Q And Not U, to someone that hasn’t heard them are probably "just another American punk rock band with an incredibly stupid name", the more knowledgeable might think, "just another D.C band that idolise Fugazi, Hoover and the like". But to the people that have listened their debut album 'No Kill No Beep Beep', Q And Not U are the most exciting and unique punk band that have been conceived in the last 5 years.
Yeah their longer player displays all the classic Dischord elements: raw guitars, pounding rhythm sections and political fuelled lyrics spewed out by schizophrenic vocalists, but there’s something else you can’t quite put your finger on, they’ve made the 'impossible sound'.
Plus their name Q And Not U, isn’t as bad as it first seems, I’ll let Chris, their bassist and sometimes singer explain: "It’s a logic problem, a nanny-nanny-boo-boo kiss off, a commentary on language, a riddle, all of these things and hopefully more” and the band’s history? “Matt, John and I started playing together as a trio in the summer of 1998. Harris joined in later that autumn. We played our first show in November or December of that year. I don't think a band really exists until they share their work with an audience, so I guess our band started at the very end of 1998."
And what great audiences they must of played to, they’ve had gigs with the likes of Burning Airlines, The Make Up, The Dismemberment Plan, Faraquet, Rainer Maria, Juno and All-Scars, to name but a few: "We're usually really excited to play with bands we admire. The bar is raised for how well we have to perform, it's like we want to show these bands up. I wish we could play with amazing bands every night because I think it brings out the best in us."
And what can you expect at a Q And Not U show? "The record was intended to capture what we try to exude live, so hopefully you have a good starting point if you've heard the record. Things are at their best when it's sweaty, loud and bloody as possible. And fuck schtick."
Yes, Chris' words resemble those that have come out of the mouths of Trail Of Dead, Les Savy Fav, At The Drive-In, and most other bands that have been pigeonholed under IPC’s ‘American Invasion’ scene, but Chris is quick to deny such insinuations: "I was just on holiday in London and Paris and I was really amazed to see all the At The Drive-In and Trail of Dead posters around town. I don't think Trail of Dead has ever even headlined a show in Washington D.C. Nevertheless, the last thing we want to do is blend in with any kind of "invasion" because we don't feel an affinity with any of those bands, aside from the Oxes who are friends. I guess one thing we can offer is that our band comes from a specific community, at a specific time. To me, one of the most important elements of punk rock is the regional folk quality. I love discovering new sounds when they're specific to their place or community. Especially in an era where the Internet is globalising everything, I don't mean to sound like some kind of conservative technophobe, but that's how I feel. I realize it's unstoppable, but fighting it will make life interesting for the next one-hundred years."
"I realize it's unstoppable, but fighting it will make life interesting for the next one-hundred years" well that statement should destroy rumours that punk’s dead:
"If punk means Mohawks and circle-pitting and playing in 4/4 time as fast as you can, then maybe it is dead. But I think punk isn't a style as much as it is an ethic. Punk is alive for me now, and I hope it stays alive with me for the rest of my life." so at least we know its alive in Washington D.C and the reason why? "The city has a very strong punk rock history, and most of the people who have been heavily involved in the past, are always willing to help our younger people. It's a very nurturing community. So many older bands have helped us out in DC and we're really thankful."
That takes us back to their album ‘No Kill No Beep Beep’, the record was recorded with the legendary duo of Ian MacKaye and Don Zientara, having earlier found out at that Chris: "thought it was some kind of miracle that these things [Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses, Slant Six, Jawbox and co] were all linked." you would of thought the band would be slightly scared and even the thought of recording an album for Dischord with their idols but no, yet again they took the big occasion in their stride: "Don and Ian do a great job making sure everyone is comfortable. Our first day there, Ian told us a story about Bikini Kill to try and put us at ease. Apparently, when they went in to record their first album at Inner Ear, the band freaked out about being in a big studio and couldn't play. I guess they managed to calm down, and now that record sounds like one of the most raw and natural recordings I can think of. It's like a Black Flag album or something. So it was nice to know that a band who we consider to be important as Bikini Kill were scared like we were. Ian and Don are both hilarious too. I wish I would have written down some of the jokes they told us."
As for the bands plans for the future: "We have a lot of U.S. touring plans this spring that includes the likes of Ted Leo And The Pharmacists, Excelsior, Radio 4, Engine Down, Turing Machine, Song of Zarathustra, and hopefully !!!. All of those bands are really amazing, so we can't wait to throw the Frisbee with them. Then we spend the hot months writing new songs, and hopefully touring Europe and/or Japan in the autumn. We haven't really gotten that far yet, but I suppose if we have the interest in going overseas, we better hurry up and get on our horse and start planning."
Photography by Shawn Brackbill.