“Michael,” a confessional introduction to lyricist Dan Lardner’s life, shows QTY stretching their sound to its maximum potential and thriving while doing so.
In our interview with QTY late last year, guitarist Alex Niemetz said their songs “paint a picture of Dan’s day-to-day life or our day-to-day life.” “Michael,” the New York band’s latest offering, is the musical equivalent of lyricist Dan Lardner shaking your hand and inviting you to spend a few days with him. Named after Lardner’s father, “Michael” serves as a confessional introduction to Lardner’s life – comparable to the first time you have a meaningful conversation with a new friend and feel like you’re really starting to understand who this person is. Along with the new single, QTY announced details of their self-titled debut album, set for release on November 3rd via Dirty Hit Records.
Spoiled the evening, was busy turning on myself
I turn to Michael, he says my skin has gotten worse
I’ve come full circle, collecting crystals for my desk
Well since when were rocks out of my budget?
Now I’m questioning things.
Listen “Michael” – QTY
“Michael” starts off with a beat that challenges you not to start dancing right off the bat. The strum of a glittery guitar chord invites you in, and Niemetz then introduces us to the song’s main riff with an effortless brilliance. Lardner starts telling you his story, singing slightly more softly than he did on QTY’s previous tracks, which adds a level of intimacy to the song straight away. “Opening of michael ‘spoiled the evening / turning on myself’ is a metaphor to milk going bad when it turns. Self doubt sabotage 101” QTY announced in a tweet the day the song was released. Clever as ever, Lardner fills the song with one of the things he does best: wordplay. The opening verse shows us Lardner’s musings on self-doubt, other’s opinions of him, money, and the overall state of his life at that moment which, according to him, isn’t very good.
Picture yourself a mess, well you’ll get better you’ll get worse
Now see yourself depressed, it’s not so hard if you just live
A little on the edge, or come on over to my place.
If I hear it said again – “Day by day”.
I’m going to lose my mind.
A sense of ironic nonchalance takes over the next verse, where it seems like Lardner is repeating some generic advice that has been said to him whenever he finds himself going through a hard time. He talks us through the states he was in when each line was said to him: when he was a “mess”, someone said “you’ll get better, you’ll get worse”, and when he was “depressed” he was told “it’s not so hard if [he] live[s] a little on the edge”. At the end of the verse he admits his frustration, and delivers the last line in such a gentle way that it’s hard to distinguish whether he’s just been worn down by the situation or is being incredibly sarcastic. Maybe both.
But that’s how it goes, you’re alright until you’re sweating chemicals.
Just keep on living, baby – They clipped my wings and the winds felt different since.
And ever since – I’ve been upset.
An exciting build up leads us to the chorus, which explodes with life, light, and colour. There is an overwhelming joy to it despite describing uncomfortable situations. Niemetz joins Lardner on the vocals, adding an even stronger sound to what’s already brilliant. This union is also symbolic, since as they’ve discussed before and sing about on “Rodeo”, Niemetz is actually the one who is always there for Lardner when he is struggling. Her guitar shrills, their voices blend, the rhythm guitar brightens up the song, the bass keeps the song’s (and, metaphorically, Lardner’s) heart beating, and the lighter drums keep the beat steady. The chorus is a change in dynamic, adding even more thrills to the song and to the story being told.
I’m just here freezing, feels like this week could be my last
I’d turn the heat on, but I don’t even have the choice
Ask for per-diems, from wealthy friends and corner boys
Then hightail to comforters until it’s time for more.
I’m repositioning things.
QTY had said that being cold was a recurring theme on the album, and here’s the first mention of cold nights on their released repertoire. On this verse Lardner focuses heavily on physical discomfort and economic strain, he’s freezing but can’t turn on the heat because he can’t afford to and so needs to borrow money from friends. The end of the verse comes with a hint of hope, since his “repositioning” of things might indicate that he’ll try to sort out his problems.
They’re curing endings now, they traced my shadow back to me
I’m in a strange place choking on a smoke machine.
I miss the stresses of being strung out a couple months
Now all my stress is from what somebody else wants.
I miss the colour scheme, the room above the kitchen
In my sister’s jeans, while she was out getting wrecked.
I miss the gender play, I was obsessed as a teen
Women wore it better but nobody looked like me.
On the bridge, arguably one of the most infectious parts of the song, Lardner ponders upon his past and teenage years nostalgically as a result of being dissatisfied with the current state of his life. He deals with people’s expectations, being stressed, and feeling like he’s suffocating. Something else he seems to miss from his younger years is his confidence, which allowed him to gender play and not really care whether or not he looked good because he was actually just doing what he felt like doing regardless of what people thought. References to specific places or items, like the room above the kitchen and his sister’s jeans make the song even more personal, almost like by now you know him already. After the bridge, Niemetz takes center stage with another one of her signature stellar guitar solos and layered backing vocals like we’ve never heard from QTY before. This section feels like a release of tension, like finally being able to breathe after keeping so many things in for so long.
“Michael” shows another side of QTY, like they’re really stretching their sound to its maximum potential and thriving while doing so and at the same time bringing us closer to them by writing such personal lyrics. It’s an incredible song, which is certainly getting people excited for their long-awaited debut album to drop and North American tour this fall and winter, where they’ll surely wow crowds on both coasts and in between with their revival of rock and roll music and infectious energy.
:: pre-order QTY’s self-titled debut here ::
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photo © Danny North