“Our shows are loud and sweaty but jovial and celebratory at the same time, and definitely no macho bullshit,” says Hayden Menzies, the drummer in the Toronto-based punk trio METZ, which also includes singer Alex Edkins and bass player Chris Slorach. It was METZ’s firebrand reputation on the live circuit that originally scored them the chance to sign to the iconic Sub Pop label and release their self-titled debut album in 2012. METZ’s most recent project, Automat, is a deep-dive into the group’s history and development over the last decade that spotlights a selection of demos, rarities, and b-sides. The album’s spearheaded by the furious “Pure Auto,” which is powered by gnarly guitar lines and clattering drums topped with Edkins’s impassioned vocals about striving to reach “a new philosophy—pure autonomy.”
Ahead of jetting over to New York City to light up Octfest, I spoke to Menzies about the dynamics of revisiting old songs, the enduring appeal of PBR, and going for beers with label mates Mudhoney.
The animated video for “Pure Auto” features METZ playing in a practice space. Is it based on one you actually use?
Actually, no. We reached out to a guy who goes by Scorpion Dagger on Instagram and he's done videos for different people. He put this little set together and just imagined us in a room. He did it all himself so it's fictional, but it's not a far cry from where we practice—it looks pretty bleak and dark and there's no window, but it's pretty close otherwise.
When METZ first started, did you have any really ramshackle practice spaces?
When I personally started playing drums it was in my parents' basement. They designated a couple of nights a week where I could bash away. That was a free space so I was happy to have a place at all. When we first moved to Toronto and METZ really actually became a band and started doing stuff, we had a practice space out at Islington and Lake Shore. The space was up three flights of stairs and the outside was like the facade of an old department store with display windows with disheveled mannequins. But they're all kinda the same—the walls are carpeted to somehow try and stop any noise bleed but it's a pretty piss poor job 'cause it's still loud.
The biggest thing we've attempted to develop—and what seems to come most naturally in the evolution of a live show—is not to fake it.”
Why did you decide to release a bunch of rare and unreleased songs for Automat?
It was nice for us to look back in time after we've been on this crazy whirlwind ride for a decade of touring and releasing new music. It was this moment where we allowed ourselves to stop and breathe and look behind us instead of just balling straight forward. It was a refreshing thing. There are things on there that have different production choices and decisions made on the fly given the headspace we were in and the technology available. All these things allowed us to look at the past as something that can also exist in our immediate time.
Are there any demos from another artist that you’re kinda obsessed with? Or is there an album that you’d love to hear the early takes of?
I think I'd like to be a fly on the wall in any circumstance during the '70s and '80s when they had the grandiose production stuff where it was $100,000 being thrown at capturing a snare drum sound. It would be fascinating to see how things operate in that way. That sort of larger than life approach and grandiosity is so far from us—it would be fascinating to be privy to that for a second.
If you were given a $100,000 budget to capture the perfect snare sound, how would you go about it?
I would pretend that I was working on it and just bank the money! You should be able to get a pretty good snare sound from anything.
METZ is known for putting on an energetic live show. How has it developed over the years?
We’ve got to a point where we know each other so well that we can read the smallest little signs, like if we're going to improvise a part or need a breather. The biggest thing we've attempted to develop—and what seems to come most naturally in the evolution of a live show—is not to fake it. If it's a really hot and sweaty show, great; if it's one where we need to lean back a bit so we have enough gas in the tank to finish strong, also great. Those are things you learn as you get older—especially not going one hundred miles per hour for every song from the first to the last and have it just be this blur. You want to embrace the dynamics of the songs in a set and allow people to come along on that ride with you.
Have your beer habits also changed over the years?
We've never been a huge party band but we've definitely had our days with the drink. We'll usually have a few beers before and after a show. I don't think our taste in what type of beer we drink has changed. We've never been IPA guys—I find them really heavy and I find it really hard to have more than one. I can appreciate the craft, absolutely, but taste-wise I'm pretty simple and go for PBR and Modelo, that kinda stock ale. I know IPAs are everywhere, and, like I said, I appreciate the craft and how people want to take it to a new level and spend a lot of time scientifically creating something new, but it's just taste wise not for me.
It's cold and it's got that sharp taste, it's just simple and it's not offensive—kinda like me!”
Quite a few bands have made collaborative beers with craft breweries. Have you been approached by any?
I believe there's one in Hamilton, Ontario [Creative Arts] that featured different bands on the label and I believe we did one of those—but I don't even know if I tasted the beer! If it's a good collaboration, we're into it.
Do you think more bands and craft breweries should collaborate together? Especially as most people grab a drink at a show.
As long as it's not forcing a fit too much. If you're going to be going to a show and they're going to have PBR on tap, they may as well have something that’s a little more curated to the bands and the fanbase. If it's a collaboration that makes the show going experience even more curated for like-minded people, then sure.
You said you’re a PBR drinker. How would you describe the taste of PBR?
I don't know if there is much taste in a PBR, which is why I like it! It's cold and it's got that sharp taste, it's just simple and it's not offensive—kinda like me!
If you could go for beers with anyone else on the Sub Pop roster, who would you pick?
I'll go with what we've been lucky enough to have done, which is toured and shared many a pint with Mudhoney and Hot Snakes. Those fellas are a talented group of musicians and really likable guys, really opening and welcoming and no competition, so luckily we've been able to go for beers with them.