METZ on growing up, sonic evolution, and their fifth album 'Up On Gravity Hill'

Interview METZ: “I don’t think you ever want to walk the same path over and over”

We catch up with the Canadian noiseniks’ drummer Hayden Menzies on the ease of working with longtime pals and pushing punk parameters.

Sometimes, a band’s progression creeps up on you. When METZ roared onto the scene a decade ago by serving up an unforgiving punk maelstrom of a self-title debut, the idea that they would one day open an album with a six minute experimental rock epic, featuring violin from Owen Pallett, would have been inconceivable.

And yet here we are, with their fourth album ‘Up on Gravity Hill’, feeling less like a left turn and more like a natural conclusion of the gradual development into artful garage rockers, ones with something profound to say about the human condition beneath all of their unbridled sonic ferocity. The trio’s percussive anchor, Hayden Menzies, talked us through how the band went about finding beauty in chaos to make their most intense statement yet.

Where were the three of you up to after 'Atlas Vending'? Did you all jump into different projects for a while?
[Frontman] Alex [Edkins] got into his side project, Weird Nightmare, and [bassist] Chris [Slorach] was scoring for film and TV - he did that Amazon show, The Boys. That was inspiring, to see them step out and do other things to fill that void we feel in the absence of creating together. For me, I was having a hard time getting myself motivated; there were times when I didn’t want to do anything. Eventually, I started painting again, which I’d always done, but in a more serious way; we were all trying to figure out the language that the world was speaking at that moment.

The three of you have known each other since you were really young; by now, is there a mutual creative language between the three of you that makes it easy to settle back into the writing process after a while away?

Definitely; it’s quite unique. Like any relationship, it’s not supposed to stay the same - it evolves. It changes shape depending on what the song calls for, which is easy when there’s a lot of mutual respect and admiration. Sometimes Alex will bring us a fully-fledged song and Chris and I will find a way to flesh it out, and others, we’ll just start with a beat or some bass fuzz and that’ll spark an idea. Either way, we know how to build a record out of it.

The feeling with this record is that you’re operating outside of standard punk parameters; is that something you were pushing for?

It wasn’t a deliberate decision, but I don’t think you ever want to walk the same path over and over. From the inside, we don’t really notice it whilst we’re working; we feel like we’re painting with a few bold colours, but then you find a new shade of blue that you love, and all of a sudden you realise you’re really evolving. I think this record is a lot more accessible in that it’s more beautiful, it’s more textured, there’s more layers for people to sink their teeth into. We don’t want to just drown in feedback all the time, you know? When you do that, suddenly the reverb isn’t like the icing on the cake any more. It loses its impact.

“I think this record is a lot more accessible in that it’s more beautiful, it’s more textured, there’s more layers for people to sink their teeth into.”

One of the other ways you’ve opened up the sound on this one is with some of the guests you’ve brought in; there’s Owen Pallett playing violin on the opener, ‘No Reservation/Love Comes Crashing’, and then there’s Amber Webber from Black Mountain singing on the closing track, ‘Light Your Way Home’. Does having these multi-talented friends make you think about how you can expand your songwriting?
Yeah, I think we’d reached a place of thinking, “why not try this or that?” If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but if you don’t open yourself up to exploring these new possibilities and how they might reshape your sound or spark other ideas, then you might be missing opportunities that could offer you a million different pathways to go down that weren’t there before. You start to think about longevity after you’ve been a band for a long time. We want to explore as much as we can now, whereas before maybe something like a string arrangement just straight up wouldn’t have occurred to us.

Alex’s lyrics seem more personal than they’ve ever been this time around; how is it to observe that as somebody who’s been his friend for so many years?

I can’t speak to that content entirely; it’s not my place to say on record what’s literal and what isn’t. What I will say is that there’s a noticeable sort of openness in his words that is really wonderful; it suits the album well. There’s a morbid beauty to it.

We’ve come to expect thunderously loud punk energy at METZ gigs; will the fact that some of these songs are a little softer and more nuanced in places change up how the live show works?
Well, that’s something that throws up its own limitations, because we only have three pairs of hands between us, but we try to revel in those limitations. It means we can make these songs into something entirely their own - we kind of felt them to be their own beast, which often means they’ll be something different to the record. That can be an asset. So I’d expect some of the songs to be true to the album, where we can do them justice that way, and others to be reinterpreted a little bit, maybe translated in a unique way. But as always, whatever we do, it’ll still be a high-energy show.

Up on Gravity Hill is available now via Sub Pop. METZ play five UK shows from 25th November.

Tags: Metz, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the April 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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