When they’re right in front of you, Toronto’s METZ seem pretty normal. But when Alex Edkins, Chris Slorach, and Hayden Menzies grab their respective instruments (guitar, bass, drums), that belief sets itself on fire. It’s a vivid picture and it’s one the trio’s new album proudly emphasizes as METZ II waives off the bells and whistles to move like a cut fastball – giving you exactly what you want only to split you open with a layer of noise-rock that requires a helmet and Depends. It’s hostile yet it’s unmistakable.
It’s also a sophomore effort that’s no slouch. From “Acetate” to “I.O.U.” to “Eyes Peeled”, METZ II makes up for the three-year pause in less than 30 minutes and puts the group’s quick departure from normalcy on blast. Hell, our recent conversation at Get Well Bar took place on a rare day off in between multiple tour runs and though they were open to discuss everything, their new artwork is the only press quote their second record needs. “The album cover’s a photo that my Dad took when he was younger,” Edkins notes. “I grew up seeing a lot of his work in photo albums and stuff, and I just kind of thought they suited the mood and the lyrical things – a disenfranchised, fed up kind of vibe.”
You went from being a small Toronto punk band that made 7″ records to signing with Sub Pop and touring almost 300 days in 2014…
CHRIS SLORACH: That’s not true. 300 shows for the last record cycle of the last album is more accurate – just to keep our facts straight.
Got it. So what was that transition like? Did the change surprise you?
ALEX EDKINS: Absolutely. It felt gradual in a sense because it kind of jumped off when that first record came out. It feels like things have been building pretty steadily during the past few years.
CHRIS: Our shows started getting bigger in Toronto and we started travelling. Those shows were starting to do well and we made a record, sent it to Sub Pop, and they put it out and that was sort of like… I don’t know if this term applies to our situation but… the “tipping point” maybe?
Two of you are originally from Ottawa and despite the differences between the two music scenes, do you think being in Toronto is crucial to a band’s success?
ALEX: I don’t think it is nowadays because everything is kind of based online and you have the ability to reach as many people as you want from really anywhere. You could be in a remote spot…
CHRIS: Viet Cong are a prime example of that. Matt [Flegel] lives in Nanaimo – way out on the West Coast and kind of off the beaten path, and his band is doing great. I don’t think location is as important as it once was.
HAYDEN MENZIES: And Alex and I didn’t move from Ottawa to Toronto to be in a band, it just happened to coincide. We lived there for a long time and we were just ready for a change.
So do you guys like Ottawa?
ALEX: Yeah, I do. It’s a bit sleepy though so it was definitely time to go. Getting hooked on music – Ottawa is where it happened for me. During that time, there was a really busy, really inviting scene and it was like our family. Our best friends were in bands and everyone was doing something.
HAYDEN: The city sort of worked in your favor if you put in the effort to seek things out. Once you were in, you became really enthralled in it because it was so fun and inviting.
ALEX: There was nothing else to do other than make music or make a zine or do shows and it seemed like everyone was doing that.
Is Ottawa’s scene more of a community than the fast-paced mentality of Toronto’s?
HAYDEN: I mean, I’m not a Toronto native but no, I don’t think that’s true. We’ve had a great time here and found the Toronto scene really inviting as well. People just go to everyone’s shows; it doesn’t matter if you play the same type of music or whatever. There’s no competitive nature at all.
ALEX: With the music community constantly changing it’s kind of hard to pin it down. It’s different depending on what area you’re talking about. I think with Toronto being so big it has several different music communities and most of the time they usually mix, but sometimes, you know, it’s a bit more segregated… maybe it’s just harder to get a grasp on whereas in Ottawa it’s small.
In terms of lyrical content, Alex – you’re a bit of a Larry David as you’ve previously mentioned a lot of everyday things drive you crazy. Are they just small instances like baristas screwing up your order or is it stuff on a larger scale like politics?
ALEX: No it’s definitely not as petty as a bad coffee (laughs). It’s more like a little moment of a bigger thing. So if you read the newspaper or you look out the window and you see these things in society or the world at large that just seem legitimately messed up… I think everyone can have those days where you get out of the wrong side of the bed and you see things pessimistically. Usually the band is a bit of an outlet for those things. It’s not that I’m always negative but it’s a great way to vent.
So you’re not a real-life Larry David?
