Q and Not U: Art ideals swirled with dance and D.C. punk

When the word “Dischord” exits someone’s lips in a conversation about music, the conversation instinctively flips into solemn, survival mode. When the Dischord “logo” pops up randomly in a record shop, I tend to question the CDs competing for my mind and crumpled cash. Dischord Records’ name has become a synonym for “hard work” and “respect.” It recently released a three-disc set documenting its 20th anniversary – 20 years of sincere, quality DIY punk music. Dischord’s records are listened to worldwide, yet the label remains 100 percent independent. Its roster embodies artists in their ideal’ but quite real form. This is simply what “punk” is – a spirited antithesis of the $30,000 “modern punk rock” displayed on our UC patio last Friday.

Q and Not U’s second album, Different Damage, is set for release later this month on Dischord Records. It is filled with songs that snatch the rug out from under all of the bullshit and dance up a storm upon a clean new floor. Speed up the French Kicks and let them marinate in the influence of D.C. punk, and you have something that passes for Q and Not U in a wax museum. For the real McCoy, see them play Sunday night at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave. The show is 18+ with a cheap cover. For more info visit www.qandnotu.org and www.dischord.com.

This is a Life & Art interview with Q and Not U’s guitarist/vocalist Harris Klahr (striped shirt) .

Q: Can you explain the dance aspect in the band’s work?
QNU: We’ve had an interest in dance music forever, and I think it was itching to get out. The catalyst was a “jammin’ oldies” station in DC that we always listened to. It played a lot of music that we knew from growing up, but we began to appreciate it more and more, and that spurred an interest into disco, funk records and then Afro Beat stuff. We’re into lots of bombastic and dynamic types of music.

Q: Since your music combines funk, disco and punk, what do you make of the “electroclash” scene and the New York bands that are encompassed by it?
QNU: I like that kind of dance music, and I always have, because it reminds me of my childhood. But all of a sudden it’s “electroclash” and it has a title, not that I necessarily blame the bands. It’s basically that way because the major media outlets are in New York, and most of the electroclash bands are from there, so anything from New York is great and has super relevance.

Q: How does it feel to be included on the 20 Years of Dischord box set? Now your music is in a piece of punk history.
QNU: It’s pretty…it blew my mind to be on there. It feels a little strange though, because we’re the only kind of newer band that’s on there, so we end up being the little “…” at the end of it. Just from talking to Ian and the bands on there, you realize that they’re just people, they’re not gods. You realize that it’s the everyday people around you who are the ones doing really amazing things.

Q: Ian MacKaye (Dischord’s founder, founder of Fugazi and Minor Threat) and Don Zientara produced and engineered your last two CDs -do you feel the records would have sounded different with other people on board?
QNU: Yeah, definitely. They foster a sense of calm and ease, and we’re a band that needs a firm hand on shoulders to guide us through the process. They’re both such incredible students of music, and it’s great to have them there.

Q: Does Ian dance to your music?
QNU: Yeah, he dances to our music, I guess. I think we’re a little too loud for him sometimes.

Q: Do you feel your music drives towards an abstract goal?
QNU: The one thing that we’d like to communicate is our personal excitement about the music, and we hope that it translates to the audience.

Q: Do you like to separate your political views from your creativity, or do you prefer meshing them together?
QNU: I think they’re together, in an abstract way. We get a lot of shit from people because of that. I kind of like to subvert what a song is supposed to be. You’ll never hear a hit song on the radio now that has a one and a half instrumental intro, and why is that, you know? A lot of bands that aren’t even pop, still go by certain formulas, and we we try to stray away from that.

Q: The band’s lyrics are like splashes of imagery. Do certain writers, poetry or drugs influence your writing in any way?
QNU: “Writers” [sic] is a tricky thing. A lot of my lyrics come from this experimental director Stan Brakhage, who does these non-linear, mostly silent films that are beautiful. He tries to reach the ideas that children have before they begin remembering things, and that had a huge effect on me, as a thinker first, and as a lyricist secondly. No one in the band uses drugs, but we’re not a straight-edge band, we’re just normal dudes.

Q: Do you feel that quality independent music in this country is on the rise or fall?
QNU: I think that it stays consistent. It’s the media coverage that is on the rise and fall. When I was a kid, I would get a new issue of Spin and read it like six times to absorb every nugget of information. Now, it really has no bearing on me.

Q: You guys parted with your bassist, Matt Borlik. What’s it like playing as a trio?
QNU: It’s great. It’s more direct musically, and it’s one less layer of democracy. The three of us are tighter than we’ve ever been, as people and as a band.

Hunter Stephenson can be reached at hurricaneaccent@hotmail.com.