Honesty, Hive Mind, and the Human Element: A Conversation with QTY

QTY © Danny North
QTY © Danny North

There is no such thing as coincidence, and QTY is living proof of that. It wasn’t sheer luck that Dan Lardner and Alex Niemetz met, at 17 years old, on the streets of New York, shared a passion for music and rock, became best friends, and decided to start a band.

A few years later, the duo is known as QTY (pronounced Q. T. Y.), and is the first American act signed to British label Dirty Hit Records. Their first two singles, “Rodeo” and “World Breaker”, narrate different sides of their friendship while presenting the listener with two facets of rock and roll and of QTY themselves. And it is only fitting that their introduction to the world is via songs which address their relationship – speaking to Dan and Alex, it is hard not to be amazed by their connection and capacity to finish each other’s sentences. Their friendship is special, and at the heart of their music, which is probably why so many people love them already.

Atwood Magazine caught up with Dan and Alex the week after the release of their second single, “World Breaker”, to talk about QTY, their experience recording their debut album in London with producer Bernard Butler, and what 2017 holds for this new and exciting band. Check out our conversation below, and be ready for QTY to make you fall in love with rock & roll all over again.

Listen: “World Breaker” – QTY

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Atwood Magazine: So, both of you were in a band together before forming QTY. What changed from that band to this one?

Alex: Not that much changed, I guess, because the same guy plays bass on our new band. But we’d just been playing for a long time and we had lots of botched record deal meetings…

Dan: It was so many things where the label would contact us… and we were young, man.

Alex: Yeah we were like 19, 20.

Dan: And they’d be like “We’ll buy the EP that you did, we’ll put out a record, we’ll give you all this tour support, you’ll go on tour with this band and the other band” – this happened with two or three labels, like the bigger ones. And we’d do really well for ourselves, but then we kind of just hit a wall, it naturally fizzled out. And Peter, our bass player, he joined another band.

Alex: Yeah I was going to say that, he quit our band, kind of.

Dan: He just left, our manager just kind of stopped managing us, and then Alex and I got an offer to go record, and did it…

Alex: And then this is what happened!

Dan: We became a different name – boom, QTY!

Alex: Boo-yah!

And was any material from your previous band reused or is everything we hear from QTY new?

Dan: Not really. Actually one song that is going to be on the new record I’d written a long time ago but we never recorded it or anything.

Alex: Yeah we only played it like twice live.

QTY © Danny North
QTY © Danny North

Where did the name QTY come from?

Alex: Well, it came from a few things, kind of. The clementine thing, you know those Cuties?

Dan: Yeah there’s a clementine, and they’re orange and have smiley faces and I’d go “Alex, you’re a cutie!” because she has red hair.

Alex: And we were with our friend at a bar and she said “I’ve always wanted to name a band QTY” and we were like “That’s a really good fucking name”

Dan: It was Romy from The xx? And she was like (puts on a British accent) “Q.T.Y. It would be cool if it was Q.T.Y.”

Alex: And we got that name, we were lucky. I think it’s a pretty chill name, do you like it?

Yeah! I think it’s cool, pretty easy to remember.

Dan: No one knows how to say it.

Alex: Yeah, everyone is like “What?”

Dan: I did a radio interview and they were saying quantity. QTY, quantity, cutie.

I always thought it was cutie.

Dan: Well it derives from cutie.

Alex: Cutie’s good.

Dan: But now it’s QTY.

All your social media accounts are in black and white. Is there a specific reason for this?

Dan: It’s just an aesthetic thing. Eventually they’ll be colour and when they are, it’ll be fun.

Ever since your debut single was released, you’ve constantly been compared to other bands, but how do you define your sound?

Dan: (laughs)

Alex: Oh… What do you always say?

Dan: I say it’s a guitar driven, lyrical, rock music with pop sensibilities.

Alex: I think that’s a good description.

You’re both from New York, but recorded your songs in London. What was it like to get away from your usual life and city and just focus on your music?

Alex: It was awesome. It was the best time.

Dan: It was such a cool thing to not have anything to think about other than making the album.

Alex: It was really fucking cool.

Dan: Here there’s so much shit, all the responsibilities, your job, keeping your apartment from lighting on fire or whatever. It was great because we would just wake up, Alex and I – we were in walking distance to the studio – we’d walk to the studio, meet up with Bernard, and it was just us three for five weeks straight and two days off in total. It’s the dream. I feel like we’d been working as a band just to get to that point. Where the label can take care of us, make sure we don’t starve, do what they do.

