Metric “Black Sheep” (Influenza)
Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: Canada, Influenza, Music.
No strangers to acclaim, Metric’s Polaris Music Prize and Juno Award nominations have contributed heavily to the Toronto-based quartet being recognized as one of Canada’s highest regarded rock acts. That said, the band is seemingly perpetually on the brink of something greater. With the release of last year’s Fantasies—which debuted atop Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart—the band was once again greeted with acclaim from critics and fans alike, but failed to make the jump to the “next level.” While not conquering the world with one swift blow, the (relatively) smaller victories continued: Metric was once again included on the shortlist for the Polaris Prize, the band garnered an Alternative Album of the Year win at the Junos, and the group landed key placements on a number of high profile television shows, movies, and video games including Grey’s Anatomy, Rock Band 3 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. No surprise then that director Edgar Wright reached out to the band during the process of adapting Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim graphic novels into a motion picture. Meeting with Wright and Nigel Godrich, who curated the soundtrack to the film, guitarist James Shaw and vocalist Emily Haines addressed the duo’s ideas and suggested a track which they felt would best serve the film. “Black Sheep,” a long-developed song which had been in the group’s live repertoire for years, had failed to make the cut for Fantasies, but as fate would have it, made perfect sense for the film. In this edition of Influenza, Haines explains the development of the track over the years, why it remained on the cutting-room floor despite being so popular with the band, and how Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has given the track an outlet to live on.
“Black Sheep” is a track Metric started working on back in 2007, in the early writing sessions for our album Fantasies. It was always an unusual number, and it went through various road tests and revisions throughout the making of the record. In the end, it didn’t make the cut, even though it was always a real banger live and we all enjoyed playing it. Mostly this was due to the fact that no one, including me, could get a handle on what the hell the song was about. I wrote the lyrics all at once in this full on stream-of-consciousness moment, and I couldn’t explain where all the imagery was coming from. Take this line from the pre-chorus for example: ” Now that the truth is just a rule that you can bend/You crack the whip, shape-shift and trick the past again.” Come again? That’s all well and good, but who am I talking about? At the time, I couldn’t say. “Black Sheep” was plucked from the unknown. To make matters worse, I insisted that the song begin with a creepy chanting intro. At one point, I had the whole band in the vocal booth whispering the words “black sheep come home” without knowing why.
It wasn’t until April 2008 that this song revealed its destiny in the form of a phone call from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World director Edgar Wright. Edgar explained the film he was shooting in Toronto, the various bands and characters in Brian’s graphic novel, and his ideas for the soundtrack which would be curated by Nigel Godrich. Later, over dinner with Jimmy Shaw and myself, Edgar and Nigel described what they were looking for and it was suddenly very clear that “Black Sheep” was meant to be in this movie. Lyrically, musically—even the intro!—this song was exactly what Nigel and Edgar needed for the pivotal scene at Lee’s Palace. Actress Brie Larson makes it her own in the film (sings it completely differently than me!), and we’re proud to have the original Metric version on the soundtrack alongside T-Rex, the Stones, Beck, Black Lips… and of course our pals Broken Social Scene. “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” is a very special song I wrote & recorded with BSS back in 2003. Like “Black Sheep,” Edgar and Nigel brought it full circle. I’m honored to be on such a slamming soundtrack twice.
[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]