New York has always had it’s own sound in music. The Velvet Underground, the Ramones, New York Dolls, and countless other influential bands that’ve paved the road for contemporary artists. But that doesn’t always mean bands want the reminder of that paving. Enter NYC-based duo QTY – pronounced Q.T.Y. – who can’t help but bring to mind the greats of New York’s past. Lead by Dan Lardner and Alex Niemetz, whose collective voice and songwriting somehow echoes Lou Reed, the duo drops their long-awaited self-titled debut November 3rd via Dirty Hit Records. And best of all, it’s produced by legend Bernard Butler of Suede. Listen to a taste with lead single, “Michael,” which we somehow got our hands on, and read our conversation below. As for that New York thing? “We can only hope that down the line people will begin to see us as QTY and kind of leave it there.” Well, down the line looks closer than ever. —Maya Eslami
WHAT YOUTH: Tell me about how you guys met and formed QTY?
QTY: We met when we were both 17, specifically it was on Houston downtown around where the Whole Foods is. We split a cone from the Mr. Softee truck that used to always be parked over there and just walked around for a few hours getting to know each other. We were both in that post high school transition stage of our lives and I had just moved out from my parents place and into their old place in the east village where my dad used to squat.
At the time the thing that would really attach us to each other was that our respective high school bands had just ended and we were both looking to start our own band, rather then join one that already existed. A few days after that we met up and wrote some songs, a few months after that we were playing shows, a few years after that we were calling ourselves QTY and recording our debut album in London with Bernard and signed up with Dirty Hit.
The few tracks I’ve heard are so robust in sound – but it’s only the two of you. How do you achieve that full sound?
Alex and I are the songwriters and the two of us do all the singing so when it came time to record and we had Bernard locked in producing, logistically it made the most sense for it to be her and I that went to London and recorded. Julian Harmon joined us playing drums on every track apart from “Rodeo”, “World Breaker” and “Dress / Undress”, and was with us in the studio with Bernard for about 9 days out of the 50 or so we were recording.
As far as achieving the robust sound its just us playing the way that we play and having the right guitar pedals on the right settings. Bernard is a really really great producer and engineer, and through his guidance and with his sensibilities the recordings were able to capture it all in the best way we could hope for.
There aren’t really any tricks to it.
Do you guys play live with more people?
Yeah, Live were a full four piece band with Peter Baumann on bass and Alan Yuch playing drums. Peter has been playing with Alex and I in almost all of the past incarnations of QTY, he also taught me how to play guitar when I was a kid.
We play everything live between the four of us without any backing tracks or anything that would help us out with replicating the record, but we’ve been working at it for months now and are really psyched with the live set we’ll be playing on our upcoming North American tour.
Where did you record the debut? How did that go?
We recorded it in North London in Bernard’s small small personal studio. It was fucking great! For real loved every second of it.
What was it like working with Bernard Butler of Suede?
Working with Bernard was a dream come true on all fronts. We both grew up on glam rock and for me it was a huge part of my identity, but always remained out of reach in any tangible way. Id really liked that first Suede record when I was younger and in some ways i took it as a testament that the music i loved so much but that had came and went a couple decades before me could be expanded on while being new and without being derivative. Bernard has a better sensibility with that stuff then anyone else alive today, but like us, I think he’s also grown from his glam roots and understood what we were as a band and as songwriters with a lot of different influences interests. I couldn’t imagine anyone doing a better job guiding us through our first time really being in a studio and working on our album. Both as a producer and as a mentor, weather he wanted to be or not. The advise he gave us are things we’ll take with us throughout our career and thanks to him we’ve got a record that we’re really proud of now and one I think we’ll still be proud of twenty years from now.
Apart from all those things for me personally it was really wild to be in the same room with him and Alex while they were playing guitar. Alex is my favorite guitar player on this planet, I really really mean that, and Bernard is obviously on some other level then anyone else around. I don’t think I can really compare either of them to anyone else when it comes to their style, taste, sensibilities and instincts, technical ability and then how they both utilize all of those traits and skills as an outlet for their creativity.
Seeing the two of them working parts out and playing together was a highlight of my life as a musician and a music lover.
How’d you guys link up with Dirty Hit Records?
