Over the past couple years, many of us have become reacquainted with our record collections; hauling out crates of dusty albums from storage and getting a new needle for our turntables. But not all of us went out and made a record that spans the entire catalogue. While Alex Edkins of Toronto noise-rock trio Metz is quick to point out that his new solo project, Weird Nightmare, isn’t a pandemic record, the time off from relentless touring did however allow him to finally manifest the ideas that have been percolating for some time. The result is a power pop fuelled journey through seven decades of alt-rock history.
Picture it: You order a burger and a shake on DoorDash, put on your comfy slippers, and get to work. You pull out The Trogs, Big Star, Wipers, 100 Flowers, Big Boys, and The Sound. Moving into the oughts you go for Constantines, Jay Reatard, and Eddy Current Suppression Ring. You thought you had Open Your Heart by the Men on vinyl but you don’t, so you fire up Spotify and let the algorithm ride: Meat Wave, Toner, Big Bite. You go to sleep and dream in power chords and three-part harmonies.
Edkins confirms: “My record collection is a lot of 60s music; psychedelic or just garage, and I was able to go down that road. I mean it’s not a 60s or psychedelic sounding record but you know what I mean. Using some of these Kinks-type simplistic chord progressions that never made sense with Metz, and having just a little bit more of a joyful approach to writing while using some traditional tropes.”
Having all this time meant he was able to let his guard down and trust his instincts. After days spent homeschooling his son, Edkins would tinker deep into the night on these songs’ deceptively simple structures and rich, static-laden textures. “I’ve never recorded an album myself, and I’ve never engineered a record. I think I came to a point where I wasn’t scared anymore of just putting it all out there and I didn’t have anything stopping me so I just said, ‘hell, I’m just gonna say yes instead of saying no.”
In the spirit of saying yes, Edkins enlisted some guests to round out the album; notable experimental pop weirdo Chad VanGaalen, Alicia Bognanno of American grunge band Bully, Graham Walsh from Holy Fuck, and drummer Loel Campbell of Wintersleep. For the spattering of live shows woven between Metz’ touring schedule, Edkins turned to Jesse Laderoute of Blonde Elvis and Jim MacAlpine and Michael Catano of famed math rock band North of America.
“This whole project was kind of a spur of the moment thing that I just felt I needed to do. I wanted to have fun with it and not overthink things. The same thing happened when I was putting the band together. I basically turned to my right and said “you wanna play in my band?” That sense of fun and ease permeates the record, a “raw, sugary blast of distorted pop,” as the press release states.
But as fun and easy as it might come across, you also get the sense that Edkins put a ton of pressure on himself to make it sound like that. “I guess I always put a certain amount of pressure on myself anyway. There’s a certain standard you want to uphold. But I felt that this was a freeing experience. It was just a time to do different things and it felt awesome. Thankfully I’ve always really liked blown-out sounds. Theres a little bit more room for error when you’re dealing with weird or distorted sounds, so that played into my strengths.”
While the tendency with solo offerings is to compare them to the artist’s main band, that does a disservice to Weird Nightmare. The project stands triumphantly on its own. Still, comparisons are inevitable. If Metz is “a band of all drummers” as Death From Above 1979’s Jesse Keeler once put it, then Weird Nightmare is a band of pianists. If Metz is the sound of things falling apart, then Weird Nightmare is the sound of things coming together. If Metz is… You get the idea.
Weird Nightmare performs on May 21 at the Baby G in Toronto | TICKETS
By Glenn Alderson
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