Published Sep 24, 2012Drinking beers on a grassy hill in Toronto's Trintity-Bellwoods Park, the three members of METZ show no signs of nerves. The next day singer-guitarist Alex Edkins, bass player Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies will set out on a massive tour schedule that will find the Toronto noise rockers on the road for most of rest of the year, in support of their debut self-titled full length.
The record is the culmination of two years of work. After releasing a trio of seven-inches on local label We Are Busy Bodies, it's been radio silence from the band as they wrote, trashed, wrote, recorded and then rewrote the record's ten tracks.
For now though, it's all jokes, particularly about Menzies previous inability to cross the border due to a five-year ban he incurred while trying to head down South with a previous group.
"Luckily these two dudes made the best of it," he says cordially.
"Well, a drum machine costs too much," deadpans Edkins.
"It's cheaper to keep him in the band," say Slorach.
"Plus," says Edkins, "he's got a van."
With Menzies' border situation sorted, but no record on the horizon, METZ did what they do best. "We played shows," says Edkins. "That's all we could do really."
Word quickly spread about the band's raucous ― and loud ― live shows. "We felt a lot of support from Toronto," says Edkins. "More than we expected, especially doing what we're doing. We don't know how it's going to go because we're committed to doing what we want to do, and not really considering the listener that much."
The seeds for METZ were sown in Ottawa, where Edkins and Menzies had immersed themselves in the local punk scene since their teenage years. "We've all played in bands that put their time in on the road. I feel like I've been across Canada ten times," says Edkins.
The two decided to pool their efforts, but Menzies says it didn't feel real until they moved to Toronto in 2007. Through mutual friends they met Slorach who, after years of playing in bands including a short stint in Moneen during his early 20s, was pretty certain that he was ready to hang up his bass for good.
"I'd sold all my gear," he says. "I was over at Hayden's house having drinks. And he was like, 'Yeah, we're trying to figure out what to do with this band.' I said, 'I like you guys. Why don't we hang out? Maybe I'll play bass.'"
While the We Are Busy Bodies seven-inches brought the band plenty of attention, the road to their debut was paved with many dead ends. "We were still trying to figure out what we would sound like," says Slorach of the past two years. "We spent time learning to be a band."
All members agree that the recording sessions for their third seven-inch marked a turning point in their sound and writing style. "We went in with 'Negative Space' and these two psychedelic jams," recall Slorach. "One of them almost immediately went in the garbage and the other one was 'Automat,' which ended up on that seven-inch. I'm still really proud of that but I think we were really stoked with the way 'Negative Space' had turned out. I'll use the term loosely ― there's a hook in the song. And I guess we kind of got into writing songs instead of making too much a racket."
The re-recorded version of the track that appears on METZ sounds drastically different from the seven-inch version. The noise is still there, but ― as with the rest of the album ― its edges have been rounded. So while there are still plenty of interesting sonic flourishes, the songs themselves are the focus. "We wanted it to be clear that we were in control of the noise we were creating instead of masking something," says Edkins. "I think there's something cool about being able to rein it back a bit. It makes the times when it gets crazy that much crazier, knowing that the extremes would be more extreme if it's not always extreme." He laughs at his triple use of extreme. "Don't quote me on that."
The band demoed the record with producer Leon Taheny before heading to Barn Window Studio with Holy Fuck's Graham Walsh. The intention was to knock out the whole thing in the six days they had together, but only the drums and some guitar parts ended up on the record. Undeterred, the trio returned to Toronto and hooked up with Alex Bonenfant, known for his work with Crystal Castles. "We're not exactly technically savvy," says Edkins. "We're more ideas people. A lot of stuff will be popping out of our mouths. We know what it's supposed to sound like. It's just a matter of getting it there. [Alex] and Graham, were good at translating."
Record in hand, Edkins, Slorach and Menzies set about shopping it around to labels. Somehow it only ended up in the hands of one. Sub Pop snatched up the band after Slorach sent the album to them in an email on a whim.
"It's not as cocky as it sounds," says Menzies.
"We had plans to send it to other people but it never got that far," confirms Edkins.
In fact, You've Changed Records co-owner (and former Constantine) Steve Lambke had sent copies of the band's seven-inches to Sub Pop GM Chris Jacobs, who liked what he heard. And the band had toured with Sub Pop bands Obits, and Mudhoney, whose Mark Arm also works for the label. "We assume it had something to do with those shows," says Edkins, who happens to be sporting a Mudhoney t-shirt. "We all grew up on that stuff and love it and to be part of that tradition feels good."
Despite the Seattle label's legacy, all three band members are realistic about the role even a mega-indie like Sub Pop can play in a band's career today. "It certainly doesn't change our day-to-day lives at all," says Slorach. "It means that we'll be doing more touring and we have people who are gong to help get it into more ears."
"They care almost as much as you care," adds Edkins. "We always thought, no one is ever going to care as much about us doing well as us. But it really truly seems they are brilliant sincere people who give two hoots about what we're doing."