ALEX: Nah, I don’t think so…
CHRIS: I’m laughing because I never really thought if it like that (laughs). When you break it down, that’s kind of a good way to describe it. Now we have a good name for you!
Going back to what you’ve said recently, is it important to not give into expectations?
ALEX: I think as a band and as people you just want to be in charge of your situation. We definitely just want to make the music we want to make and that’s always been our only goal. There’s no end game for us – all it is, is let’s make music together, play it for people and make records we like, and if we do that we’ll always be satisfied. The moment you start doing it for other reasons, you are basically cheating yourself. A lot of people are tempted to make something they think is going to sell and for us, we just want to be sure it’s going to be the record we wanted to make regardless of how things have been going. This has just been an honest and really natural transition into the new record.
You toured a ton in 2013/2014. What were some of the coolest experiences you had on tour? And were there any towns that surprised you in how much they like punk music?
CHRIS: I’ll speak for myself but playing in Katowice in Poland at OFF! Festival has kind of been a highlight. We played at around 5 p.m. in the afternoon to this massive sea of people. It was the hottest show we’ve ever played but there was so much energy from the crowd. That was a huge one for me.
ALEX: Playing in Spain and Iceland and Australia makes you feel super fortunate to even be there. We never thought we’d be able to travel around the world just playing in a band, so I think everywhere we go is always a bit of a mind blow and it’s surreal every time. Like, “Holy shit, people are coming to the show and they actually appear to be having a good time… wow”.
CHRIS: We had a good two and a half years experiencing things we didn’t think were going to happen.
Were you able to take anything from the road and translate it onto the new record?
CHRIS: One riff (laughs). Two and a half years and one riff.
ALEX: Most of the stuff was written when we got home. It’s hard to find the time to do any writing on the road because it’s go go go, soundcheck, maybe eat, and then play. So yeah, I’d say 99 per cent of the record was written in Toronto.
Were there specific tour experiences that you would have written about?
ALEX: I think the answer is yes but I couldn’t really pinpoint anything exactly. You see how other people live – you see the good and the bad – and that absolutely could have made it onto the record.
In terms of seeing how people live, did you see anything really messed up?
ALEX: When we were in Croatia, we saw a bunch of dudes Sieg Heil-ing a statue in the middle of the night while they were getting their picture taken.
CHRIS: It was dead serious…
ALEX: They were Neo-Nazis. We’ve seen some marches and some messed up stuff, but really it’s been overwhelmingly positive meeting new people.
CHRIS: I had a drinking contest with Super Mario in Bogotá [Columbia]. That was awesome.
Was it just a guy dressed up like Super Mario?
CHRIS: I don’t think he meant it in that way, he just looked exactly like him. I think there’s a Vice Columbia thing where him and I are having a drinking contest.
ALEX: I think you won that contest.
CHRIS: I did! He was really pissed off about that. He was really fast, but not as fast as me.
Given how much you guys travel, what’s become your ideal show to play?
ALEX: Hmm… our ideal show is just a diverse bill with open-minded, creative people just doing their thing in a small room where they can get up close and have a good time. No one gets hurt, everyone’s smiling and everyone’s there because they love it.
While possibly getting blood on their face… from your face.
Chris: I always forget about that and then I look in the mirror and see this stupid scar (laughs).
Aside from your faces, what kind of stuff have you broken on stage?
CHRIS: I’ve broken like all my shit.
Is there anything you regret breaking?
ALEX: I’ve broken a lot of my pairs of glasses… like tons of glasses.
CHRIS: It’s never on purpose. I broke my bass in half in Winnipeg but it was a complete freak accident. I lightly tossed it to the side and the neck came off and I felt embarrassed because we’re totally not a band that smashes their gear. We have a lot of respect for our equipment.
HAYDEN: We can’t afford that. It would be cool to be like The Who or whatever and beat the shit out of our stuff, but we usually gotta’ go play a show the next day.
CHRIS: The only time I feel like it was intentional was at Parts & Labour in Toronto – it was after we played our record release show. Someone just walked up to the front of the stage and poured an entire bottle of champagne onto my pedal board and I had to replace the whole thing. People were just spraying champagne and beers everywhere.
ALEX: There’s a pretty great photo of Jerry pouring a full beer on your head. Ah, the good old days.
CHRIS: Yeah, that was fun.