The 405 meets Metz
The months before the October release of Metz' eponymously titled debut album had seen the hype brewing into a mean, foreboding cloud. Thunder was on the horizon. Advance copies would surreptitiously do the rounds: "you didn't get this from me but… just… fuuuck."
It's explosive music, and the fact you can almost taste the sweat in the air of the live show while listening to it has meant their European tour has been one of the most hotly anticipated in years with venues upgraded and dates added due to outrageous popular demand. We caught up with them over some beers in Brighton, almost a year to the day after recording finished on their debut album. To say things have gone well would be an understatement.
"We didn't really have any expectations at all," says bassist Chris Slorach, in his smiling, genial patter, like a hardcore version of Desperate Dan, all square jaw, slick hair and denim.
"We had no expectations. Zero." Alex Edkins, the band's singer and guitarist, agrees but speaks with a tempered, foot-tapping intensity, an inner frustration waiting to be unleashed on stage. "We, the three of us, have been doing this out of love for making music and that's all that really mattered. As long as the three of us liked it we didn't care if anyone else did to be honest."
Years of shows in their native Toronto had given them the unofficial title of the city's best live band and their three EPs were all well received but signing to Sub Pop, the only label they sent the album to, has lit a match under the Toronto three-piece. Or, as they describe it, given them "a little kick in the ass."
"For a label like Sub Pop to get behind it and then for people to respond positively to it after that… we never could have assumed or even hoped that would happen," continues Edkins, "it's just crazy. I haven't listened to it since it was done though. Personally, I'm never really satisfied with anything in life so with the record, looking back, I just want to change everything. But as a whole we're content and proud of it."
The album itself, produced with help from Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck and Crystal Castles' Alex Bonenfant, is a hurricane of raw energy. You can almost see the engineer with his head in his hands as the whole desk red-lines, every element cranked up to breaking point. The howitzer blasts of Hayden Menzies' drums, the driving basslines and fuzzed out guitar that squawks and squeals in tandem with Edkins' broken, visceral, barked vocals – it's an exhausting yet exhilarating listen. It took five years from their first show in 2007 before their debut album was finished, a long time in a world where hardcore or punk bands can write, release and tour songs in a matter of months, but that was almost the point.
"It was figuring out what we were good at and then focusing on that," says Edkins, "The song writing took the longest part. Getting to grips with what that first record should be and what it should sound like and what we're good at doing and what we'd like to play live. You don't want to make a record and then hate playing it live every night."
"[The drums] are a great example of what we did," says Menzies, speaking up for the first time, but only because he's been addressed directly. The quietest of the band when they're all together, he chooses his words with intent and purpose, a contrast to Slorach's gregarious, broad-grinned banter and Edkins's quickfire rants.
"You would think it's just a kit in a really big room and for part of it, it was. But part of it was really stripped back to a really tight sound and one drum at a time and doing things like compressing the shit out of it. Doing things differently."
It takes a few listens to hear these tiny details – not least because first time round you get knocked on your arse – but it's there in the layered guitar scratches of "Headache", the panning wails on 'Get Off', the pounding snare hits of 'Wet Blanket' or toms of 'Sad Pricks' and occasional shudder of delay. Feedback is used as an instrument in and of itself. These moments, and all the others, add greater layers of sonic depth that give the album the dirty, messy texture of the live show, which is exactly the aesthetic they were aiming for.
"We learned pretty quickly that working with the right people is really important," continues Menzies, "it's not easy to translate a really big, live, simple rock show to a record. So we learned pretty quickly that we had to figure out a different approach than just get all three of us in one room, plug in and press record. We wanted to make sure that we had something that would translate to both formats really well. It was a fun experience but it took time."
Live, the band is exactly what you'd expect. Passing a bottle of Jameson's between each other and the heaving crowd it's a furious forty minutes of crowd surfing, guitar punching and chest pounding that leaves everyone exalted but exhausted. This is only the fourth date into a tour that will see them criss-crossing the Atlantic until the end of the summer, a road becoming well worn by the constant tread of quality Canadian bands.
"I think it's a musical country," says Edkins. "There's a climate for it. In the winter what do you do? You go in the basement where it's warm and play music. That's part of the culture, I think."
"Another thing to consider," says Slorach, "is the fact that Canada as a country is massive. There's a lot of bands coming out of Canada that sit right on the border. Places like Seattle or New York or Philadelphia or wherever. People say ‘oh those places are a hotbed for culture' but all these places are just a stone's throw away. I think Canada is somewhat influenced by the States but the cities in Canada have been spitting out good bands for a long time."
"Toronto is a hot bed as well," says Edkins, "and has been for ten years at least, of really interesting people pushing themselves and collaborating with other motivated people to make cool music and art. There's a lot of cool stuff going on."
Their relationship with the city they call home is strong and feeds directly into the frenetic, on-the-edge nature of their music and lyrics.
"It's only natural that people making music or any kind of art would be totally influenced by their surroundings," he says, "I know for me, when I was writing the lyrics, I couldn't really separate them. The music influences the lyrics as well of course, the feel and the mood is a bit frantic and a little bit paranoid to begin with. But Toronto is a crazy city man, there's this non-stop pace, it's just 'GO GO GO'. It's loud. It's aggressive."
"You work a 15 hour day, go to bed, then wake up and do another 15 hour day," Slorach says, with the wry smile of a busy man.
"Yeah," agrees Edkins, "there's gun crime, there's drugs, it's a majorly messed up city. But it's also a great city."
This talk of work and long hours brings the conversation back round to the tour and, more specifically, where they believe this record will be taking them. Despite giving up jobs in various creative industries for the love of their art they're happy to go with wherever the record takes them.
"We're the type of people that if we're going to do something we're gonna try to do it full on and at a pretty high quality," says Edkins. "We don't want to do anything half-assed. If this is what we're doing and this is our job then we want to be constantly working on it, all the time."
"That and we're gonna write a lot of jingles for car commercials," jokes Slorach. "That's where the money's at."
"Yeah we'll do that," says Edkins, forever deadpan. "And then we're gonna try to make a very vicious record number two. I want something very non-musical. That's the key. We want to take it to the next level. Nothing that you could actually call music."
Slorach laughs at this but with a slight nervousness that leaves the table unsure whether Edkins is joking or deadly serious.
"Certainly nothing that you could put in the amazingly upgraded cd player of the Cadillac Escalade 2014," says Menzies, breaking the spell as his bandmates burst into laughter.
So soon after the record came out such plans are probably premature, at present the overbearing feeling is that these three friends are simply happy at the hand they've been dealt. The road ahead is long, both figuratively and literally considering the touring schedule in front of them, and these days there's no real certainty in the music industry anyway, a fact they're fully aware of.
"We're gonna go home and try to write a record when we have time," Slorach says, draining his beer.
And beyond that?
"We just have to do what we do and play shows and do it because we love to do it," concludes Edkins. To them, that's really all they're doing, which is the same as they've been doing for years.
Life could be worse.
You can visit METZ by heading here. Their self-titled debut album is out now.