Puttin' on the Metz

Frontman Alex Edkins talks production value, evolution and more ahead of Wednesday show

Noise-rock suggests subversive sounds mashed unconventionally or jammed out to the tune of eff-you incomprehensible but definitely aggressive vocals. “Dissonance” typically comes up in describing the music (or lack thereof), and that word makes its way time and again into reviews and discussions of Canadian outfit Metz, who play the Casbah on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Even their label, SubPop, says that their volume is “worrisome.”

And maybe that’s true. But it’s also oversimplifying what Metz do. It’s easy to throw in buzzy words that give the impression that something a little dangerous is at work. Metz aren’t trying for dangerous, though -- they aren’t trying for any sort of identity really except their own. As frontman Alex Edkins tells SoundDiego, that’s taken some time to realize -- who they are musically -- and that was the driving force behind “II,” the group’s sophomore release, which dropped in May 2015.

Here, Edkins talks with SoundDiego’s Hannah Lott-Schwartz about finding that identity, the pressure of making a commercial album, what it takes to become a frontman and more.

Hannah Lott-Schwartz: In the bio on Metz’s SubPop page, you’re quoted as saying that for “II,” you weren’t going to clean up your sound or hire a big producer. Did you feel pressure to do that at some point?
Alex Edkins: Not really, not any outside pressure. I think it’s sorta just almost assumed by a lot of people, or maybe you know most people in general, that once you reach a certain amount of success that the obvious next step would be trying to do what’s most commercially viable, to do whatever it takes to find a bigger audience. Although that would be nice in some ways, that’s never been our intention or our motivating factor in the band. We just wanted to stay true to our primary motivation, and that was just making something that we love and that we’re proud of and not necessarily catering to what’s going to sell the most or what’s maybe trendy at the time.

HLS: Yeah, that really caught me because, you know, there have been so many bands that I’ve just absolutely loved their debut record or live shows, but then it comes around to their sophomore release, and it’s totally polished, and you wonder, “Well, what happened to this dirty, fuzzy band that I loved so much?”
AE: Oh good, yeah, you know, I think that everyone can relate to what you’re saying. It’s true. I feel the same way. I think maybe bands get a little ahead of themselves and forget what they’re all about, and they do the really clean, clinical album that might get to play on the radio or something. But that’s not really what we’re about at this stage.

HLS: So what are you about?
AE: [Laughs] Just doing what feels good and making something that we could be proud of. We just didn’t want to reinvent ourselves. We just got to a place that we felt comfortable in, and we carved out a place that was ours. We weren’t ready to do a 180 and change -- we wanted to evolve, of course, and grow, but we were happy to be the ones to make the calls so that at the end of the day at least the album we can call ours. It has our fingerprints on it.

HLS: Is it clear to you how you’ve evolved since the debut?
AE: Oh for us, for sure. I think the production has really evolved, and the songs have more breathing room, and that just comes with more an increased confidence to play to instruments, and personally being the singer, my goal was never to be a frontman in a rock band. And I kind of fell into it in a strange way, and I think I’m becoming a more confident vocalist, and you can hear that more in the mix than the first time around. And there’s more an emphasis put on melody as opposed to the first [record]. It may be very small steps to some listeners, but for us there were some big jumps that we’re proud of.

HLS: It’s funny you say you just fell into being a frontman. Like for me, I hate being at the center of things. I prefer to just hang on the edges and watch it all happen. So the thought of jumping in and taking center stage, literally, is kinda scary. How was that for you, becoming a frontman?
AE: I think at times it was probably really intimidating. It’s just been a gradual progression, just like the band in general, how it continues to grow. So I think that every day my confidence and ability also grows. At first it was like a deer in the headlights I think [laughs]. Luckily, we play a style of music and perform of a certain style that we just really let it all hang out, so there was no time or moment in the set to get too much stage fright, because we just had to go for it. And I’d usually just kind of wake up after the set and not really realize what had happened, one of those black out situations.

HLS: I’d read something where you used that phrase, about blacking out on stage, and I was wondering whether you meant like in the way a college kid coming from a party does or like having some sort of out of body experience.
AE: I think it’s more like that, how it can all kind of go by in a flash [laughs]. Not the college kid one.

Metz play the Casbah on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at tk p.m., $15, 21+. Retox, Hot Nerds open. Tickets are available here.

Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.

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