Alex: Yeah!

Dan: That’s been my fucking dream, to be able to do that with Alex.

Alex: For sure.

Dan: We’d have slumber parties every night!

Alex: Yeah, we had our own apartment.

Dan: It was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.

Alex: It was really good. Really, really good.

Dan: And were with Bernard every day too, and being able to collaborate with someone on our songs, it was an actual collaboration. No one telling you what to do.

Alex: It was awesome.

Did London inspire you in a different way than New York does?

Dan: Nah.

Alex: Not really. What do you always say? “The same shit happens in a different place”

Dan: Yeah man everywhere is the fucking same. All I do everywhere I go is the same, just go to someone’s apartment, have a drink, do whatever else. But London’s cool!

Alex: London’s really cool.

Dan: But also all the songs, we wrote here, I wrote them right at that building (points to building right across the street). It’s literally right there.

Alex: We didn’t write any songs in London. We weren’t really allowed to, because we have so many songs.

Dan: Yeah we have a lot of songs, we could record two more albums right now.

Alex: We have a lot of songs, but they just wanted to focus on a few.

QTY © Danny North
QTY © Danny North

So how did you choose the songs that you were going to put on your album?

Dan: Ones that we were cool with and that Bernard was cool with.

Alex: It was collaborative.

Dan: Yeah, we’d done a lot of iPhone demos and sent them to the guys at Dirty Hit and we played them to Bernard once we got there. And it was just the songs that everyone was down with, no questions asked, like “That is sick”. This time was cool because there wasn’t a single song that anyone didn’t like when we demoed them. In the past it was like “Oh, I don’t know about that”, but this time every single one was great. It was the cream of the crop. When the album comes out, guys, cream of the crop is what you’re getting!

Alex: You’re like a rapper.

Dan: (fake raps) Yo, yo, yo 2017, cream of the crop, QTY, Dan and Alex!

Debut singles are the band’s introduction to the world, basically a snapshot of how you identify as a group. What about “Rodeo”, do you think, best represents QTY?

Dan: I think “Rodeo” is a good intro. Well, first of all it’s one of the older ones as QTY, I think. And it’s also just a song that is literally about our friendship, our relationship. It’s a rock, high-energy song, it’s a song about QTY. It’s not some derivative shit. It’s a real song, about real things, things that at least I go through.

Alex: I feel like a lot of bands just sing about nonsense and don’t actually mean what they say.

Dan: Rock songs are always about rock songs, country songs are about country songs. Not all the time, but it happens frequently. Or they sing about drugs and stuff, which is fine.

Alex: It’s cliché.

Dan: But our songs are more about the human element of it all. It’s what I like about “Rodeo.”

QTY Find Solace in Friendship in “Rodeo”

by Nicole Almeida

And would that be the reason why you chose “Rodeo” and “World Breaker” to be the first two singles? Because “World Breaker” is also about that.

Alex: It came about naturally.

Dan: It wasn’t a conscious decision on anyone’s part, we just recorded them.

Alex: Because we’d recorded them about a year ago with Bernard, so that’s why.

Dan: It’s nice because it’s a fast and a slow one. It shows…

Alex: Range.

Dan: It shows that we’re not just a (makes sound of guitar shredding) band, we’re also a (hums a ballad) band.

Both of your released songs have been about friendship - can you tease any other themes you touch on on your other songs?

Dan: Lack of sleep, being cold.

Alex: Lack of heat. Being cold is a big thing in all the songs.

Dan: I didn’t even realize this, man. Someone told me.

Alex: Yeah, my girlfriend told me “I think Dan’s cold on all of these songs”.

Dan: So I came back from London and my heat was shut off, so I was like “Yeah, I’m still fucking cold”. It’ll be good because by the time the songs come out I’ll still be cold, still be me.

Alex: The songs are about day-to-day.

Dan: They’re all true. Every song’s true. I talk about my desk. It’s personal things, literal, on a small scale but in a way that’s grand to me and to my existence. A lot of the times it’s not even intentional but I was listening to all the songs we did and every single one is about Alex, or is about me.

Alex: Yeah, I was listening to them and I feel like they paint a picture of Dan’s day-to-day life or our day-to-day life. But I hope other people can relate to it!

Dan: Alex knows it. And our drummer caught onto it. There are lines about the heat not being on, my desk, my crystals I collect, everything else. All the lyrics are literally true. I don’t write nonsense – or, my life’s nonsense and I write about that.

