December 8, 2017

Ramones are out, Lou’s gone, and The Strokes aren’t 100% sure who they are as a band. It feels like the stage is set for another crop of leather-clad New Yorkers to swagger forth and inject a little energy back into the world rock ‘n’ roll. Yet these predecessors set a cautionary tale. The city’s musical messiahs burn brightly but always, whether by purpose or damaged design, manage to throw it all away. The romance is in the tragedy, right?

When it comes to Grand Rapids survivors QTY, comparisons to local forerunners seems inevitable. Laconic Noo Yawk drawls, razor-sharp guitar lines, stripped-back rhythm and a permanent aura of downtown cool. It’s an inviting idea, but as Alex Neimetz cautioned when talking with What Youth Magazine earlier this year, it’s a connection which doesn’t ring true.

“I think us sounding like we’re a band from New York is the same as when a person has an accent and it isn’t apparent to them but other people hear it,” she corrected. “It’s definitely not a conscious thing and if we knew what the hell it was that makes us sound that way we’d probably make a conscious effort to get rid of it.” It’s similar to how The Strokes were so often associated with CBGBs regulars like Television when really, they’d been taking lessons from Pearl Jam.

Instead, QTY cite allegiance to the halcyon bands of Drag City Records. The pair draw from the lo-fi extravagance of Royal Trux, but perhaps most notably the gossamer husk of the Silver Jews’ vocalist David Berman. Since signing to The 1975 and Wolf Alice’s Dirty Hit Records, QTY have turned out buzzed about singles ‘Rodeo’ and ‘World Breaker’.

Continuing onward with Suede’s Bernard Butler as producer they’ve now released a self-titled debut. Effortless and primitive, this long-player is a balance of well-crafted guitar lines and lyrical pathos. Their musical heritage has been discussed, but this album assures that the true appeal of the group lays within simple but affecting songcraft. As it continues to roll outward, QTY feels possessed with the same easy-going charm as Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s Lotta Sea Lice. Alongside Sea Lice, QTY carries the feeling that rock’s true believers are honing in on the fact that with popular taste so heavily dominated by EDM, hip-hop and pop, the capacity for straight-ahead storytelling is one of the greatest strengths their genre has on offer.

QTY arrives with confidence. There’s a snappy self-assurance that feels like its rolling out of the band’s pores. Even if when they’re making a command performance as on ‘Salvation’, it’s polishing moments of visceral honesty.

Despite claiming not to have noticed, QTY inherit the sound and mythos of the Lower East Side. Whether they inhabit this past greatness, defy it or simply act it out remains to be seen. The promising trajectories are there, but the future remains unwritten. Torchbearers or revolutionaries?

‘QTY’ is out today. Listen here.