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It’s been just over a year since the world was introduced to QTY and, while 13 months and nine days (but who’s counting?) isn’t an especially long time in the grand scheme of things, the wait for their debut album has, at times, felt like a lengthy one. Why wouldn’t it? After all, the New Yorkers – Dan Lardner (vocals/guitar), Alex Niemetz (guitar/vocals), Peter Baumann (bass), and Alan Yuch (drums) – came racing out of the traps last year with ‘Rodeo’, a fizzing, giddy ode to friendship that makes you want to fling yourself into your best mate’s arms even after your 100th listen. Something so perfect could hardly not breed a yearning for more, and quickly.
It’s not just fans who’ve felt that special kind of excited impatience. “We recorded it so long ago, I just want it to be out for people to be able to hear it,” Dan says over the phone from Pittsburgh, where the band are in the middle of a headline tour, days before his dream of releasing an album finally becomes reality. “I want to make a second one now.”
QTY, an album by QTY on Spotify
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. First, there’s QTY’s self-titled debut to devour – released today (December 8) – and to say it’s well worth the wait is an understatement. It’s one of those special kinds of records that sounds spectacularly effortless – a woke-up-like-this ease that makes Alex’s six-string artistry, riffs veering from jagged to stuttering to swooning, seem so second nature they just weave their way out of her fingers. A large heft of that should be credited to QTY’s sheer talent, but some sage advice from the producer should be given a little hat tip too.
Recorded in London in 2016, the album’s creation was overseen by Bernard Butler, who as well as being Suede’s one-time resident guitar hero, has also produced records by British indie luminaries like The Libertines and The Cribs. “There was a point in the studio where Alex and I wanted to play around a bit and Bernard told us we knew what we wanted to do with the songs – which we did, we knew what we wanted to do with them before we got into the studio – so we didn’t need to [do that],” Dan recalls. “There was a time for us to do that, but he told us not to overthink things so much.”
QTY’s songwriting can be split into two halves – Alex’s supreme guitar lines and Dan’s lyrics, full of intimacy and intellect. In terms of the latter, the record is bursting with yet more gems. Some are subtle, like ‘Rodeo”s count-up from one to eight (“First there was bewilderment” via “a trinity of tourist traps” through “an eight hour day at work“). Others twist and turn, like ‘Salvation’s “Came back from a night in to find myself in the world that I hide from“, while more still are just plain brilliant (‘Cold Nights” “I’ve seen you animate dead ends“, for starters). Dan is reluctant to go into much detail about the songs’ deeper meaning (“I already feel like I’ve expressed myself clearly enough in the songs, and if it was something I wanted to talk about I would probably just call up a friend,” he says), but broadly speaking they deal with the everyday minutiae of his and Alex’s lives.
It’s a relatable kind of songwriting, even if you don’t have a crystal clear vision of what exactly the lyrics pertain to. It’s also one that’s been shaped by the frontman’s love of lyricists like Bill Callahan and Silver Jews’ David Berman, who he discovered in high school after a “natural progression” of stepping stones from The Beatles to Bowie to The Replacements and beyond. “I remember having conversations with people when I was young like, ‘Bowie should get more credit for his lyrics’, and everyone telling me that’s not what he’s known for,” Dan says. “I really love Bowie, but that’s never going to be me.” Instead, Drag City signees Bill and David felt much more true to life.
There’s one song on the album Dan didn’t write – the softer, stripped back ‘New Beginnings’, which Alex penned. It’s a beautiful breather towards the end of the record and, in a way, a hint at what to expect from album two. “Alex is doing more writing and I’m doing more lead guitar, writing more riffs,” Dan explains, adding that the next record should see them playing with “more space” in the songs, giving the words more room. While the band are eager to get cracking on the follow-up, there’s no plans in place yet for recording, although they’ve already got plenty of ideas and songs. At least this time we’ve got a whole record to keep us company while we wait.
QTY wrap up their US headline tour this weekend. They will play:
Cambridge, Middle East Upstairs (December 8)
Ithaca, The Haunt (9)
New York, Baby’s All Right (10)
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