Metz: TAS In Session
When Metz visited The Alternate Side late last year, the hard-thrashing trio was, without doubt, the loudest group to ever take over Studio A.
That brutal drive, hardcore brio and sinewy muscularity which uplifts Metz's smartly-crafted songs — or more suitably, missiles — is splashed across the band's self-titled debut album, out now on Sub Pop. The three ferocious Canadians — guitarist/singer Alex Edkins, drummer Hayden Manzies and bassist Chris Slorach — might know how to make pummelling rock, but they're also savvy enough to understand that a real melodic structure elevates that seething wall of noise, displaying the artistry within the assault.
Below, watch videos of the thunderous Metz in session and listen to a conversation with the trio on TAS on 91.5 WNYE this Friday, February 22, at 11 a.m. ET, also streaming online.
Eric Holland: You’re loud. It’s a musical loud. Can you tell me about the aesthetic?
Alex Edkins: It’s our natural approach to making music together. We have a similar background in music, growing up and going to punk and hardcore shows. It’s not premeditated, we don’t think about it too much. That’s what comes out when we get together.
Eric: Talk about the role of each instrument. Chris, you on bass. Do you see yourself in the pocket, are you keeping time?
Chris Slorach: Yes, well, Hayden and I play off of each other a lot in this band. Nobody is trying to play anything fancy. Half those songs are two notes, but you play around with whatever suits the song. I don’t play fancy or try to show off, I just stick straight in a groove. That’s is for the bass. The other guys are a little fancier than me.
Eric: Hayden, [you're] on drums with tremendous power.
Hayden Menzies: Yeah, I work out. I’m kidding. I don’t. Ever. Because there are only three of us we like the limitations that we have with only three different instruments. We try to make all of those gel together and just have one wall of sound. Not necessarily noise — volume isn’t always deliberate. It’s just what makes that wall of noise sound appropriate for our ears.
Eric: You do compliment each other well. It’s unlike listening to a power trio like Cream, especially live, because they’re really in competition. They’re all playing lead. But I don’t have that sense with you guys.
Alex: No, that’s true. We definitely try to make one unified big noise. It’s not like a bass line walking around and then a lead guitar. The approach to guitar and bass is usually trying to find notes that compliment each other, that come together to make one thing as opposed to several different things. We’re always aiming for what the song needs mostly. This record and the songs we play today are very much stripped down and to the point. No fancy stuff. That’s what we enjoy doing and what works best with the three ingredients we have.
Eric: Why was [“Dirty Shirt’] left off the album? Because it was a newer song?
Alex: Yeah, we just ran out of time, basically. We took a long time doing the actual record and the way things were working out, when we wanted the record to come out and when we actually started talking to Sub Pop about when it would be released. We didn’t quite have that one ready to put on the record. It was also a little bit different; I think it would have fit in terms of flow on the record, but it just seemed a little bit of a step in a barely different direction. It felt like it should be its own thing and when they asked us if we wanted to do some sort of pre-order initiative, there were other options, like tote bags and earplugs. But music is what we like to do best.
Eric: You guys don’t strike me as tote bag guys.
Chris: I don’t think that would have been a hot item. The Metz tote bag.
Hayden: It would fall apart.
Eric: You started the album before you hooked up with Sub Pop?
Chris: We finished it before we hooked up with Sub Pop.
Eric: You’ve been together for five years. Was it a situation where you’ve been saving your pennies from gigs until you had enough dough to finance the recording of your first album without getting involved with a record company?
Chris: We took so long making a record because we wanted to have the right songs for a record. We released a bunch of singles before, but I don’t think we had the songs that would make a cohesive album. We didn’t think we were quite there yet. But when we had this batch of songs, we felt like they worked really well together. We didn’t start making the record expecting it to come out on any specific label. If it didn’t come out on Sub Pop or something else, we would have put it out ourselves. It was a fortunate thing that we finished it up, sent it to them and they really liked it and decided to put it out.
Alex: It was a record we were going to make, regardless.