We had recorded three demos, one of which was “Dress / Undress”, after our last band had died a slow drawn out death. We didn’t really have any plans for them or an idea of what we wanted to do with ourselves other then knowing that we wanted to stay together and we wanted to keep writing music and playing shows.
My friend Emily Hope had been living in my closet for a few months and splitting all our measly live expenses while she pursued her photography career. I’d sent her the three tracks the day after we’d finished them and without giving me a heads up she sent them to her friend Jamie Oborne, who she’d meet a year earlier and who had asked her to let him know if she ever comes across any great new bands.
A day or two after that I got a phone call from a foreign number i didn’t recognize, I actually ignored it the first couple times it called assuming it was some kind of debt collector getting sneaky with a foreign number.
Eventually I answered and we spoke, and then eventually we met in person, and then we eventually signed a couple pieces of paper, and then much later at some point down the road we recorded the record.
Who are your influences? And how do you incorporate them into your songwriting?
A really big influence for the both of us and one of our initial bonding points during that first time meeting up on Houston was peak Drag City, specifically bands like Royal Trux, Pavement and the Silver Jews, Bill Callahan and Smog, a bit of Sic Alps, Stereolab, and Jim O’Rouke. We both really liked Spiritualized and Slowdive as well. I think Neko Case had just come out with a record we had both been listening to a lot and within a week of that meeting and already having become inseparable Alex had gotten me really into Arthur Russell and that played a role in in how we approached our music.
I’ve got a really overwhelming passion for the Bowie and Roxy Music version of glam rock (the only actual music that should be called glam rock), but with Al’s introduction of Russell into my life and having the Drag City bands being our main common ground Alex encouraged me to really take pride in my lyrics and we had a template for how a really solid foundation in good lyrical songwriting could be incorporated into all the aspects of glam that i was so attached to.
I keep reading comparisons of you guys to other New York bands, like the Velvet Underground and the Ramones. Do you guys hate those comparisons?
I think us sounding like we’re a band from New York is the same as when a person has an accent and it isn’t apparent to them but other people hear it. It’s definitely not a conscious thing and if we knew what the hell it was that makes us sound that way we’d probably make a conscious effort to get rid of it.
We obviously love a lot of music from here and we both grew up on it but we don’t want that to be the only thing people think about when they hear us. We definitely get it a lot from people outside the city but I don’t think we’ve ever really been told that from anyone here. It can be frustrating getting a lot comparisons to bands we don’t think we have anything in common with other then our guitars and the city we were born in, but its also kind of a stupid thing to try and fight. We can only hope that down the line people will begin to see us as QTY and kind of leave it there.
What’s next for you guys?
We’ve got our full length coming out right in the middle of a really big North American tour that starts in San Fransisco on October 11th and we’ll be on tour until the end of the year and beyond.
Other then those two things we’ll just be in our practice space continuing to write music and play together and doing our best to keep the dream alive.
QTY TOUT DATES:
11 October | Great American Music Hall, San Francisco CA
13 October | Wonder Ballroom, Portland OR
14 October | Fortune Sound Club, Vancouver BC
15 October | The Showbox, Seattle WA
18 October | Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis MN
20 October | Metro, Chicago IL
21 October | St. Andrew’s Hall, Detroit MI
23 October | The Waiting Room, Buffalo NY
24 October | La Sala Rossa, Montreal QC
25 October | Higher Ground Ballroom, South Burlington VT
27 October | Paradise, Boston MA
28 October | Irving Plaza, New York NY
29 October | 9:30 Club, Washington DC
31 October | Marathon Music Works, Nashville TN
1 November | Saturn, Birmingham AL
2 November | The Earl, Atlanta GA
3 November | The Beacham Theater, Orlando FL
4 November | Culture Room, Ft. Lauderdale FL
6 November | One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans LA
7 November | White Oak Music Hall, Houston TX
9 November | The Mohawk, Austin TX
10 November | South Side Music Hall, Dallas TX
12 November | Gothic Theatre, Englewood CO
14 November | The Press Room, Phoenix AZ
15 November | Club Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas NV
16 November | Soda Bar, San Diego, CA
17 November | Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles CA
2 December | Mahall’s Locker Room, Lakewood OH
3 December | Rumba Café, Columbus OH
6 December | Club Café, Pittsburgh PA
7 December | Boot & Saddle, Philadelphia PA
9 December | The Haunt, Ithaca NY