The power of music, and more specifically, metal music, is examined in Netflix’s latest coming of age feature. ‘Metal Lords’ stars Philly native Jaeden Martell as Kevin, a shy and hesitant high school student who is unsure of who he is or what he wants. While in a band with his best friend Hunter (Adrian Greensmith), the duo decide to compete in the Battle of the Bands…Well, being the dominant personality in their relationship, Hunter decides. But it works out for Kevin, who begins to find himself, confidence and even a girlfriend (Isis Hainsworth as Emily) when he beings to pursue what metal music really is all about—fighting for yourself.
Written by D.B. Weiss, (yes, the same Weiss from ‘Game of Thrones‘), and directed by Peter Sollett, ‘Metal Lords’ unfolds to a touching story about finding purpose through passion. And for one of its stars, Martell, that notion certainly stood out even before they began filming.
Jaeden Martell sat down to discuss more on his experience making this film, and what makes its teenaged characters so compelling.
What was it about this story or character that interested you to want to sign on with ‘Metal Lords’?
Well, I was very interested in how complex these characters were within this seemingly simple teenage movie about friendship and them starting a band. But their relationship was so interesting to me—there was an imbalance, it was clear who was in charge. It was fun to me that this character I was going to play had this huge change and he found his own voice within this genre of music. And it helped him so much. I was really attracted to how he grew and evolved over the course of this whole movie and found the strength within himself to be himself.
How would you describe Kevin in the beginning of the film?
Right off the bat, it’s clear that he’s very shy. I feel like he really didn’t know what direction his life is going in. He is someone who needed a leader, and that leader was his best friend Hunter. He wasn’t really sure who he was in the beginning of the film, even with his style and how he approached everything that he did. He was low on confidence.
Hunter says a line in the film: “Metal helps you take the wheel.” How did this genre of music help Kevin throughout ‘Metal Lords’?
Metal is taking the wheel, and I think a lot of young people struggle with that. I feel all teenagers reach a point where they don’t really understand who they are, and some find it by getting really into an activity, or a type of music or style—whatever it is. I was lucky because I found film and acting really young, and all that Kevin needed was metal music. It helped that the message of the entire genre was to fight for yourself. He needed that boost of strength, but also an outlet to get out his frustrations. I feel like we’ve all gone through that, where we get really into something, and whether it lasts forever or not doesn’t really matter. For me, sometimes it would be playing the piano—that didn’t last long, but you get into something and it feels good and productive. It’s so easy now to be unproductive, and it’s so easy to just go on social media and just live life and be complacent within that. But yeah, that’s all he needed was an outlet.
What went into getting prepared to play the drums on screen? How much did you practice?
I am someone who is obsessed with music. I love discovering new music and finding the most obscure stuff I can find. I’m super passionate about listening to it, but I never thought that I would create music…I didn’t feel that I had the talent. That’s something that never made sense to me, I thought how can I be so in love with this thing but not be able to create my own? So, it felt really satisfying to learn the drums and for me, I practiced for about a month beforehand and was practicing every day during filming too. It just felt so good to start this from scratch, [and] also, to get into a whole different genre of music and learn about their culture and how freeing it is. Just the whole genre…It’s so liberating I think.
On that note, I’ve always thought the drums seemed like the most freeing instrument to play.
Absolutely, because it’s so physical. It’s also easy to start the drums—anyone can make the same sound by hitting the snare in a certain way. It’s very easy to start, [but] it’s very difficult to master. Whereas the guitar, if I pick it up right now, I have no experience with it, I can’t make a noise that someone else makes. But yeah, it’s such a physical thing, especially metal. I love watching jazz drummers because it’s so smooth and precise. But with metal, it’s exhausting and emotional. I just love that aspect to it.
Overall, what do you hope audiences take away from ‘Metal Lords’?
That these characters are so interesting and real. Kevin has to find his inner strength and he has to stick up for himself—which everyone does. But then there’s someone like Hunter who is so tough on the exterior and so fragile within…He has to find a way to express his love in a different way and not through controlling people, but through acceptance. So, that’s what it’s really about—hopefully finding that balance.
‘Metal Lords‘ drops on Netflix April 15.