If you want an idea of how far Toronto’s METZ have come as a band, look no further than the fourth track on their eponymous sophomore album, METZ II, which dropped via Sub Pop on May 5. Entitled “Zzyzx” and clocking in at only 36 seconds, it’s more of an interlude than an actual song, a soundcheck at an undisclosed location that gives way to hissing feedback.
“I think that’s from when we were playing a show in Colombia,” says lead singer and guitarist Alex Edkins over beers at a quiet downtown Toronto bar. When the noise-rock trio (Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach, and drummer Hayden Menzies) formed in 2008, they never expected to be performing shows in South America, much less touring all over the world — or selling out back-to-back NYC gigs, at the Bowery Ballroom (May 26) and Music Hall of Williamsburg (May 27).
After releasing their self-titled debut in 2012 — which received praise from the likes of the A.V. Club, Pitchfork, and the NME — they found themselves on the road for two years, playing with bands including A Place to Bury Strangers, fellow Toronto natives Fucked Up (with whom the trio still share a practice space), and musical heroes like Mission of Burma and Mudhoney. But when it came time for them to return to the city where they first met, there were tangible feelings of disconnect.
“When you don’t see your friends and family for a long time, it’s a bit of a reset button being pushed,” says Edkins. “The first record was a heavy, heavy Toronto record; it was influenced by living in a big, crazy, sometimes out-of-control city. It’s hard to not have something that grandiose affect you on a daily basis.”
On the next page: “As far as confetti and explosions go, that’s never going to happen”
Recorded in a handful of studios in Toronto and southern Ontario over six months, METZ II is both musically and thematically weightier than its predecessor, obliquely touching on topics including the government, prescription drugs, and death. Of the latter, the 33-year-old Edkins admits, “I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life that I’ve had very few instances of death, and in the last year, two very special people to me passed away.
“I’m not trying to write a huge manifesto,” he adds. “I’m attracted to someone like Raymond Carver who will introduce you to a world, and right when everything’s going down, he’ll take you out and you’re left with the ends to tie up yourself.”
Songs like “Landfill” and blistering closer “Kicking a Can of Worms” prove the group hasn’t let public expectations from a larger audience temper their ferocity; hence the deliberate decision to work without a big-name producer.
“Not to say that won’t happen in the future, but with [METZ II] it was too soon to hand over the reins,” he says. While the band experimented with using found sounds, including Edkins’s iPhone recordings of friends tearing up the wooden floor of their house, their ultimate litmus test for the new songs was how they’d translate onstage. Without question the trio’s music is best enjoyed in the flesh, which merits the question: When can fans expect a live album?
“There’s been some talk, but I’m kind of holding out until we can do it in the French city of Metz,” says the singer, adding that the band has yet to play there. Once their current North American tour wraps up, they’ll head to Europe, with plenty of festival dates carrying them into the fall. Just don’t expect the group to be engaging in any Flaming Lips–esque theatrics anytime soon.
“There’s definitely limits as to what we can do, economically speaking,” says Edkins. “As far as confetti and explosions go, that’s never going to happen.”
METZ play the Bowery Ballroom May 26 and the Music Hall of Williamsburg May 27. Tickets for both shows have sold out, but you can try your luck on the secondary market.