Out of the classroom and into the spotlight
Local punk band finds motivation and success by loving what they do
Chemistry and math and all the rest of that stuff are important, but few high school students ever sit in the back of the class and daydream about becoming chemical engineers. No, when it comes to making a living, they fantasize about something cool. Like being in a band.
Turning that fantasy into a reality is, however, kinda tricky. And unless you get ridiculously lucky and pen a hit song on your first attempt, it requires dedication. Plus the ability to cram a ton of equipment into a tiny van.
The latter is a skill that up-and-coming Toronto rockers METZ have down pat. The trio, which dropped its first, self-titled album last fall and has signed with the legendary Sub Pop Records, has toured all over Ontario and further afield and works on the principle that, if you can’t fit it in a van, you don’t need it at the gig.
“We like to keep things simple,” says Alex Edkins, the band’s singer and guitar player. “There’s three of us, and we like to stick with the less-is-more mode of making music. I think that forces us to become better musicians as opposed to just layering on things.”
After the band cut its first album, Edkins and his colleagues Hayden Menzies and Chris Slorach quit their nine-to-five jobs to focus on music.
“We’ve toured incessantly since September. It’s been unreal, an incredible year, but it’s been non-stop. I think we’ve done three European tours and two American tours,” he says on the phone from his home in Toronto’s west end where he’s taking a few days off between touring in Europe and getting married.
Working on the band full-time has been a dream of Edkins’ since he first started METZ back in his native Ottawa where he first met Menzies. Seven years ago, they moved to Toronto and added Slorach to the roster, and they have been working on their sound since.
Playing to crowds at festivals in Germany and the Netherlands, Edkins has literally come a long way since he first picked up his mother’s acoustic guitar at the age of 12.
Though his school just outside Ottawa offered guitar classes, Edkins wasn’t a fan of the structured approach to learning music (he says it was more fun than math, “but only slightly”). Instead, he preferred to get some friends together and see where it ended up.
“I think I wanted to see where I could go myself, and then I met people my age who were doing the same thing, and I think you learn the most from your peers and your friends,” he says. “So I had some friends, and we’d go down into the basement and make a racket for hours and hours and hours. That’s when you learn the most, when you start making music with other people and collaborating and just jamming. I have fond memories of that from a young age.”
Edkins says that the decision last year to work on his band was a life changer. Operating the band as a business, Edkins found himself thrust into the role of entrepreneur, juggling the kind of responsibilities familiar to any owner of a small start-up firm.
“You are a business owner and you need to run it as a business.” he says. “You need to take care of all the ins and outs of the business and it’s pretty wild. And that’s on top of being creative, performing and writing music. It’s an absolute around-theclock type of profession. We learned that quickly.”
But, economic realities aside, Edkins says the most important thing for any aspiring band is to have a love of the what they are doing.
“I think if you start making music for other people or to become popular it’s not going to last or you’re going to end up hating it. I think the most important thing is to truly believe in and love what you are doing. And as long as you are doing that, you can’t ever really fail.”
He adds, “You may not find mass appeal, but I don’t really think that’s what it’s all about. That’s never been our goal. Success is one of those things you can never predict. It’s out of your control in many ways, so just do it for the sheer love of it.”
METZ’s debut album has been shortlisted for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize