METZ talk to Louder Than War’s Lisa Sookraj about their explosive upcoming album ‘II’ and a variety of other fun stuff like Toronto, booze and dreams.
Even though being in a band has become a full-time job for Metz they still practice at their same old rehearsal space, from where they’d just come when they met me at a Toronto bar called Wallflower. The bar is as unpretentious and charming as the guys themselves, being decorated in calming deep teal and rust-painted walls and with arrangements of wild-flowers scattered about. It’s all a stark contrast to the whirlwind of chaos Metz have been through of late – and that they create through their music. With the band’s much anticipated sophomore album, titled ‘II’, due out via Sub Pop on May 4th and an extensive tour to promote it in the offing (scroll down for dates) now couldn’t be a better time for us to catch up with them.
Lisa: First off, thanks for taking the time to meet with us before you launch into the whirlwind of press and shows that inevitably follows the release of a new album by a band of your stature! Your video for “Acetate” (see above) seems most fitting both because food videos are such a big thing right now and because it can also be used as an analogy for how hungry people are for some new Metziness – starving, even! Carrying the analogy on, to me the new album is one super satisfying, heavy and hearty, blissfully artery-clogging or coma-inducing even kind of meal. Like something off the secret menu at Burger’s Priest (most UK readers won’t know what that is – go here to find out!)
Anyway, I apologise for my first question as you’re probably going to be asked this like 400 times, but how would YOU guys define the sound of II? Feel free to be as concrete or abstract as you like. Or to use an analogy or whatever.
Hayden: Maybe Frings? I don’t know if they have that in the UK.
Alex: I think it’s more like bangers and mash.
Lisa: So that’s the unspoken actual album name?
Alex – Yeah. II / Bangers and Mash.
Lisa – That’s very appropriate. In my review of your album, I say that if you’re debut was hitting your head on a table, this is like throwing yourself up against a brick wall, long after you’ve been bloodied and bruised…
Chris: That could be our next music video. But wait, is that a step forward?
Alex: We’ve gotten up and we’ve moved to the wall.
The reviews for Metz’s debut were extremely positive across the board so it would be understandable if they felt some pressure working on their followup, even if the fact that the first album was so well-received was no doubt reassuring too.
The new album is darker and grittier and the band’s bio on Sub Pop’s site says this release represents what Metz really are. Importantly, they didn’t hire a big producer to clean up their sound and they also didn’t give into expectation or pressure to change who they are at all. Bearing this in mind I asked the band to elaborate on what kind of changes they thought were expected of them with this second album, and the pressures they felt in general.
Alex: What I meant was that people have this constant need to have the newest, hottest thing. We weren’t ready to do a 180. We wanted to evolve, but we didn’t want to leave behind what we had worked several years on creating. We definitely think it’s an expansion of the first record and there’s better writing, production and playing, but we didn’t want to give into the fact that people might expect grandiose changes. They might think “Well where’s the single? Why didn’t you clean it up so you could expand your fanbase?” But we wanted to put our feet strongly down in the cement and say “this is what we do. This is who we are”. We started this band for very altruistic reasons. We love playing music together and we don’t want anything to influence that but us and wanting to make something we’re proud of.
Chris: The majority of the pressures to make this record sound a certain way all came internally. We completely withdrew from the outside world to complete this album, so nobody was sticking their hands in what we were doing. We were just doing it by ourselves. Which was both an absolute pleasure and an absolute pain.
Alex: You can start to play tricks on yourself and get too involved, so we had Graham Walsh and Alex Bonenfant to bounce ideas off of since they’re another set of ears that we trust and they were a lot of help.
Lisa: They were the same guys you worked with the last time around and it sounds like your whole recording process was pretty similar to last time, with yourselves as producer. Is that correct?
Alex: Yeah. There weren’t any major changes as far as the way we did things. Our headspace was different and we were obviously going for a different result. We were more focused on the feel of songs as opposed to the idea of getting something right. We kind of threw that out the window, because there’s no such thing. I think the first record was a bit more obsessed with getting a perfect take or something, whereas this one is just a bit grittier and rougher around the edges.
