5 bloggers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by the MWA writers. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: Chicago singer-songwriter, Andy Metz.
To say that Andy Metz has been prolific since relocating to Chicago from Seattle ten years ago would be an understatement. On top of the singer-songwriter’s intimidating solo discography, Metz leads local rock group Hero Monster Zero and makes up half of the hip-hop duo 8090. Between putting together 8090’s recently released remix album, recording tracks for HMZ’s debut EP, and prepping for a joint 8090/HMZ headlining slot at the Cubby Bear next weekend, Metz found some time to chat with us for this week’s FIVE x FIVE.
Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to hear on Hero Monster Zero’s upcoming debut EP?
I am very excited about our EP. It’s been a long time coming and it’s nice to see the finish line. The EP is unnamed as of right now, but our goal is to have it released in early October.
The EP will have six tracks that span a wide range of the types of styles we play. At its core, it’s hard rock, but there are definite elements of hip hop and some country twang. All six songs have already been played multiple times at shows, so we’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to work out the kinks and I feel pretty confident that we’re not throwing anything half-baked on there.
The instrumentation is pretty consistent throughout the EP (drums, bass, a bunch of guitars), but I’m really happy with the huge variations in tempo, energy and songwriting styles. Some of our tracks began as acoustic songs I brought to the band, while others started as riffy grooves the band came up with that I wrote lyrics to. Our most popular song, “Steppin’ On Me,” was originally a hip hop song that we modified to fit a rock vibe. In the end, I think no matter where the song started from, it ends up sounding like ours collectively, and I think that will come through in the EP.
Has the move from Seattle to Chicago affected the way that you approach your music or the way that you interact with the local scene?
I certainly have friends in the Seattle music scene, though my move to Chicago was long enough ago (ten years), that I’m not that familiar with it. I’ve really only tried to interact with the local scene since I moved to Chicago, and even then, it’s been a fairly slow process. I don’t have an outgoing personality and it’s taken me a long time to be comfortable enough to go to local shows by myself on random weekdays and try to interact with people I don’t know. I’m still not great at it, but the more I go out, the more I see familiar faces. My fiancee makes fun of me sometimes for pulling my head back and looking visibly uncomfortable when people are talking a little too close for me. Alcohol helps.
In terms of the way I approach my own music, I’m really not sure if the move has influenced me as much as just getting older. I’ve never really consciously tried to emulate the sound of the city, and in terms of rock and hip hop, I don’t even think there is a specific Chicago sound. I have spent the entirety of my 20’s here, so it’s hard to imagine Chicago as not having some impact on the music I make, but I’m currently unaware of what that impact is.
Between your projects, you’ve covered a fairly wide range of music. Do you have a favorite genre or style to write for or to perform?
I essentially have three outlets for the types of music I write. For high energy rock music, it’s Hero Monster Zero, for hip hop, it’s 8090, and for acoustic music (which I’ll record an album of at some point), my own name. I love having all three options, because song ideas tend to pop into my head chorus first, and it becomes usually pretty apparent what type of song it’s going to be from there.
Performing rock live is the most fun and cathartic and probably what I do the most frequently. Hip hop is great too, though I’m not sure we’ve totally figured out a way to get our best live sound. We’ve done live drums with backing tracks, which has worked pretty well, but also led to some technical difficulties. I enjoy performing acoustically as well, but I’m still trying to find my singer/songwriter voice in that regard. I know my rap voice and I know my loud, growly rock voice, but I’m not sure I’ve gotten the levels right on how to sing my calmer acoustic songs.
In terms of writing, I enjoy hip hop the most. It provides the best opportunity to be funny and clever or to tell a long story. I carry a notebook and laptop with me pretty much wherever I go, so when the opportunity strikes to write a lyric or work on the melody line of a beat, I’m usually able to do so. Writing for acoustic or rock songs is a little bit trickier. I like to have a guitar or keyboard, and those are a little less practical to carry around.
How did the 8090 remix album, Reworked Music, come to be?
Reworked Music is a total vanity project. I really enjoyed the songs on Work Music, and I wasn’t ready to let them go, so I decided to see what else I could do with them. I’m not sure Seth (the other half of 8090) even knew I was working on a remix album until I was about halfway done. My goal was to find some other tone or meaning of each song with the new beats. “Contemplations of a Side Hustle” is probably the best example of that. The original version of the song on Work Music was an upbeat anthem about selling weed on the side. The beat was bouncy and fun and so it sort sounded as if Seth was celebrating the situation. The remix on Reworked Music is string heavy with only the occasional kick drum and it gives the lyrics more of a “this is a part of my life that I’m not really proud of” type of vibe.
You’ve played all over Chicago, do you have a favorite venue to perform at? Any local bands that you’ve been grooving to lately?
Chicago has so many great venues. I could spend my whole life here and still not make it to every one I want to. In terms of sound quality and making me feel like a rock star, The Metro has been my favorite. I also really love The Elbo Room. They have a great staff and ownership, are very musician-friendly, and they gave me my first big opportunity to perform in Chicago. I will always appreciate them for that, though they really need to offer something to musicians besides High Life. It’s not the champagne of beers. I don’t care what anyone says! For acoustic shows, I really enjoyed playing at Mayne Stage and actually, though it’s not my normal hangout, the Hard Rock Cafe has run really good sound for me too.
I usually discover bands by playing on the same bill as them and there really are a ton of great bands and artists in Chicago right now. It would be hard to list my favorites without feeling like I’m slighting some, but there certainly are some standouts. Last Fall, we played a show at The Cubby Bear with Ariada, and they really had a phenomenal energy. It was one of the few acts that I think was difficult for us to follow and I could see them being a very successful band in the future. Jackpot Donnie is a great band to see live as well. They’ve been playing together for quite a while now, and their sound is just so incredibly dialed in. I’m also really excited for the upcoming Laura Glyda EP. She’s a friend and one of my favorite singer/songwriters in the city. Plus, she is a fellow Greyhound owner, and they’re a special breed (both the people and the dogs).
You can catch both Hero Monster Zero and 8090 performing under one roof at the Cubby Bear one week from today, 8/22. Bury Me In Lights, Derek Boyke, and Seth Mercer will be getting things started at 8:30 PM. Tickets are $7 in advance or $10 at the door, and you can find all of the details you need here.