“I was worried we’d be a cautionary tale for a little bit,” QTY frontman Dan Lardner says over matzo ball soup at famed Manhattan restaurant Veselka. Formed from the ashes of Grand Rapids, New York natives Lardner and lead guitarist and singer Alex Niemetz created QTY about three years ago. Though the two bands share a similar sound, their experiences couldn’t be further apart.
“Our whole lives, we were playing shows,” Lardner explains of Grand Rapids. “We played two nights a week for five years and that’s how I supported myself. It was our whole life and identity.”
Grand Rapids was a musicians’ band, opening for every buzzy act that came through New York, including Smith Westerns, Chairlift, Surfer Blood, and numerous others, but they were never afforded that same hype that those groups received.
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Once Grand Rapids disbanded in 2013, the duo’s lives were immediately thrown into a state of flux. But a weird and complex web of friends led them to San Francisco a year later, where the two bandmates, plus Julian Harmon of POP ETC, recorded three demos with former Girls bassist Chet “JR” White at Different Fur Studios. Upon returning to New York, Lardner’s roommate sent the tracks to a friend at Dirty Hit Records and just two days later, the label called asking to work with QTY.
“I was about to go to law school,” Niemetz remembers. “I got my acceptance letter the same week we got our contract! It was just a crazy life decision.”
Since signing to Dirty Hit, the label encouraged Lardner and Niemetz to lay low and write as much as possible. Aside from a couple of secret, toned-down gigs around Manhattan, their show at the Bowery Ballroom was for all intents and purposes, QTY’s first, though the band had been around for years.
Photo: Michael Fuller
You’d never have known that the group had been away from the stage for so long. Lardner’s Lou Reed-meets-Aaron Maine of Porches voice played perfectly off of Niemetz’s J Mascis-esque clean and arpeggiated solos, which were featured in nearly all QTY’s eight songs. The band, which includes Peter Baumann on bass and Alan Yuch on drums, blazed through their setlist – written on receipts from the restaurant Niemetz works at in Soho – and the audience caught on quickly; the floor of the Bowery Ballroom was largely empty when they began their set, but a crowd of 30 or so swelled to the hundreds after just a few songs.
The eight-song setlist, which included both the critically acclaimed “Rodeo” and “World Breaker,” was heavily populated by upbeat and succinct guitar-led tracks that recall a combination of both The Libertines and The Velvet Underground, all of which are likely to be featured on the band’s Bernard Butler-produced debut record, presumably out later this year.
QTY has been through a lot to get here – the breakup of their old band, teases by multiple labels, and the destruction of their practice space in an explosion that took their equipment – so this set, as a result, felt quite triumphant. With over 100,000 listens on Spotify at the time of writing, the show is just the beginning of something much bigger.
Photo: Michael Fuller
From cautionary tale to “next big thing,” QTY are ready for whatever comes next. Their voice memos are now Bernard Butler-produced indie rock jams and their past struggles in Grand Rapids and other bands are only making them stronger.
“It’s the dream coming true,” Lardner says at Veselka. “We were always stuck at the same level with our past projects, watching all of our friends blow up, but that made me happy. Some people could be so upset about it, thinking ‘why do they deserve it?’ But good things happen. And it’s finally happening for us.”