Canadian punk rockers METZ’s self-titled debut album was met with a rapturous response from multiple media outlets — for instance, Pitchfork dubbed their release with the coveted ‘Best New Music’ stamp — and their second effort II was no different when it comes to critical acclaim, with Rolling Stones recently naming it as one of the title’s 20 Best Metal Albums of 2015. The band’s relentless touring has also garnered them a reputation for their blisteringly intensive live performances, which can be gleaned from their latest music video for the song ‘Spit On You’ off their sophomore record. Ahead of witnessing the band live ourselves at Laneway Festival Singapore ’16, JUICE spoke to vocalist/guitarist Alex Edkins about using his dad’s photography as the band’s album covers, his previous job as a film researcher, and learning to pace themselves when making their second album.
You incorporated your dad’s photography into METZ’s album artworks. Did you work with him exclusively, discussing the vibe of the album for him to produce the photos?
It’s kinda been a one of those situations where I grew up looking through a lot of his photo albums and especially for the first album, that’s just an image that’s stuck with me. After writing the album, and thinking about the lyrical content, it just kinda jumped out in my head. I ended up asking him if I could use it, he was quite excited about it actually. No, it was not something that we’ve discussed; I just go through some of his photos and pick the ones that work well with the subject matter.
You guys are known for your stellar live shows, where does the band get the motivation to perform high-energy shows every time?
It just happens, it’s automatic for us. We don’t know any other way to do it; it’s pedal to the metal, all or nothing, you know? I think it’s probably due to when we were younger, we used to see all these amazing punk and hardcore bands, and we just thought it was how it was done, how we’ve also known to do it. It’s also the most fun way for the crowd too, and for the band. We try to have a blast and to not take any show for granted.
Do you still keep your day job as a researcher for films?
For the last few years, I have been only doing the band day and night, mostly on tour all the time. But, no, we haven’t been doing anything else other than the band.
Did your job inform the material for the band though? We read on Pitchfork that you used to research some dark crime scene photos…
That’s true. It was certainly a dark place [that] I was in, but I would say the influence was just everyday life that everyone goes through, and living in a big city, you know? I think I took a lot of inspiration from Toronto. It’s not like a type of record that you watch a horror movie and you pull from it — it’s not like that. It’s more based in reality.
When the band began to work on the latest album II, you said you guys dove in too quickly. Was that a consequence of being too excited to work on new material?
Yeah, I think it was a consequence of us being really excited about making good tunes together and just to keep going at full speed. I think none of us wanted to take a break because we’ve been touring for two years, and we’re feeling really good… but in the end, we did actually have to force ourselves to slow down a little bit and let things happen in a slower and more natural pace. Yeah, I think it was a really important step for the album, we didn’t necessarily want to do it at first, but after banging our heads against the wall, we were like, “Hold on, hold on,” let’s take a breather.
What was the biggest difference between making the first and the second album?
I think all the experiences travelling and playing together just made us [tighter]… the chemistry between us improved us I think. I think the songwriting is something that we focused on with the second album, you know, maybe not as one dimensional as the first album, but we constantly wanted to be very much to the point and forceful. I think there are moments on the second record where we wanted to stretch out a bit and give it more space — I’d say that’s the biggest difference.
We read that the band turned down some big-name producers because you guys wanted to produce the album yourselves. Why didn’t the band take up the opportunity to work with new people?
It wasn’t turning down so much, but there was interest and we did consider that for a while, but it just felt like it was too soon. I think everything had happened really fast… Although we are not opposed to the idea in general, we just thought it was too soon. That could be something down the road but at the time, we wanted to maintain full control over what we’re doing. I’m glad we did it because I think it cemented our sound and had a really good continuity between the two albums.
Being a band that grew out of the underground scene, how does it feel like to bring your music to an international audience?
Oh, you know, it’s not something we anticipated or thought was possible. We (chuckles) really have pretty modest intentions and ambitions, and we make music and play shows for the love of it and that’s what we do in our spare time. It’s just one of those things that, for some reason, took off and continue to do so, so we’re in a very fortunate position. We get to travel around and play for people, it’s still one of those things that’s hard to believe sometimes. It’s a privilege (laughs), for the lack of a better term — we love it.
METZ will be singeing the stage at Laneway Festival Singapore ’16 on Saturday 30 January ’16.