METZ’s self-titled debut album is a ruthless sensory assault, condensing years of punk and hardcore appreciation into a compact treatise on the importance of volume. Yet, somehow, a few minutes into a conversation with singer/guitarist Alex Edkins, we’re reflecting on the music of The Beatles, noting our shared memory of discovering a whole world by listening to worn-out cassette tapes from the backseat of parents’ cars. “I’m still a lover of The Beatles and pop music,” Edkins says, speaking in a polite and gracious manner befitting of his distinct Canadian accent. “It all stems from there.”
Only later, as Edkins details his introduction to punk rock, does he resemble the vesuvian presence featured on METZ. Now flowing more quickly and comfortably, he pins the event to a teenage friend “who started reading HeartattaCk zine and buying records from Ebullition.” Though he lived in the suburbs of Ottawa, far removed from the vibrant music scenes that birthed these sounds, Edkins bonded with hardcore. Along with his friend, the two would “nerd out” on selections obtained on HeartattaCk’s authority, with Edkins recalling “reading reviews and just ordering them, crossing our fingers that they would be any good.”
Years later, it was the punk and hardcore scenes in Ottawa and Toronto that served as the setting for Edkins’ introduction to his future bandmates, Hayden Menzies and Chris Slorach. And though the music of METZ is only a cousin to punk, the album features some of the genre’s least essential but most endearing quirks, such as a sub-30-minute run time and snotty song titles, like “Wasted,” “Get Off,” and “Sad Pricks,” whose sole purpose is to slightly raise parents’ level of concern.
“It wasn’t just the music that hooked me,” Edkins notes, speaking to the essence of punk that goes beyond curse words and spit. “It was the way these people were making it happen all by themselves, and answering to no one. It was the whole mindset and the fact that these people weren’t doing it for mass appeal, they were doing it for personal reasons, just for the love of the music. That’s something all three of us still feel connected to and we try to function in that manner.”
METZ honor these ideals on a nightly basis on tour, giving their best impression of a full microwave on a continuous cycle, with the audience just as interested in when they will explode as how they will explode. Their songs, Edkins notes, are written “in a live context in the practice space, so they require a certain amount of energy and a certain amount of sweat.” And, without any recordings to share beyond a few stray 7-inches, their live show was responsible for the strong following that METZ built over the last three-and-a-half years in Ontario, allowing the band to slowly expand their touring radius and fan-base.
“It’s a really raw and physical show,” describes Edkins. “We’re really excited about the material, so when we perform, we lay everything out on the table. And, I think people get a little bit shook by that. The three of us, when we play together, that naturally happens. We don’t discuss it or plan it, we just play the songs live in front of people and the show naturally happens, becoming this raucous, physical experience.”
When the time came to record METZ, two producers known primarily for electronic work, Graham Walsh (member of Holy Fuck) and Alexandre Bonenfant (producer for Crystal Castles), were tasked to capture the essence of a METZ performance. The resulting album is unrefined without seeming cheap or amateurish, making more sense with every increased numeral on the volume dial. And though there is plenty of noise in METZ’s rock, there are also frequent moments when the band’s three instruments find harmony with Edkins’ desperate wails in a united assault, working together rather than fighting with each other for the audience’s attention. In METZ, the chemistry of Edkins’ guitar, Menzies’ drums and Slorach’s bass can be experienced outside of the crowded basements and dirty bars, with a greatly reduced chance of getting kicked in the head during the experience.
This intangible is not lost on Edkins, and in speaking of his longtime collaborator Menzies, he boasts “there is an indefinable quality that we have where it’s automatic, where you immediately know where they are going to take a song, and it makes playing together so enjoyable. I feel very fortunate to have found him, and that he’s as in love with this music as I am. It’s a real treat to play music with someone like that.”
When the two relocated from Ottawa to Toronto, they found a bass player in Chris Slorach who could share in their vision, and METZ began creating this music that was, in Edkins’ words, “a little left of center, something that people hadn’t heard for a while.” This sound still feels fresh on METZ, with the most direct reference point being the post-hardcore of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. But, Edkins’ vocals on cuts like “Wet Blanket” and “Headache,” demonstrate an ear for melody and an astute pop sensibility uncommon in the genre, showing a range that goes beyond his comfort zone that typically recalls David Yow, but less drunk. Couple this with the cleaner production present on the full length, and a straight comparison to the likes of The Jesus Lizard or Big Black become potentially misleading. The similarities in METZ to these canonized groups, though, has been a nearly universal talking point in the outpouring of favorable reviews for METZ.
Edkins calls these positive reactions “exciting” and “unexpected,” but he is careful with his own assessment of METZ, claiming the band is “content with the album, but I wouldn’t say that we are over the moon. If you think that you’ve done this perfect thing, there’s a problem.”
This is coming from a band that Edkins described as not “having any great ambitions in the beginning other than to get some gigs.” Still, while speaking about the band’s upcoming year in 2013, “getting some gigs” is a large factor in the equation. Edkins verifies that the band is planning to “tour for the majority of the year” and “hopefully work on new stuff while on the road.” He even mentions that in their current month off for the holidays, the band is “already starting to get new stuff together.”
“We just want to be as productive as possible and keep music coming out,” Edkins concludes. “If we’re staying active and staying busy, that is when we’re the most happy.”