Hayden: [Sub Pop] has been fantastic from day one. They’ve been really friendly, supportive and encouraging. We couldn’t think of a better home for the record. We got really lucky. A great group of people.
Eric: The first band I think of with Sub Pop is Nirvana. Fans?
Alex: Yeah, huge fans.
Eric: There’s certainly a commonality between Nirvana and you guys.
Alex: Well, thanks.
Eric: You mentioned hardcore and another band I think of when listening to you is Bad Brains.
Alex: Oh wow, that’s awesome. We never heard that one before.
Eric: The energy more than anything.
Chris: Yeah, we’re big fans of them.
Eric: Alex and Hayden, you’re from Ottawa. Were you guys getting turned onto local bands growing up?
Alex: It was a mix. At that time there were a whole lot of bands from the States coming through town, some playing small venues that were tapped into that DIY punk scene. I think I went to a show maybe three, four or five times a week. Almost all of the time. There was always music and you were meeting like-minded people and musicians. I got hooked right away, during school. That’s how I met Hayden, a mutual friend through music. There was great local music, but some of the cream of the crop from down south too.
Eric: A healthy scene in Ottawa?
Alex: At that time, yes. It still really good there. It’s changed. It’s got a different sound, but it’s still healthy and full of music lovers.
Eric: Chris, you were in Toronto.
Chris: I grew up on the East End of Toronto which was a little devoid of rock culture. I was into indie rock and punk growing up that I got from my sisters. When I was about 13, I decided to start putting on shows and that’s where I started hearing a lot of the bands. I don’t know ... I was a big music fan and I listened to a lot of stuff, listened to bands and put on some shows.
Eric: Working as a promoter?
Chris: Yeah, it was more like no one else was doing this thing where I was, so I started doing it. I was too young to get into most of the bars. I was doing all-ages shows until I was older.
Eric: Alex, I noticed you have a keen and precise use of feedback.
Alex: Yeah, I’m sitting on the fence between trying to make something that’s musical and precise and at the same time very over-the-top, unhinged and a little crazy. We like to flirt with both of those aesthetics and put them together. At times we’ll be super tight — or try to be — and other times be lose and almost improv. We have space to dabble. Those spots are planned out beforehand. It’s something we love, but we also love that controlled pop song structure that we go for as well.
Eric: I think it’s in “Headache,” the opening, there’s a little feedback squeal. Jimi Hendrix, Sonic Youth, Neil Young? Who do you favor?
Alex: All three.
Chris: We’ll take them all.
Eric: On drums, Hayden, I hate to be comparing, but you have to have reference points. Are you a fan of Helmet and John Stanier?
Hayden: Yeah, definitely. I had a bunch of Helmet records. I think Meantime was my favorite. Great drummer.
Eric: Some similarities between the two of you?
Hayden: I can see that. I’ve also been told Animal from The Muppets which is kind of weird, but I’ll take that too.
Chris: You’re not quite as funky as Stanier, I think.
Hayden: Yeah, he’s locked in. That’s an admirable quality, especially on drums. I try to take some of that aspect when I really need to and, like we said before of other instruments contributing to the song as a whole, I’m trying to put in whatever the song needs for it to be the end result that we’re going for. If I kick for three minutes and don’t touch another drum, that’s fine. That’s what it takes. But if you go a little nuts and improv every night, I can try to do that too. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the level of beer.
Eric: How sacred are melodies to you three?
Alex: In the band or in general?
Alex: It’s something that we’ve been trying to integrate more. I think at first when we released our first three singles, our approach to making music was quite different and we used vocals and lyrics as sort of an afterthought. Just thinking of it as one more instrument in the pile. But with this record, we wanted to put a bigger emphasis on the vocals in general, but also the melodies and try to have — even if it’s a stretch — some kind of little hook that people can grab onto. That we can grab onto. Yeah, I think it’s there in small amounts. With music in general, we’re big fans of great songwriting and memorable melodies. It’s working its way into what we do every day, I think.