By Mark Sussman
photo courtesy of advanced alternative media
"Q and Not U" - The number of members isn't important to Q and Not U - they'll just find another way to rock. They hit Solar Culture tonight.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 4, 2004
The problem of any writer who wants to keep being a writer is "finding a voice," something that distinguishes your work from the work of others. Ideally it is singular, distinctly yours. For bands, it's the same deal, except more than one person has to decide on what that "voice" sounds like.
Even after losing a member and releasing three wildly divergent albums, Washington, D.C.'s, Q and Not U, doesn't seem to think of the band's voice as a problem.
"I don't think we really change on purpose - it just kind of happens naturally," said multi-instrumentalist Chris Richards. "I think it's just kind of a symptom of how our band operates. The way we write is just to follow what we're interested in at the time. We aren't really committed to any kind of aesthetic at once. We're consciously trying to keep things moving."
2000's No Kill Beep Beep, Q and Not U's first full-length, announced both a mutant breed of tricky punk rock and the rejuvenation of D.C.'s seminal Dischord Records. The record is marked by a punk sensibility (tinny, distorted guitars, screamed vocals, and a huge, messy snare sound) that seems at odds with the precision of the performances. Then a quartet, Q and Not U's two-guitar line-up allowed a complex interplay that hinted toward a new direction for punk.
If you go...
- Q and Not U
with El Guapo
31 E. Toole Ave.
9 p.m. tonight
show is $8
However founding member Matt Borlick's departure after No Kill Beep Beep forced the band to rearrange into a trio.
"I think it's cooler as a trio," said Richards. "Instead of having guitar interplay you have full band interplay, which is more interesting."
Q and Not U's live shows have a tendency to extend that interplay to the audience. Their performance at Modified in Phoenix featured singer John Davis jumping off the stage and parading through the crowd, out the door and around the outside of the club, all while playing the cowbell.
"The musician and the crowd are on the same footing," said Richards. "It's been a wonderful challenge to try to integrate the audience in the show as we've played different kinds of venues."
The material on the band's latest album, Power, would seem to allow the band to integrate the audience into their performances even more. Instead of the fragmented punk of No Kill Beep Beep, or the wobbly shout-rock of 2002's Different Damage, Power offers heavy synthesizers and straight-up dance beats. Which is not to say Davis has lost his snarl. Q and Not U retain both their punk bark and, as is customary in D.C., their political bite.
"Politics is just a part of our life," said Richards. "I think a lot of politically minded music has made a lot more sense over the last four years. We've gotten back into The Clash and all that kind of stuff. There's a multiplicity that I didn't really realize before, and now I'm hearing more of the political side of that music."
As usual, "political" means a lot of things to Q and Not U, but right now it means "Anti-Bush."
I talked with Chris Richards Monday and he seemed optimistic about the power of youth at the polls. In fact the album title, Power, might speak precisely to that hope. No doubt Q and Not U have always maintained a healthy and necessary anger toward the dominant powers in this country. Perhaps that's why they find such ease in altering their voice. It is a voice that must always speak to two: those in power and those seeking to take that power back.
Q and Not U and El Guapo will play tonight at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Doors open at 9 p.m., and the show is all ages.