Metz kept their debut lean and mean and although the new album also clocks in right around the also lean 30 minute mark, to me it feels less so because it’s got more gristle and it’s just plain meaner. The sound is jagged, sustained and revved, creating an “impending doom” kind of feeling that permeates the whole album. Apropos their debut, Metz have been quoted as saying that they wanted to show that they had control over the noise that they create. So was that a concern this time, and if not, what was instead?
Alex: It was totally a conscious thing that the first record was really short and quick jabs of tunes. This time we wanted to stretch out just a tiny bit. Nothing crazy, but let things groove out a bit more.
Chris: It was our attempt at being patient, being able to get a riff we liked, trying to develop it different ways and allowing a song to go longer than the 3-minute mark instead of just jumping from groove to groove. It’s almost like the three of us have this crazy A.D.D. together.
Alex: We definitely have that and we’re aware of it. It was sort of a source of pride between the three of us to have a 4 and a half minute song that felt good and not forced. It comes with a little bit more confidence, you can start to feel relaxed in a song as opposed to just racing to the end.
Lisa: You’ve said before that your music addresses or expresses the anxiety surrounding the way we live, rushing about our lives in oppressive cities. Can you tell us more about that please?
Alex: I think that the social anxiety that comes out in the lyrics are completely Toronto’s fault. We’re heavily influenced by our surroundings – and not just Toronto.
Chris: My impatience for everything is based on the life I’ve lived in this city.
Hayden: We’ve been here about 10 years now. Long enough.
Chris: Long enough to almost want to leave.
Alex: My issue is financially I find this city completely oppressive. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s so great for the arts and there are really talented people everywhere doing their thing, but being in a band is not a lucrative thing these days so you really are stretched pretty thin to live in a city that’s pretty unforgiving for anyone who doesn’t have a million dollars in their pocket.
Lisa: Has Metz ever been to Metz?
Alex: We’re gonna try to go and do a live album some day.
Lisa: Metz squared!
Last year I interviewed Toronto’s Greys, a band who are often compared to Metz. They said that while they know how different both groups are as bands, it was an honour to be compared to Metz since you were the best band in Toronto. Overall, Metz have a reputation of being the pride of Toronto, and Canada on the whole, in terms of their unanimously respected loud music. So I wondered how it felt for Metz to be a source of inspiration for other musicians trying to stay true to their aims as artists, and are they proud to be responsible for attracting attention to Toronto’s heavy music scene?
Alex: You can be told that, but it always feels kind of like news to us.
Chris: There’s only one way to take that kind of thing, to be completely flattered by it. We can’t help but feel completely awkward every time we hear it though.
Hayden: That’s what got us into doing what we’re doing. You don’t really look up to other people you know, unless it’s Zeppelin, I mean everyone looks up to Zeppelin, but you think maybe you can attempt to do things like the people you know around your city. And as much as we say Toronto can get you down, people are motivated by different things, motivated by each other, playing shows and very involved.
Alex: It’s just like any music scene or community. There’ll be people there before you. I mean, we were big fans of a lot of Toronto bands. Constantines, Deadly Snakes, Left for dead, Cursed. I mean, there’s a huge amount of great bands.
Chris: Zak from Percola fixes my guitar. His band is amazing.
Alex: For us it can be chalked up to so many things; a bit of luck, good timing and then certain things you can’t even put your finger on. That doesn’t go over our heads. We feel very fortunate to be able to do what we do.
Lisa: It Metz was an alcoholic beverage, what would it be?
Hayden: You know in the UK at like the end of the night, for like 50p you can get that slop that’s left over from the pull tab? At the end of the night people come in that don’t have enough money and it costs you really little but it’s this really strong, malty, disgusting shit.
Lisa: You’re the entrails. And it will mess you up.
Chris: Or Mongoose might be our drink. You don’t get drunk you just get poisoned. The can is a mongoose taking down a cobra.
Hayden: It’s beer but it’s like malt liquor.
Chris: A big dude will be on his ass after two cans of mongoose. It’s like hobo brew. Did you ever make the mistake of buying late night wine in NY? It’s 3% grape juice – not good. And there was that sugarcane stuff.
Hayden: It tasted sorta like motor oil.
Chris: But was good at the same time.
Lisa: Look how cultured you guys are with the boozes.
Chris: We drink a lot.
Hayden: The universal icebreaker is “oh, you should try this drink”.
