Emily Haines (Metric) Talks with Olivier Assayas on the Talkhouse Podcast

"The only way to function is with your instinct."

On this week’s Talkhouse Podcast we have the pleasure of reuniting two intensely creative individuals who first worked together decades ago: Emily Haines and Olivier Assayas.

Haines is, of course, the singer and primary songwriter for the band Metric, which she’s been fronting for the past 20-plus years, and which sprang from the same fertile Canadian scene that gave the world Broken Social Scene and Stars, among many others—in fact, it’s Haines’ voice that you hear on Broken Social Scene’s biggest (and I would argue best) song, “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl.” But her primary focus over the years has of course been Metric, which just released their ninth album of thought-provoking indie-rock anthems, Formentera II. It’s a sequel to the excellent album they released exactly a year prior, and another collection of danceable, fantastic songs. Check out  “Just the Once,” from Formentera II, which Haines describes as “regret disco.”

So what does a catchy Canadian indie band have to do with a fearless French filmmaker like Olivier Assayas? A lot, as it turns out. Back when Assayas was prepping his 2004 film Clean, he needed a band to perform in a scene, and when he saw Metric, everything clicked: You can see the band perform their early hit “Dead Disco” in the movie, and Haines and Assayas hit it off after working together. Like Metric, Assayas has created an incredible body of work over the years, and done it—again like Metric—by following his own muse. His best-known films include Irma Vep, Clouds of Sils Maria, and 2016’s Personal Shopper, for which he was proclaimed Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. In a strange twist, he was asked to re-created Irma Vep as a TV series for HBO, which he did under the condition that he have total artistic freedom. That came out last year, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

These two get right into a great discussion about how they approach creating their art: Both rely on instinct rather than any desire for commercial success. They talk about the real Formentera—it’s an island in Spain—versus the one Haines created for these albums. They touch on Haines’ father, a well-known poet, and how that might have figured into her creative growth. Also, you’ll learn from this chat that every piano has one great song in it. Enjoy.

Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to Emily Haines and Olivier Assayas for chatting. If you liked what you heard, please follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform, and check out all the great stuff at Talkhouse.com. This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range. See you next time!

(Feature photos courtesy of the artists, edited by Keenan Kush.)

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