QTY © Danny North
QTY © Danny North

But there’s a certain beauty to writing about day-to-day life because then you make your day-to-day special.

Dan: I think so. I genuinely find beauty in all that day-to-day stuff.

Alex: Me too.

Dan: It’s my world, it’s everyone’s world, there’s no need to make anything about things you don’t live. What you live is always enough. You don’t have to lie about anything, pretend you’re some cool idiot. I don’t know, in rock and roll it’s so easy for bands to do that garage rock thing, which I love some times, but it gets boring. I like that too, when it’s done well it’s fucking amazing, we grew up on that kind of music, but I like honesty in songs.

Alex: Yeah, honesty’s important.

Dan: My favourite songwriters are all honest. Big themes, but spoken from the heart with honesty.

What you live is always enough.

Dan, when did you know Alex was your “person”? And Alex, when did you realize this friendship was going to change your life?

Dan: Aww! I’m your person too!

Alex: Probably in the beginning.

Dan: Day one.

Alex: Pretty fast! Because my parents live 10 blocks down that way, and I was just starting out college and Dan had just moved in there (gestures to the apartment across the street), so Dan had his own apartment when he was 18.

Dan: 17! I was 17 when I got it.

Alex: But you turned 18 like the day you moved in.

Dan: I genuinely don’t think we’ve stopped talking to each other ever since we met. Maybe at the beginning, a couple days here and there, or when I didn’t have service when my phone broke, but besides that I don’t think we’ve gone a day without talking.

Alex: And I used to go over there pretty much every day. Your house in the beginning used to be the hangout spot because, you know, most people don’t have their own apartment when they’re 18, you’re either at dorms or at your parents’ house.

Dan: I got lucky!

Alex: It was really cool, it was really fun.

Dan: But I knew Alex was special. It’s only gotten better and more powerful.

Alex: Definitely. And we’ve gotten closer over the years.

Dan: We’ve gotten closer to this day, and we’ve gotten better together. Hive mind, we call it. We have hive mind.

Both of your songs have created an immense hype, and I think it’s fair to say that everyone wants to hear more from QTY soon. What can we expect from you next year?

Dan: Yay!

Alex: More songs, for sure, we’re going to be playing live – we want to play a lot, that’s our goal.

Dan: We love to play. Our album will come out.

Alex: Which should be really cool.

Dan: A couple more singles. I don’t know, we’ll get better at tweeting. Colour pictures for sure.

Alex: Colour pictures! And yeah, tweeting!

And you have a few words to describe your album?

Alex: That’s hard. A few words to describe the album… I don’t know.

Dan: A few words to describe the album?

Alex: Definitely honest.

Dan: Honest, genuine, fucking amazing guitar solos, it’s melodic, there’s a couple of pop elements, and a some kind of not-pop elements.

Alex: It’s definitely more produced than these two songs.

Dan: It’s more produced but in a good way.

Alex: Yeah, in a really good way.

Dan: We spent like, hours on the guitar tone for one part.

Alex: It’s definitely more thought out, because those songs were just made in three days, that was just like really fast and we did them with a drummer we didn’t really know, but these ones are with a guy we’ve played with for a while, a really good friend, it’s cool.

Dan: I think it’s great, it’s cohesive. Some big songs. Heartfelt, true to life, talks about some stuff in there: we talk about gender play, car rides.

Alex: Day-to-day.

Atwood Magazine interviews QTY
Atwood Magazine interviews QTY

I’ve heard you like candy - what are the best candies to describe “Rodeo” and “World Breaker”?

Dan: Oh man, how do you say such a thing? I’d say “Rodeo” is Sour Straws…

Alex: Yes, Sour Straws. And chocolate?

Dan: Yeah, Sour Straws and Twix. “Rodeo” is Sour Straws and Twix. “World Breaker”… Shit, “World Breaker” is Sour Straws too!

Alex: Everything is Sour Straws.

Dan: I think “World Breaker” is mainly Sour Straws. That’s how I feel.

Alex: And what were we eating in London? Oh, Star Mix!

Dan: Star Mix!

Alex: It’s these gummies from London that are so good. We had a lot of those.

Dan: We eat a lot of candy, we outed ourselves in London because it’s all new candy! On all of the 7” that are coming out, in the run off, they all have carved into them “Candy Always.” Special thing in there. “Candy Always,” which is an alter-ego and a catchphrase, and a slogan.

purchase QTY’s Rodeo/World Breaker 7″ here

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Rodeo/World Breaker 7” - QTY
Rodeo/World Breaker 7” – QTY
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