Lisa: What are Metz’s literal or figurative dreams made of?
Chris: I had a dream one night that Eric Bachmann was like “Eric Johnson is out, we need you to play guitar” and I was like “What? I don’t know how to play any of your songs” and said “You’ll be fine”. I got out there and totally nailed it. They’re one of my all-time fave bands so it was one of those dreams where I was like “Yes I rule!” And we were on their reunion tour with them at the time too.
Hayden: A dream within a dream. I don’t dream much.
Chris: That’s good. If you keep your expectations really low you’ll always surprise yourself.
It’s safe to say that Metz’s live shows inform their studio work, the opposite for many bands. So it’s fitting that the guys have done an impressive, excessive even, amount of touring over the years, sometimes 6-7 shows in a row! I imagine they must be an incredibly well-oiled machine by now. So are they going to carry on touring as extensively in the future?
Alex: No, but it’s definitely something we still love doing. We’re going to cut down on the time we’re away so we have more time at home writing, so there will be less of a gap between this and the next album.
Hayden: We don’t have any regrets about how it went down last time. We went with the flow and we don’t know if we’ll ever get to do it again since we’re all in our mid-30s.
Chris: I think we covered a lot of ground on that first record. It was an incredible amount of firsts.
Lisa: Thanks again. Congrats and good luck with the album release and touring. If pulling off some form of punk rock in a refreshing manner isn’t easy to do once, doing it twice is even harder and you’re certainly two for two.
Upcoming tour dates…
- Apr. 15 – Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place*
- Apr. 16 – Columbus, OH – Double Happiness*
- Apr. 17 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom*
- Apr. 18 – Ferndale, MI – The Loving Touch*
- May 01 – Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace^
- May 02 – Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace^
- May 08 – Austin, TX – Levitation 2015
- May 09 – Atlanta, GA – Shaky Knees Festival
- May 11 – St. Petersburg, FL – State Theatre**
- May 12 – Orlando, FL – The Social**
- May 13 – Birmingham, AL – Work Play**
- May 14 – Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge**
- May 19 – St. Louis, MO – The Firebird**
- May 20 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
- May 21 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry**
- May 22 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry**
- May 23 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon**
- May 26 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom**
- May 27 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg**
- May 28 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club**
- May 29 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer**
- May 30 – Boston, MA – Paradise**
- Jun. 5-6 – Athens, GR – Plissken Festival
- Jun. 6-7 – Thessaloníki, GR – Plissken Festival
- Jun. 16 – London, UK – Underworld^^
- Jun. 17 – Brussels, BE – Botanique – Rotonde
- Jun. 19 – Hilvarenbeek, NL – Best Kept Secret Festival
- Jun. 20 – Scheesel, DE – Hurricane Festival
- Jun. 21 – Neuhausen ob Eck, DE – Southside Festival
- Jun. 22 – Leipzig, DE – Taubchenthal
- Jun. 24 – Berlin, DE – Cassiopeia
- Jun. 25 – Cologne, DE – MTC
- Jul. 11 – Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount
- Jul. 14 – Ottawa, ON – Ottawa Blues Fest
- Jul. 24 – 26 – Oro-Medonte, ON – WayHome Music & Arts Festival
- Jul. 27 – Milwaukee, WI – Cactus Club
- Jul. 29 – Winnipeg, MB – Pyramid Cabaret
- Jul. 30 – Saskatoon, SK – Amigos Cantina
- Jul 31 – Calgary, AB – The Republik
- Aug. 01 – Edmonton, AB – The Starlite Room
- Aug. 03 – Vancouver, BC – The Rickshaw Theatre
- Aug. 04 – Seattle, WA – Neumos
- Aug. 05 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
- Aug. 08 -09 – San Francisco, CA – Outside Lands
- Aug. 11 – Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge
- Sep. 4 – Dorset, UK – End of the Road Festival
- Sep. 6 – Stradbally, EI – Electric Picnic Festiva*
- w/ Lightning Bolt
** w/ FIDLAR
^ w/ Protomartyr
^^ w/ Bad Breeding
Metz’s page on Sub Pop’s site is here: subpop.com/artists/metz.
All words by Lisa Sookraj. More writing by Lisa on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive.