Canadian three-piece METZ make the kind of raw, vigorous noise rock that conjures all the power of a hurricane and pummels you with its sheer ferocity. Making waves with their debut self-titled album in 2012, the trio this year followed up with second release II and continued to harness the raucous energy they are known for. With hefty doses of feedback, layers of heavy guitar and lyrics that explore politics, relationship breakdown, death and technology the ten track release clocking in at just over thirty minutes is a great cathartic remedy for pondering all that is wrong with the world.
We recently caught up with frontman Alex Edkins to talk about the upcoming tour to Australia for Laneway Festival, learning to say no, and the importance of music as an outlet for his frustrations and aggression. I catch Alex just as he is finishing up some recording for the day, and while he is a little coy about the project, it is exciting to hear that after a three-year wait for II, new music is already on the way.
“I’m just working on some recording stuff today, so new music, that’s always very fun,” he tells me, “It’s not an LP… It’s some smaller releases that should come out in the near future. I can’t tell you too much about it, but it’s a collaboration. It’s slightly different; it’s got some different people involved.”
I ask about the recording process itself, especially in terms of II, and how easily the project flowed off the back of extensive touring for the first album. “We definitely jumped the gun off the top,” he says. “We were really excited to record new stuff, but I think we needed to take a break after basically two years of touring. So, after we gave ourselves some breathing room it came pretty easily. We ended up doing a lot of writing separately and bringing it into the jam space, then fleshing it out the way we usually do. It came pretty fast and furious once we got going.”
Previously, Alex has commented on how with positive reception to an album, a band takes on new meaning, and there becomes a lot of pressure to change and a lot of expectations. I ask if this is how they felt in the wake of their first effort, and what the secret was to staying true to themselves and ignoring those external influences. “It was just a matter of trying to block out what you might feel as other peoples expectations or what happens to be trendy or cool or whatever,” Alex says. “That’s never really been an issue with us, we have always kind of just done this for ourselves, so our litmus test is always just what the three of us like and we usually don’t pay much attention to anything else. We were aware more people would be hearing it, but I don’t really think it affected how we make music or how we function as a band. We always just try to continue on.”
While it still certainly follows the same trajectory of previous work, II incorporates electronic elements like synths, loops and found sounds, allowing the band to branch out more experimentally than ever before.
“I think it’s just a natural evolution,” Alex says. “We’re music fans in general so we like everything. If it’s going to suit a song or if it sounds interesting then we’re down to do it. Whenever we’re in the studio working we kind of throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. It’s fun. It involves a lot of experimentation. Sometimes you can overdo it and you end up with way too much on a track and you have to dial it back, but that’s just part of our process.”
Overlaying those walls of sound are some pretty dense lyrics written by the front-man. He has said that he considers himself “a pretty massive pessimist, but a pessimist who knows how lucky he is.” I ask about this and whether writing lyrics for the band acts as a bit of catharsis. “I guess I see it as a bit of a therapy session. When we started the band I never wanted to be a singer in a band, it just kind of happened. So, I think it’s good for my head to have such a great outlet. With the style of music that we play, it just seems to happen that the lyrics are coming from a frustrated place and it vibes with the music. In this day and age I feel like it’s pretty easy to read the paper and look out the window and see things that are truly disturbing and messed up. That’s often what I fixate on. I am not sure why that is, but I think it just seems to happen that way and its definitely good I have the band to vent. I think everyone should have a band where they get to get all their frustration and aggression out. I think it’s a pretty healthy thing.”
I ask how becoming a singer in a band “just happens” and he laughs. “Well, to be that person in front of the microphone is not something I wanted to do. From a young age I have always played instruments and been obsessed with music, so that was always there but I am more suited to being that second or third guitar player in the back, that would be my ideal situation. But it just kind of happened. We are a three piece and no one else was going to do it so I had to do it.”
He now has plenty of experience under his belt, after playing over 300 shows and touring extensively for two years off the back of the first record. I ask how he and his bandmates coped with such long stints on the road, and Alex replies with a sigh, seemingly looking back with a not quite forgotten sense of fatigue.
“I don’t know if it was ever planned, we were just really bad at saying no,” he says. “We kept getting offers we couldn’t refuse and kept saying yes, yes, yes. We are getting better at saying no to things.”
The Australian tour encompassing Laneway marks the end of the touring cycle for II and has been a little more manageable than the previous mammoth list of dates.
“It’s still been really busy but not nearly as much as the first one because I think it’s important to have a home life to stay sane,” Alex says. “We have been looking forward to this one for a while. Our last trip to Australia was really cool and Laneway has just been one of these things on our radar for a while since some of our friends did it a couple of years back. They were just raving about it. We are really excited to be invited to join the gang. It’s going to be pretty crazy.”
METZ will join a long list of incredible acts on the bill including Grimes, CHVRCHES, Beach House and fellow noise rockers Battles. There can be some similarities drawn with the latter, who despite a much more complex formula of organic and inorganic elements, maintain the same high intensity output. I ask Alex if he is looking forward to spending some time on the road with these guys, and perhaps getting a deeper understanding of their process.
“For sure,” he says, “I think we have a lot of respect for what they do. I would consider it really really different. The technicality involved in their music is just shocking. We are almost the complete opposite of that. You could probably play our songs with mittens on. But definitely there is something we share as far as the aggression, and maybe some of the same records influenced us when we were growing up. I think it’s going to be really fun to see these bands over and over and see how they do things.”
There is an overstatement of modesty for the technicality the three piece involves, and we look forward to seeing them perform across the country (mittens or no mittens). When they are not on stage they have big plans to check out the beaches and drink lots of coffee.
“The two best things in Australia, our beaches and our coffee,” I assure.
“Sounds like heaven!” Alex exclaims.
Wed February 10: Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Fri February 12: The Corner Hotel, Melbourne