There’s Nothing In It: An Interview with METZ
Canada’s post-rock trio METZ is the result of power through amplification. The band’s latest release, II, proves that this group is one of Sub Pop’s greatest torchbearers since their predecessors, including the likes of Nirvana and Mudhoney in the ’90s, and these guys aren’t going anywhere but up. With two records under their belt, METZ has proved to be one of the most outright crazy, fast-paced live bands out right now, and one not to be missed, for that matter. Prior to their performance at Sound on Sound Festival on Saturday, vocalist and guitarist Alex Edkins spoke to Free Press Houston about their label, touring, and why he won’t replace his guitar.
Free Press Houston: Fellow labelmates Beach House and clipping. are playing Sound On Sound as well this weekend. Is Sub Pop a pretty tight community? Do you guys usually see each other’s bands at festivals?
Alex Edkins: I think it can be, it certainly has been in the past. Everyone that we work with at that label are people we consider to be really good friends and family, almost. We just did a tour in Australia recently and Beach House was on it. We ended up hanging out with them a lot. I think Sub Pop is a magnet for genuinely nice people. At least that’s been our experience so far. Yeah, it’s always fun.
FPH: What was the process of submitting your demo? Were you expecting one of their notorious rejection letters?
Edkins: [laughs] No, I don’t think I saw one of those until after we signed on. They’ve got a good sense of humor over there. We kind of, through a friend, like anyone would do, tried to get our music over there to them so they could hear it, you know? We sent in our almost finished record. Months went past and we didn’t think anything would come of it, but out of the blue, we got a response. They were down to put out our record, and it was great. It’s not a great story, it’s just the old-fashioned, boring way of doing it, you know? Our friends in the Constantines had put out a couple of records on Sub Pop and we managed to, through them, get our music over to the people at the label, so that’s the way it happened.
FPH: Was it a conscious decision to get a release on an American label, being that METZ is from Canada?
Edkins: I don’t think it was actually a criteria for us. We didn’t really care. We, honestly, wanted to get out of Canada as much as we could. It just out of sheer adventure, you know? It was something new we could do. We toured Canada a couple of times. In fact, we were banned from touring the States for five years, because of some border issues, so we had no choice but to play Canada over and over. When that all cleared up, we were pretty excited to go everywhere besides Canada. [laughs] So being on an American level definitely helped, I think.
FPH: Oh, Canada. There seems to be a resurgence, to a degree, with rock bands. For example, Japandroids new tour dates and the whole uprising of Death From Above 1979 these past few years. Have you noticed that as well?
Edkins: Honestly, I don’t think that kind of music is specifically Canadian bands, I think it’s always been around. I don’t think it’s a resurgence, really, but rather the media taking a little more notice about it, and that’s a good thing. I haven’t noticed anything change, I think rock music, or punk music - whatever you want to call it - has streamed below. It will always be there.
FPH: You are known for your Jazzmaster and Chris plays an RD; what appealed to you do you know what appealed to him about it?
Edkins: Well, I have no idea what appealed to him about RD’s, because they’re super heavy and uncomfortable to play. I have no idea, it seems crazy. I mean, it’s got the active pickups - it creates more of a clanky sound than most basses, so that’s a turn-on for him.
For me, I’ve, over the years, tried a lot of different guitars and the Jazzmaster seemed to be the one I settled on, solely based on comfort. I’m the kind of person that would stick with it. I have played that guitar for, I think, the entire length of the band, every single gig. You just get used to the certain feel of the neck and the brightness of the pickups. It gets hard to find something that matches that, it’s like a good pair of shoes. The old shoes get worked in and the new pair just doesn’t feel right.
FPH: And is that RD a 2007 reissue?
Edkins: No. I think they only (originally) made them for a couple of years in the seventies. He’s got quite a few of them, actually. He started, like, trying to snag them wherever he could. There was only a small window of time when they were originally made, I think.
FPH: In videos I’ve seen, you have the duct tape on the knobs - something a lot of Jazzmaster punks do; why not get the switch professionally repaired? I mean, what makes that cooler than, say, the eraser trick?
Edkins: Well, to be honest, what happened there was, I have a tendency to play hot and sweaty shows, so we sweat a lot. There ended up being so much sweat inside of the guitar that it would short out all of the electronics, and I had to keep bringing all of my stuff to my (repair) guy in Toronto. Finally, he said “man, everything is corroded. It’s all rusted after every tour. So I just took out all of those switches completely [laughs] and taped it over. There’s nothing in it, there are no tone knobs on my guitar that function.
FPH: I wanted to get your opinion on the recent statement from The Who’s Roger Daltrey: “Rock has reached a dead end… the only people saying things that matter are the rappers and most pop is meaningless and forgettable.” What are your thoughts on that? Is there truth to it?
Edkins: Oh, man. [laughs] I don’t really have any interest in responding to him. He’s allowed to think what he wants. Honestly, I think it’s a funny thing to say. I don’t really like to get involved with any nonsense gossip type stuff, so I’m going to pass on it. But obviously I love rock music, so that’s my opinion. I like guitar music - that’s what we make. If he feels that way, that’s fair, but I think he’s just not finding the right stuff.
FPH: Since METZ is known for being a very loud, powerful group, do you ever feel like you can’t drastically change the sound, even if you wanted to? Also, I am talking about all bands, not just yours. Basically, do you believe that bands are pressured into recording a certain sound, and not stray too far away?
Edkins: We’ve always just followed our gut, and I think we’ll continue to do that, you know? Whatever we’re into, which is a really wide array of music. That’s all going to seep into what we’re doing. I think one thing all three of us want to do is to continue what we’re doing, try new things, and expand what is is that Metz’s music is, you know?
There is something that comes really natural to us, and that’s what you’ve heard on the first two albums. I don’t think we’re able to just sit idle and continue to only do that. I mean, that’s going to be there, because that’s what happens when the three of us get together. I think with the new material - the new record - we’re going to go into different places as well.
FPH: To conclude, for all Americans wanting to know, is Canada, especially Toronto, a good place to live November 9?
Edkins: Yeah, man! It’s good, especially if you’re a music fan. I think it’s a great place to live. It’s a little bit expensive on the rent, though. Hamilton is an hour away - it’s a little bit cheaper. But yeah, come on up and join us.