Palo Alto California is known worldwide as the heart of Silicon Valley. Lesser known however, is the nascent and burgeoning music scene spearheaded by young and ambitious bands such as Metro, an indie alternative rock band with a lush and unique sound as exemplified by their singles “Her” and the recently released song “Letters“.
The band was formed in 2018 by pianist Toni Loew, singer and guitarist Marina Buendia, bassist Joseph Cudahy and drummer Rein Vaska. Each member brings unique musical inspirations to the band, and Metro’s music is a unique combination of alternative, indie and psychedelic influences. Their style is inspired by the styles of the 1975, Mild High Club, and Wallows.
Toni, Marina, Joseph and Rein, the world is dying to know your superhero origin story: how did the four of you meet and end up becoming Metro in 2018? For example: did you all attend the same school, live in the same neighborhood, meet up via social media, etc.?
After her old band broke up, Toni (our keyboardist) was looking for a singer through Instagram and came across Marina’s singing account; Toni discovered Marina’s incredible voice and their similar taste in music, and reached out about starting a band.
Toni and Marina met to discuss the band and realized they would be perfect musical collaborators. That day, they invited Joseph (our bassist) and Rein (our drummer), who went to the same school as Marina. After our first practice, our band’s natural dynamic became clear; we quickly realized we had not only created a band, but a close group of friends who just so happen to play music together.
Although we are all from the same city, we may have never met if not for our shared passion for music. We realize that these rapid online interactions could not have worked out so perfectly for our band’s formation, and we’re immensely grateful we were so lucky to have found each other.
Your website cites your musical influences as The 1975, Mild High Club and Wallows. Are there any lesser known up and coming bands or musical artists that currently inspire you that you’d like to give a shout out to?
Over our two years of playing gigs around the Bay Area, we have been lucky enough to meet countless bands who inspire us: Flow Resale, Reverie, Ruse, Flamango Bay, S.O.S., and Chezdelang, to name a few.
How does Metro go about composing its songs? Is it a group effort where every member contributes (e.g., composing songs by jamming together) or do one or two members write the majority of your material?
For the majority of our songs, one of us will bring in an idea, whether that’s a chord progression or the outline of an entire song, for us all to develop as a band. Because we each write our own parts and equally contribute ideas in every step of the process, our sound encapsulates our diverse musical backgrounds and influences. With this songwriting process, we’re confident that a piece from each of us will be in every track we release.
To the extent that the songwriting process is borne of the efforts of individual members, do you consciously sit down and treat writing a song like a full-time job or do your songs come from sudden inspiration (or maybe a mix of both)?
When we first started writing songs as Metro, songs would come more naturally without any predetermined idea or “vibe”; through songwriting, we found our sound organically as our influences came together.
Now, with a more concrete idea of our band’s sound and as we craft out the structure of our first album, we write songs through the lens of this established sound and with the intention that the song will fit within the context of our album’s storyline.
Are there any specific tips that you can give to bands who aspire to write their own original material and who may be reading this interview?
Don’t be afraid to put seemingly contrasting ideas together. Especially because our approach to songwriting is relatively collaborative, we’ve written some of our favorite songs by synthesizing ideas and genres that, at first glance, don’t seem to naturally go together.
Similarly, don’t be afraid to stray from the traditional notion of song structure, melody, chord progressions, etc. If you need to change things up, try writing on a different instrument you’re not as familiar with; this unfamiliarity will allow you to detach from the bias towards certain chords or intervals you may have developed on your main instrument.
As you listen to music yourself, take note of your favorite parts of a song or try finding common threads shared by your favorite songs. With these strategies, you’ll create a “toolkit” to use for your own songwriting.
Lastly, record any ideas you come up with, either when writing alone or collaboratively. Even if you don’t use an idea immediately, it may be the perfect verse or bridge you need for a song in the future. You can also add to your repository of ideas by finding inspiration when away from your piano, guitar, etc. – anytime you think of an interesting collection of words or a catchy melody unintentionally, be sure to log these ideas.
Recording and gear
Does Metro record and mix its own music? If so, is there any advice you can give to bands who wish to produce their own music but may not have yet acquired the technical skill?
Yes, we record and mix our own music! We initially planned on recording in a studio, however, we realized that we wanted the creative freedom that comes with recording and producing ourselves. We learned as we went, so the whole process was a lot of trial and error. In production, we work to find the perfect balance between staying true to our live sound and using mixing techniques to enhance the storytelling of our songs.
