Band Booking: Talking Kafka, Toronto, and Biographies with METZ

METZ are a noise/punk band from Toronto, currently on tour promoting their self-titled debut LP. Though they’ve long been a respected band in the Toronto scene, they’ve garnered a huge amount of fresh buzz in a short period of time, due to their recent signing to legendary Seattle label Sub Pop. As anyone who’s ever attended one of their gigs can attest, they are masters of the wall-of-sound technique and consistently deliver one of the most blistering live shows around. I got in touch with singer/guitarist Alex Edkins after his November 19th show alongside band mates Hayden Menzies and Chris Slorach at The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg, and chatted about their taste in books and their hometown.

What are you guys reading these days?
I’m reading a collection of essays called Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan. It was recommended to me by a friend last time I was in NYC. I’m also finishing up reading Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace which was a gift given to me by my fiance’s dad. Thanks Frank!  I’m a bit of a biography junkie.  I really enjoy reading about other people’s lives, experiences, points of view. I find it fascinating to learn about the different ways people see the world around them and react to their unique set of circumstances.  Other good biographies include Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter, Le Freak: Nile Rodgers, and The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun.

When you’re writing lyrics, do you take inspiration from any literary sources? Are there any authors or non-fiction writers that inform the themes in your songs? 
I’m a big fan of Franz Kafka.  His books, for some reason or another, have stayed with me over the years. Themes of disorientation, helplessness, irrationality, and hysteria are all ideas that run through the lyrics on our album.

I’ve always been somewhat pre-occupied with the idea that we are living in this insane bureaucratic machine that is completely out of our control and I think Kafka was often commenting on that. Writing lyrics doesn’t always come easily for me. I approach each song like a snapshot or fragment of a bigger idea or theme and try to communicate that feeling no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

What’s the song “Headache” about? 
“Headache” is an example of me taking the minutiae of everyday life and making it seem like a life or death situation. It is really just meant to communicate that overwhelming feeling of helplessness, that we can all relate to in one way or another, where you feel like your only option is to give up and start from scratch.

Toronto is in the middle of a property boom and turning more and more into a banking capital, making it way more expensive. You’ve said your music reflects the pressures of the city. Do you feel like your music is also a reflection of the big changes the city’s going through? 
Toronto is definitely not a cheap place to live. I think it can be very stressful for a lot of people, especially those trying to make a living as writers, filmmakers, painters or musicians.  Traditionally, these people tend to live in parts of the city that aren’t yet gentrified, but it seems like those areas are becoming harder and harder to find.  That being said, I think people in the arts community, myself included, have a love/hate relationship with Toronto that serves as a source of inspiration/aggravation that they couldn’t live without.

I’m from there, and have seen you guys play quite a few times. I’ve often noticed that bands in Toronto tend toward a darker sound palette. I’m thinking Anagram, Ell V Gore, etc. It’s a diverse music scene but a little less sunny and poppy than some other cities. Any thoughts on that? 
I think it can be explained by the fact that for half the year it’s dark by 5:30pm, -25 degrees Celsius, and freezing rain.

I really enjoyed your set on Monday at Knitting Factory. How do you like playing New York? 
New York has been incredible to us.  The reception has been overwhelming and is definitely one of our favorite places to play. We are doing a free show Dec. 19th at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.

METZ’s self-titled debut is available now from Sub Pop Records.

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