In the two years since Akron hardcore band Mettagov’s formation, guitarist and vocalist Wesley Martin, drummer Josh Campbell and bassist Nate Jones have established themselves as elder statesmen of the booming and resurgent Akron DIY scene, despite being just a few years removed from playing their first shows as high schoolers.
“It’s surprising and awesome,” Nate says. “People will show up at shows and be like, ‘Yo, I heard you guys at some other show and you guys were awesome,’ and that’s just really humbling.”
Wesley and Josh began playing together in mid-2017. The first Mettagov practices took place at the altar of Josh’s church in Copley, with an electronic drum kit and no bassist. It took some convincing to corral Nate into swapping his guitar for a bass and joining the band, but once the lineup was set, the trio dove headfirst into honing their sound and their place in the scene.
Josh skipped a high school marching band performance to make the first Mettagov gig, and from there, the band learned their most formative lessons onstage.
“Every band should start out DIY so they know what hard work is, what building a foundation based on loyalty and honest work is,” Wesley says.
Mettagov’s gigging career began in earnest with a breakneck performance schedule playing at northeast Ohio’s prominent DIY spaces. One particularly brutal week saw the band play four shows in as many days.
“That sucked, but that was also fun,” Wesley said. “We didn’t know we were capable of that. But it was awesome.”
The bandmates have all been heavily involved with the DIY scene for years, and they credit their success to the inclusivity and positivity of the community.
“It’s a family, dude,” Wesley says. “It’s a medium that makes sense for punk music and it always has. We’re never really gonna get what we’re looking for in dive bars or contracts or pay-to-play.”
Mettagov says working within the DIY scene has shaped them not just as musicians, but as people.
“I suffer sometimes with social anxiety and opening up to people,” Josh says. “This is a way to show that this is what I believe, and this is what we believe as a collective. Most of my friends are from the DIY scene.”
While Mettagov fits somewhat comfortably within the parameters of hardcore punk in the style of influences such as NOFX, Turnstile and Anti-Flag, their sound is often more fluid and experimental in nature. Sludgy metal breakdowns and ska-tinged backbeats snake their way through the band’s otherwise straightforward down-and-dirty hardcore stylings, making them one of the most exciting and unpredictable bands in the Akron scene.
Mettagov isn’t afraid of getting intellectual. The band’s name stems from the philosophical concept of meta-consciousness — the mind’s ability to be constantly aware of both itself and the world around it.
Wesley’s songwriting is incendiary and insightful, with a ferocity that matches the band’s aggressive sound. Tracks like the anthemic, pop-punk accented “Keep the World Dumb” and the relentless thrash dirge “Lisa Doesn’t Know She’s a Fascist” mix poignant commentary with punk sensibilities that don’t mask the message so much as accentuate it.
“I think in America, everyone has this very narrow view, and anything that might present itself to be a different truth, they’ll find it threatening,” Wesley says. “And that’s a very big part of why we want to write what we write about. It all starts with you, in your head. Sometimes that doesn’t have to be politics, sometimes it can be as simple as telling yourself that you’re gonna be okay.”
Hardcore is a genre that typically doesn’t allow much room for nuance. Josh offers a much more succinct explanation of Mettagov’s message:
“Don’t let people step on you.”
Ultimately, Mettagov is in its element live and loud, performing in one of the countless DIY spaces that have cropped up across the Akron area in recent years. Wesley recently moved into the legendary walls of It’s a Kling Thing!, one of Akron’s most recent longest-running house venues. He’s booking shows there himself after years of playing in the basement.
As the band continues to play around town and write for an EP slated to drop in 2020, it feels like there’s nowhere for Mettagov to go but up.
“I always think to myself, if I’m doing bad at my job or at school, this is something that I’ll always have,” Wesley says. “I never need to worry because this family has got my back and I’ve got their back.”
Conor Battles is a journalism student at Kent State University.