’ pure sex appeal that makes for such a captivating live show.” But Haines is less than eager for solo exposure.

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“There’s no point in even talking about the gender thing, because I know it’s self-perpetuating,” she says. “The point is to have it not be the point. I don’t have Maybelline aspirations.”

If the gender thing is a buzz crasher for Metric’s party, it’s also the itch that keeps their shows interesting. Regardless of whether Haines can balance being the only female musician in the band, as well as the lyricist and the front woman, with being just another ensemble player is a push-and-pull that fans the band’s smoldering dynamic.

Onstage, Haines’ averting eyes, over-the-shoulder glares and seemingly self-conscious hip-shake don’t scream coziness in the spotlight; rather they communicate a vulnerability that matches the music — kinda melancholy, kinda spacy, a balance of overexcited and reserved postures. With Haines’ “freeing of her inner spazz,” as she describes it, in addition to her Devo-inspired riffs, Scott-Key and Denton’s bouncy fills and Shaw’s poppy keyboard grandstanding, Metric make out like a bigger band than they really are, and that they take very seriously.

“There’s a stereotype about musicians as just lazy, lie-around folk,” says Haines, “but I think being a musician can make you an honorable living, if you can give people some fun. It’s honorable to show people a good time and put a smile on their face — not a stupid smile, but a validating smile.”

—Wendy Gilmartin

Pump It Mount Sims:Electrosex is power

For electroclash artist Mount Sims, the boundary between music and the visual arts is a fluid one. “Electro is a genre that lends itself to the visual,” he says. His live performance bears witness to that. Flanked by undulating erotic dancers, Mount Sims puts on a show, often with unicorns, giant Greek-tragedy masks and corn dogs. Yeah, corn dogs. “We act out sexual fantasies with food, like with hot dogs and doughnuts. Or having somebody eat a jelly doughnut out of your crotch.”

Mount Sims is a stepchild of the fashion world. He moved to Los Angeles from his hometown of Milwaukee after the breakup of his band. For a period, he earned his rent as a male model, and was lured back into the studio — a computer inside his walk-in closet — by requests of designers who wanted him to create music to accompany their events. In order to pull off this synergy of music, modern dance and performance art, Sims frequently collaborates with the likes of choreographer Ryan Heffington (Psycho Dance Show) and Grey Ant’s Grant Krajecki.

Sims prefers the input of designers and performance artists to that of other musicians. “I like to think of my music as a painting,” he says, smiling. “Andy Warhol and Basquiat made paintings together. That was a beautiful combination, because they bounced ideas off one another. I don’t believe that a musician has to bounce his ideas off another musician to write a song.”

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