METZ guitarist/vocalist Alex Edkins has said that he enjoys making music that “punches you in the gut.”
It’s an appropriate description of the band’s mission, as experiencing the Canadian noise-rock trio’s music is a visceral experience.
Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies conjure a sound that seems to beat upon the listener, a mighty noise that could pass for a living, breathing entity. It’s a racket that’s both hypnotic and unsettling, and METZ is also well-known for music videos that keep viewers on edge.
The band’s recent clip for “Spit You Out” is a rapid-fire barrage of visuals depicting the band in concert. All sweat, flashing strobes and adrenaline, it’s a near seizure-inducing snapshot of the group in all its onstage glory.
METZ is currently touring behind its sophomore record, aptly titled II, released in May on Sub Pop Records. Edkins recently spoke with The Aquarian about the band’s latest video, life on the road and getting the METZ sound.
The “Spit You Out” video is really striking, and it does a great job of portraying the onstage energy of the band. Watching it truly made me feel like I was at a METZ show. How did that video come together?
It’s basically footage from our two record release shows in Toronto, at Lee’s Palace, and I think there’s also some footage from a couple of NYC shows and some still photography mixed in that friends of ours took. It’s a big mish-mash of stuff. I’ve got to give all the credit to director Scott Cudmore; he’s a guy we’ve worked with on several videos. He’s just got a crazy mind and knows our band and how to visually portray the vibe of the band. I’ve got to give it all up to him. I think the video is kind of cool. It’s definitely a little hard to watch. (Laughs) But, our shows can be the same way a little bit.
You guys seem to be total road dogs, and do a lot of touring. How do you stay sane when spending so much time on the road?
I think it’s all about putting things in perspective. I think it’s pretty easy to get a little insane if you’re not keeping a level head. You can sometimes forget how lucky you are doing what you’re doing. If I’m ever in a negative mood, I have to kind of shake myself and remember that we’re pretty damn lucky that we get to play our music for people all over the world. And also, you’ve got to give your bandmates space. You’re basically married to your bandmates in some weird way. It’s totally like a relationship that way.
How many miles are on your touring van?
Oh, man—I think this next trip might be the last one. The old girl is about to kick the bucket! I hope not, but it could be the end for the vehicle. Hayden’s had that van for as long as I’ve known him. I think there’s almost 500,000 clicks on it.
I hope it makes it through the tour.
Yeah, me too!
You’re coming to New York City for a few shows in January. What are some of the things that you like best about performing here?
It’s really just one of those special places. I think some of our biggest and most special shows have been in New York City. We made a lot of good friends at Death By Audio [a warehouse space in Brooklyn that formerly hosted underground music and art shows] and had a lot of firsts there. New York was also one of the first places where we were able to play really nice rooms, like the Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall Of Williamsburg, which are really good-sounding venues with good sight lines. And the city itself is really special. We like to take it all in if we can.
You guys have a few new 7-inches coming out in the new year?
Yeah, there’s one that’s coming out on the Three One G label, where one song is already up online. Then there’s two more 7-inches set for 2016, but they’re meant to be a little bit of a surprise.
METZ has a really big sound for a three-piece group. With the wall of noise you create, it seems like there would be two guitar players making that sound, but it’s just you. Are there any special tricks to your guitar style?
I don’t really like a thick, chunky guitar sound that much. I’ve always tried to go for more of a thin, stabby kind of thing. It’s pretty simplistic music, but I think we try to make the guitar and bass work as one. We don’t normally double notes; it will usually be a semi-tone off, and we’ll try to make it as substantial as possible. We never actually play power chords or double up parts, it’s always playing something that’s pretty locked in but just different enough to give it a little more dissonance.
Your band has such a pummeling sound, and I think I read somewhere that someone referred to all three of you as percussionists, because it really feels like the music is just beating on you.
That was Jessie Keeler from Death From Above 1979 who said that. We did a winter tour with them, and he said, “I had a revelation during your show.” And I said, “What?” And he said, “You’re like a band of three drummers.” And I thought that was interesting and probably pretty on the mark. The way we play the guitars, it’s not very strummy—it’s more jagged and percussive.
I think it’s the perfect way to describe your band.
It was interesting to hear that perspective. It was pretty cool.
In the band’s bio for Sub Pop, you’re quoted as saying that starting a band is just something that you do, basically because you’re so into music, and “you never think that you’ll be able to do it all the time.” When you first started METZ, did you not necessarily have the intention to make it a full-time thing, or the belief it would evolve into that?
No. That’s the thing; it was zero ambition. I don’t know if I was just raised that way, to think it’s not realistic. Music was just something that I always loved, but I always had very pessimistic views on it. I thought music was something I’d be doing, but I figured it would be after work or something like that. But it’s become this whole other thing, and it’s now our main focus. It was totally unexpected and it’s cool.
Never did we attempt to do have a full-time music career, but I think that’s probably why it happened, too. I think if you’re trying to do it, you’re bound to fail, because you’re going to try to cater to what’s cool, even subconsciously. You’re going to try to change what was good about it by trying to “make it” or something. I’m not pointing any fingers or saying that we’re above that or anything, but I think if you’re too conscious about making it, or having a certain level of success, I think you might lose sight of why you started to do it in the first place.
Do the band members have other jobs as well?
Well, we’ve been touring for the last three years. So, this has been it. We always say that we’re going to tour less, but we end up going pretty hard with it. After this U.S. trip, we go to Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and then we’re done for this album. We’ll start working on a new album, and we’ll be putting out a few smaller releases too. It’s go, go, go—but that’s definitely the way we like it.
METZ performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia on Jan. 12, the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan on Jan. 13, and the Music Hall Of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Jan. 14. For more info, visit metzztem.com.