For bands hoping to produce their own music, don’t be afraid to experiment with production to enhance your music. Even small production details can add a unique character to your track, and through a series of carefully crafted production elements, you can really take your song to the next level.
Can you provide me with a rundown of the gear the individual band members use for both stage and studio?
Vocals: Marina records vocals on an Aston Spirit Condenser Mic. On stage, we mostly mic Marina with a standard SM-58.
Bass: Joseph mainly performs live with a fretless 5 string Warwick Streamer, but has 2 other fretless basses (modded custom P bass, Warmoth Jazz Bass) and 2 fretted bases (Mike Lull M4V, 5 string Warwick Thumb), and plays through an Aguilar AG700 amp and GS412 cabinet.
Drums: Rein uses a Pearl drum set with a Ludwig exotic snare, and Sabian, Meinl and Paiste cymbals. For recording, we use a standard set-up (SM-57 on snare, SM-57 on kick, two condenser mics as overheads, some cheap tom mics, and sometimes room mics).
Keys: Toni plays a Roland JUNO-DS88 keyboard. For gigs, we use a PA system with two Yamaha DXR12 speakers, and MEE Audio M6 PRO in-ear monitors.
Recording: We have a makeshift studio with KRK Monitors, a Scarlett 6i6 interface and sound-dampening panels. We also use analog synths such as the Behringer Model D and the Korg Minilogue. We mix in Logic and use external plugins from Eventide, iZotope, XLN Audio, Native Instruments, Slate Digital etc.
Metro is based in Palo Alto, California – i.e., the Bay Area. What’s the music scene currently like in the Bay Area in light of Covid? And what’s your expectation for the Bay Area music scene and Metro’s place in it once everyone gets vaccinated and things “get back to normal”?
Throughout quarantine, we’ve been able to play a few socially-distanced shows in driveways, closed-off streets, etc., and we were so happy to play live music again after so long.
Our county’s protocol became more strict again, so unfortunately, we won’t be playing any more shows this winter. However, we are considering live-streaming a show; although it won’t be the same as a live show with the energy of a live audience, a live-streamed show would allow us to connect with a larger, international audience that extends beyond our Bay Area community.
Before the pandemic, we would organize and play DIY shows with a network of Bay Area bands. For instance, we organized a mini music festival called PARADOX that featured five bands of five different genres. Unifying a diverse music scene that night was so rewarding, and we hope to return to these collaborative shows whenever possible.
Because we lost the ability to play live music momentarily, we will definitely value our supportive network more than ever before and never take a close, high-energy audience for granted.
The band was formed only in 2018 yet you already have over 2,000 followers on Instagram. How did you develop your social media following? And is there any advice you can give to bands out there just starting who wish to follow in your footsteps and gain a following?
The best way to gain a following is to ensure your social media presence reflects your real-life connections. Take every opportunity you can and make as many friends as possible while you’re there. Connecting to other artists, big or small, can mutually expand your audiences.
At a few recent gigs, we started displaying a sign with our band name, social media, and links to our music so those who enjoy our music that night can maintain a relationship with our band and continue to follow our journey.
What are Metro’s short-term (within a year), medium-term (within 5 years) and long-term (within 10 years) professional goals?
Within the next year or so, we plan on hopefully getting back to playing shows after quarantine. As we return to school, we’ll be somewhat scattered around the country so we’ll most likely shift our focus towards recording and working on a full-length album.
Within five years, we hope to release that album, organize a mini-tour (going to LA and back, for example), and exploring other types of gigs, such as a generator show. We also hope to gradually work our way up to opening for better-known artists who inspire us.
As the pandemic showed, the music industry can be somewhat unpredictable and, to be quite honest, we haven’t given much thought as for the next decade; however, we imagine we’ll continue writing songs, releasing music, playing shows, and hopefully touring a bit more.
Long-term goals also include becoming more involved in the visual side of the industry, such as creating music videos to compliment our releases or trying for music placement into movies, TV shows, and more. Whether we’re still playing together under Metro ten years from now or we’re onto our own separate endeavors, we’re confident that our collaborations as Metro will stay with us forever.
And of course, you can listen to their music over at Spotify and other major streaming platforms.