Words by Jonathan Stout
Alex Edkins has made a name for himself over the past decade with the roaring noise rock from his day job as bandleader of Canada’s Metz. Although Metz thrives on dissonance, feedback and hard hitting rhythms, Edkins dreamed of one day exploring more melodic urges. When the pandemic hit and touring shut down, Edkins found himself homeschooling his son with a lot of downtime to spare. In this time, he was able to finally indulge his noise-pop proclivities with a new side project: Weird Nightmare. Inspired by ‘60s pop, garage rock and the classic albums released by kiwi label Flying Nun, the self-titled record was released May 20th on Sub Pop Records.
Off Shelf: What was the catalyst for starting this project?
Alex Edkins: I’m constantly excited about making new music. I like to be working on more than one thing at a time. During the pandemic, when Weird Nightmare was made, I wrote and recorded an entirely separate album, leaning to the completely other side of the musical spectrum, and scored two films. I’ve lost my ability to stay still. Basically, being forced off the road and not being able to tour with METZ pushed me to try new things.
OS: Although there are similarities in distortion levels, there’s definitely a heightened melodicism with the Weird Nightmare material. Is this a direction you plan on exploring further in your future or is the Weird Nightmare album just a one-time, cathartic outlet for embracing poppier urges?
AE: The melodic elements that are at the forefront of this record show a real honest representation of my musical taste. I think at my core I’m a pop fan. I’ve always been an obsessive record collector of 60’s psych, garage, 70’s power pop, post-punk, 80’s punk and hardcore, 90’s indie rock, so this record is really just a mix of everything I love. It was an effortless and fun process and it just made sense at the time to really lean into a more lighthearted and fun way of writing compared to what I usually do, which is really heavy sonically and lyrically.
I definitely have plans to make more Weird Nightmare records. There is already a new release in the pike that is with one of my all-time favorite musicians.
OS: Do you plan on putting together a band to tour this material?
AE: Yes, we’ve got a co-headline tour with Kiwi Jr. for East Coast America, as well as some hometown shows in Toronto – one supporting Superchunk! Also some very exciting plans for the winter that I can’t share quite yet.
OS: You cite 60s pop and Flying Nun as influences to your songwriting on this album. Are there any specific records that really inspired you during the recording of the album?
AE: Yes, I was listening to the first Bee Gee’s album a lot. It’s called “1st” and is an incredible record. It’s a mix of Left Banke baroque soft-psych and Revolver era Beatles worship. The vocals on songs like “In My Own Time” and “Please Read Me” were definitely inspirations for my song Lusitania. I enjoy a lot of the Flying Nun catalog, my favorite band probably being the Tall Dwarfs, but what really grabs me is the simplicity and rough around the edges production or lack thereof. Both of those ideas were key to making Weird Nightmare. Another couple records that inspired the making of this album, but not so much the sound, was “Good” by the Steven and “Pacer” by the Breeders. They made me excited about making music.
OS: What was it like having to homeschool your son throughout the pandemic? Was that something you previously had any experience with?
AE: It was great. It was definitely not something I was used to or had any experience with. I definitely have a brand new appreciation for all teachers out there.
OS: You mentioned that you found yourself doing new things you didn’t have the “guts” to do previously when recording this album. Do you have any examples of what you mean?
AE: Things like stacking 3 part harmonies or using acoustic guitars, mellotrons, synths, or even just lyrically being very unguarded and open, all seemed liberating at the time. However, I think I was mostly referring to self-producing and self-engineering an entire album. Doing it, for the most part, alone without outside expertise or input. It was about having fun and not second guessing.
OS: How did the collaborations with Chad VanGaalen and Alicia Bognanno come about for this album?
AE: It was as simple as reaching out and asking them. I’m a big fan and thought they would add something great to those specific tracks, and they proved me right! I was really honored that they said yes!