Interview conducted by: Makenzie Creden
Audio by: Erik Anderson
Sometimes you conjure up an idea so crazy that it only seems feasible in a bizarre dream. That’s what Alex Edkins of iconic noise-rock band METZ felt like when he was working on his side project, Weird Nightmare.
“I think that that name refers to that idea: just being terrified to not have your comfort blanket with you. For me, that’s sort of my bandmates in METZ,” Edkins explains about Weird Nightmare.
While you may know Edkins best for huge walls of sound and pedal-to-the-metal noise-rock, Weird Nightmare takes on a much different sound. Filled with catchy hooks and power pop riffs, Edkins’s debut self-titled album is a righteous journey of sonic fun.
We got to sit down with Alex before his show at Schubas this summer to chat about all things Weird Nightmare.
I always like to start off by asking artists about their names. Weird Nightmare – can you tell me a little bit about where that name came from?
Hmm. I wish I had an interesting story for it. I don’t really. It’s something that I just scribbled down really quickly. I think it was sort of a subconscious reaction to, you know, obviously the pandemic and kind of how things changed, but also just the idea of going it alone and making a solo album if you will. It was not exactly a solo album. I had a lot of help, but it’s very different from my other band METZ and I just decided to dive into this thing and have fun and try something new. So I think that that name refers to that idea too: just being terrified to not have your comfort blanket with you. For me, that’s sort of my bandmates in METZ. We’ve been doing that for 10-11 years together, so to do anything without those guys and in a different headspace was terrifying.
That was actually my follow-up question. Was like, is it scary to release stuff on your own after, you know, playing with METZ for so long?
Yeah, absolutely. Although I’m kinda really just excited about it. Like I think I’m just at a point now where it really doesn’t bother me. So if people don’t dig it or something… Like, I think there was a time when I’d be really self-conscious about that… But I feel free to make whatever I want at this point, so it was really quite an awesome thing and a liberating kind of new feeling.
Can you walk me through your process for writing music a little bit? How does it differ for Weird Nightmare from METZ?
It’s not that different actually. I usually start with a drum machine or a bass or a guitar and, you know, with rock music or punk music or whatever it’s pretty simplistic: riff or chord progression. That’s the same with METZ and that’s the same with this, but it was more of like a headspace where I was mining different parts of my record collection. I wanted melodies, and hooks were sort of the goal; just to have like this fun, exciting, dare I say, happy – like it’s not a happy record, but compared to some of the stuff I do, it is a little bit more light. I was excited about that: doing something that wasn’t so serious. In that way the process went was really the same. I would do everything; record everything as you write it… and with Mets that would end up being a demo which I would bring to the guys and we would work it out together. This time it would just stay down as the beginning of a recording of a song, and then I would just finish them. So it started off the same, but then I just followed through with it and finished it by myself
For sure. And was your inspiration for Weird Nightmare different than your inspiration for METZ? Because obviously, they have like quite a different sound. METZ is very noisy. Weird Nightmare, like you said, is a happy-ish power-pop kind of sound.
Yeah, I think it’s all coming from the same place. I’m just kind of a record collector nerd who has a wide range of loves as far as music goes. During the pandemic, I made another record as well that’s completely different. think I just felt the need to make anything and go for it and not think about what it was I was making so much.. and to say yes, as opposed to no. I’m trying to get better at that.
You said you’re a record collector. Um, what is your holy grail?
Oh, that’s impossible.
I know, I’m challenging you here.
I don’t know… I’ll tell you last night though at Third Man in Detroit… there are some pretty cool reissues in that place. It was very mouthwatering stuff… But I can’t really pick one favorite.
Fair. Is there one on repeat right now?
Um, what have I been listening to? Oh, well, I mean, one I’ve said this one, a bunch throughout the years, but Sparklehorse is one of my favorite players. We actually cover a tune in our set. We will tonight. That’s, that’s a guy who I turn to over and over and over… Every winter I dive into his discography, so yeah. A personal favorite for sure.
I love his record with Daniel Johnston. It’s so fun… Thank you for sharing that.
You mentioned that in this album, you focused a lot more on like writing hooks and melodies and that totally comes through. And obviously, when you play that kind of music, it’s probably different than being on stage making a lot of like heavy noise… Is it liberating or fun in a way to play these songs live?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s the whole idea of it and the people that play in the band: that it’s this fun rock band. It’s not, you know, um, so we’re just trying not to, I don’t know. I think I always take, take it seriously. Like I want the shows to be great. Yeah. And I want the record to be, to be good and everything, but that’s a very personal thing, you know? So this, I, I am I’m, I am trying to like, just, just have fun and live in the moment, but it’s, that’s hard. Oh, I don’t know. I’m not smart. It’s very hard. I usually don’t succeed with that. but I’m trying.
