Fans of Dischord Records’ frenetic, freezer-burned music have rejoiced at the appearance of Metz, a Toronto post-punk trio that recalls the best of that label’s acts.
But despite the comparisons to abrasive masters such as Fugazi, Jawbox and Nation of Ulysses, Metz simply thinks of itself as a contemporary band — as opposed to a slavish imitation of its late-’80s and early-’90s forebears.
“It’s definitely flattering since we all listen to those bands a lot,” Metz drummer Hayden Menzies said via telephone on his way to a gig in San Francisco earlier this week. “If anything, it’s insulting to them. We don’t write songs to deliberately sound specifically like an era or band. But we definitely don’t get sick of the comparisons.”
Metz, which plays the Hi-Dive on Tuesday, has earned every bit of press it’s gotten. Tastemakers and headbangers embraced the band’s self-titled 2012 LP on indie label Sub Pop, and Metz has hardly been squandering the goodwill: Its pummeling live shows are sweaty blasts of jagged volume, splitting the difference between distortion and precision in a way that recalls experimental guitar-torturing trio Shellac, or a more sped-up Jesus Lizard.
“It’s not too thought out in terms of playing live,” Menzies admitted. “We used to write songs that were more complex, but we got that out of our systems. It just wasn’t as fun, and having fun playing these songs is just as important as anything else. If we’re not doing that, it’s not worth the time.”
That may sound prosaic coming from an of-the-moment act enjoying the love of nearly every respected music critic in the English-speaking world. But Metz is as much an exercise in consistency and restraint as crushing quantities of noise.
Along with his childhood friend — Metz singer-guitarist Alex Edkins — Menzies and band bassist Chris Slorach are averaging between 150 and 200 shows per year since signing to Sub Pop. Their current tour finds them playing near-daily sets through July, and European festivals through November (which could explain why Edkins handed the phone to Menzies when contacted for this interview, given the state of his voice).
“We don’t party too hard or anything, we just honestly enjoy doing it,” Menzies said when asked how the band keeps its energy up night after night. “The day that we’re just going through the motions of playing a show is the day we become insincere and pointless.”
A glance at the bustling indie/hardcore scene in Metz’s hometown of Toronto proves the band comes by its idealism honestly. From the sprawling Broken Social Scene collective to Crystal Castles and dozens of others, there’s a certain joyful (if often bizarre and art-damaged) earnestness to the music.
“We’re pretty even-keeled guys, so we don’t get overly homesick or overly crazy when we tour,” Menzies said. “It’s just part of what is requested of us at the time, but I do miss the comforts of home, and I think we wave the Toronto flag pretty proudly.”
The members’ down-to-earth demeanors contrast with their brutal stage presence, which is either a recipe for longevity or a precursor to their eventual careers as accountants and mathematicians. Either way, Metz is enjoying its relationship with Sub Pop (which Menzies calls downright “familial”) and itching for some down time to write songs for their self-titled debut’s follow-up.
“We’re constantly thinking about new stuff,” Menzies said. “It’s a balancing act between touring and writing, and unfortunately we’re not the type of band that writes well on the road. We don’t work out our parts in soundcheck or anything like that. So even though we’ve got a couple new songs we’re trying out on this tour, we’re just looking forward to taking some long showers and focusing on songwriting.”