Toronto's METZ have seemingly spent the past seven years constantly on tour. While hitting the road is not uncommon for new bands, what makes the trio's near-relentless touring more remarkable is the sheer intensity and energy that they pour into every show. On their two albums to date, their music comprises of short, sharp bursts of ferocious, unremitting rock; live, they come close to tearing the roof off of venues with a visceral show that is so intense that bassist Chris Slorach once cut his head open by head banging too hard in the midst of a gig.
Ahead of their visit to Yuyintang, frontman Alex Edkins talks to Time Out during a rare break from playing live.
Given your touring schedule over the last few years, this couple of months you have off now must be your longest break in years.
Oh for sure. I feel like since the first record came out it's been pretty go, go, go. In a really good way - we're really happy to do what we're doing - but it's been really go, go, go until recently, so we're taking a break and then we're back at it.
So what have you been up to?
Just some hanging out, meeting up with people in Toronto. But also, I was in the studio yesterday working on a 7" that's going to come out soon. We don't deal very well with off time; we get home and we start working on new stuff. We've been working on some artwork and some music for a 7" and then also working on some stuff for the new LP. It's been really enjoyable to be home in our city and working on new stuff.
We've got family here so it's not like we're dying to be back out on the road but you get into a certain headspace, a certain mode, where you're used to a certain speed of life, which can be really appealing but it can also be too much sometimes.
Is it easier for you to take breaks now than when you were just starting out?
I think we're getting better at saying no to things. When the first record came out we just said 'yes, yes, yes' and probably in retrospect burnt ourselves out a little bit. But you can never anticipate that kind of thing so we wanted to do as much as we could. Now we're settling in to a, not routine, but something that works for us and makes sure we're not overdoing it.
We've already on this record toured a fairly heavy amount and we're going to do more in 2016, but by April I think we're going to be done and start working on new material. Because as much as we love playing live, making records is equally important to us so we want to focus on that as well.
How far along is the new record at the moment?
We've been working on a couple of smaller releases in the meantime and also since being home we've started demoing tunes for the next LP. It's coming along. There are two or three tracks that we're working on right now. It's an exciting prospect right now. It usually always happens when we're at home, so the more time at home is cool that way - we can record.
Given the intensity of your shows and your touring schedule, it must be hard to write on the road.
Yeah it's pretty rare on the road. There's probably only two or three tracks that have ever found their... maybe a riff or two were born on the road. Most of it happens in Toronto.
Do you ever test new tracks out live or do you prefer to wait until they're ready?
Oh no, it's definitely more of an at home situation where we're demoing. I like to write a lot at home with the drum machine, just layering things and after that stripping it back with the guys. There's a couple of things I've got now as home demos that may or may not find their way onto the next LP.
How does the new material so far differ from what's gone before?
I think the main thing is that there's a little more patience. It's kind of more into big beats and hitting on a groove a bit longer. When I think of the two records we've made, they've been pretty hyperactive and in a rush in some ways, though I think that changed a bit on the second album - I think we managed to stretch out a bit on the second album - but we're all into so many different styles of music and I think the stuff we're working on now is just a little bit more... I wouldn't say 'relaxed', it's still pretty aggressive, but it's got a bit of a longer attention span as far as some of the grooves go. We're not in such a rush to get to the end of the track.
But presumably it's not going to be full of ten minute ballads or anything?
[Laughs] Well... I'm not going to comment on that!
Do you feel any pressure with new releases as you become more widely known?
No. When we started the band, it was just for love. It was three guys who after work would get together and make music that we never thought would be heard by anybody and I hope that continues. That's our way of looking at it. Our goal is to please the three of us and if we can do that, we'll be happy. We're totally aware of the fact that more people have heard of the band now, but at the end of the day if the three of us are happy with what we're making that's all that really matters. We want to improve and grow as a band in a natural way.
You've been heavily involved with all aspects of your previous releases; is maintaining that control important for you going forward?
I don't think we have some sort of dead set agenda. We're totally open to working with other people. For example some of the smaller releases we're doing before the next LP are pretty much collaborations with other people and we're totally open to that.
We're just big music fans so we're really into working with another producer or an engineer - it's just that with the first two records, we weren't ready to hand that over yet. We were kind of obsessed with maintaining control; we're all kind of control freaks. We weren't ready to have someone else's input get into what we were doing, but I don't think that's always going to be the case.
We love so much music and respect so many musicians that if the fit was right, if the person was right, we'd jump at the chance of working with them. It's hard to say what would happen, but we'd love to work with different people, but we'd also love to carry on in our own thing.
How have those collaborations for the smaller releases come about?
Completely randomly. Through your travels and stuff you just meet other people and things happen. I don't want to say too much about it now because they're still in the works, but we love to do as much as we can musically in any way, shape or form. We've always been open to that opportunity but it's only now that it's becoming a reality, that we can try to do these things. That being said, I think we have a pretty distinct path that we've set in our minds for ourselves too, so when it comes to our own records there are things we want to do that are just the three of us and we don't want too much outside interference in.
What was your initial reaction when Shanghai came up as a potential tour stop?
Our first reaction was probably just shock. We're still in the headspace where we're still blown away by some of the opportunities we're given, and this is certainly one of them. I've always wanted to visit China and to do it in these circumstances where we can bring something that we love and we hope that people can connect to. It's kind of above and beyond anything we could have hoped for; we never anticipated anything like that happening. It's crazy and really exciting for all three of us.
Do you have any expectations about coming here?
To be honest I don't, I don't have any expectations. Whenever we travel I try to just go with the flow and we know people who have toured in China and everything we've heard has been really cool, but I don't want to build up expectations - I just want to see what happens. I've just always wanted to see that part of the world, so to combine it with music making, I've got a really positive outlook on the whole situation. I don't want to overthink it.