It’s easier said than done for sure…
I had some questions about specific songs on the record. The first one is “Lusitania.” When I saw the title, I was like, “What is this?” So I looked it up. It’s a boat.
What’s the connection?
There is no connection to the historical boat, but I very much was just like, “To me, this sounds like a song. That’s a song title.” It’s not a song about WWII or anything like that.
What is the song about then?
I use that name to start like a fictional kind of relationship song. So it’s really just like a love song about a fictional character.
The other one I had was about “Zebra Dance.” It stands out because it’s acoustic. I would describe it as a very tender song; a very special song. There’s a little snippet of a little kid… Can you tell me about that?
It’s really just, a breather, you know, something so you don’t have to jump right back into another kind of distorted rock song. There was just a little thing I used to play on the couch all the time sitting around home, and my son, who at the time of that would’ve been like three years old- you know, a big talker and a big singer. That’s just one of his little songs he made up and was like marching around singing. I wanted to make this kind of collage, so there are some weird looping sounds and then there’s an acoustic fingerpicking riff, and then my son singing about zebras. I felt the need to put him on the record and make something sort of like an experimental collage type of thing with that.
That’s super special. Oh my goodness. Thank you for like, sharing that.
So, the music videos for this album, they’re very, very fun. Did you have like a part in making those, any creative decisions?
The video for “Wrecked” was sort of my idea as far as like, just mapping out what was gonna happen, but I certainly didn’t shoot the footage. I was just kind of hoping to make something that didn’t have people in it, so it was dogs. Dogs all the way. We went to the dog park and wanted to do a kind of a Planet Earth/David Attenborough, but with dogs in slow motion. Ryan Thompson shot that he also had a huge part in the video for “Searching for You,” where he storyboarded the whole thing. Then he got a really talented animator, Dr. Cool, to do it. I love how that one turned out. I mean, long story short, that was not my vision. It was totally those guys and they get all the credit… It’s like just this crazy-looking, fun, dream thing.
Yeah. Do you have a favorite? I know there are three…
I love them all. I have to shout out Colin Medley who made the “Lusitania” video, which is a totally different style; a totally different vibe. I love it as well. He did it on a Super 8, and it just fits the song, so that’s perfect. I get to work with some pretty talented people…
You just finished up a tour with METZ last year, and you’re going on tour again in August, and then you’re touring right now with Weird Nightmare- I assume always kind of writing in the back of your head… how do you avoid burnout?
Well, I feel pretty burnt out right now, but I am trying to balance both of them. I think so far so good. The plan is not to be on the road all the time. It’s all about balance with my family and my son. It just doesn’t feel good to be gone all the time. I don’t really want to do that, but obviously, in music, that’s really the best way for musicians to make money. It’s really the only consistent way. So yeah, it’s something that I’m trying to get right: that balance… it’s challenging though.
I know this is like asking what your favorite child is, but do you have a favorite track on the album?
What I’ll say this: The one I love playing every night, maybe the most, is Sunday Driver. It is more of a lumbering strummer. It’s just so new to me to do something like that. It feels great. I mean, most of the music I’ve made over the years is very like pedal to the metal, so it feels good to do something with a different vibe.
And then I totally forgot to address this earlier, but you collaborated with Bully and Chad van Gaalen. How did that come about?
That was just the pandemic dictating. The pandemic had a big part in the record being made and it also allowed a lot of people to reach out to friends and stuff to make music because they couldn’t get together. This was just an example of: You know that they’re home and that they’re probably doing nothing… So I was like, “Hey, you got a couple hours?” I just reached out because I’m a fan and I thought they’d bring something cool to the songs, which they totally did. I feel honored that they’re part of the record.
Yeah. Um, a Chinese mouth organ on Chad’s part?
I mean that says a lot about Chad and the type of person he is. I was like, “Hey, do you wanna put a guitar solo on this?” You know, nine out of 10 people would’ve put a guitar on it, right? He put two instruments that most people would not have in their house. He’s a bit of a mad scientist kind of guy, and that’s why I love him and his records. That was, I thought, a perfect, example of how his brain works.
That’s amazing! Well, I just have a few more, but do you have an album of the year so far? Or one that you’re looking forward to?
Hmm. Well, I’m gonna see my friend tonight, Brian, from FACS, which is a Chicago band. I’ve heard their new album. It’s not out yet, but it’s phenomenal. And I’ll just say that.
Yeah! They’re awesome. Well, what’s, what’s next for you?
We are doing more shows this summer with Kiwi Jr. and, like you said, Metz is going over to Europe in August. Weird Nightmare has some new music coming out in the fall… That’s kinda all I can say, so that’s the plan right now!