It’s good to have cool friends, and I can think of few bands who get that like Qui does. In their decade-and-a-half of existence, the duo has morphed from a clamorous noise rock duo to a daring and melodic band making some of the most compelling and enjoyable experimental rock being made today. So it’s both a happy and unfortunate happenstance that many people know them mostly as “that band David Yow was in for awhile.” Unfortunate because they’re so much more than that, but happy because hell, at least more people know who they are.
Qui was formed in L.A. in 2000 by drummer Paul Christensen and guitarist Matt Cronk, and they announced their existence to the world with the album Baby Kisses. It’s a bit throwbacky, developing ideas that largely tap an acutely ‘90s Skin Graft/Touch and Go vein, but they attracted former Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard singer David Yow, who served as a guest vocalist before becoming a full-blown member of the band in 2007, appearing first on the “Today, Gestation” 7” and then the Love’s Miracle album. (Recommended. I saw the band on that tour and GOD DAMN.) Yow would appear on another single in 2009, but as of a 2013 split 7” with Mike Watt, Qui were a duo again.
That split 7” reveals what could be an entirely different band. Though the drumming is Shellac-ishly sparse, the noisy guitar is all but gone—in place of the distorted guitar textures, the song is mainly characterized by sunny two-part vocal harmonies. Which they pulled off really well. The openness in their arrangements and those harmonies bouyed their excellent 2014 album Life, Water, Living…, co-produced by Melvins’ drummer Dale Crover and engineer/sometime Big Business guitarist Toshi Kasai. Dale and Toshi kept the gig, producing Qui’s forthcoming new E.P. How to Get Ideas, and guitarist/singer Matt Cronk took the time to answer some questions about it all via an email exchange:
Dangerous Minds: So—you had David Yow in your band for a spell, and now you have Dale Crover guesting on your new E.P. Is it possible that your duo is in fact a frustrated trio? Do you have a strong preference for either configuration? Would you add another full-time member again?
Matt Cronk: We’re certainly not frustrated. Quite the contrary, in fact. There are huge advantages to being small, both artistically and practically. With only two people we are generally sympatico on what we want to do musically. Over the years we’ve gotten really good at collaborating, allowing one another room to try out ideas, etc. That’s not to say it was hard to collaborate with David, not at all. Getting to work with him was a dream come true for us and writing music together was an enormous pleasure. We jelled right away but I doubt that would be the case with just anyone. On the practical end, with only two people, there are fewer schedules to accomodate, fewer people needing hotel rooms and food, fewer girlfriends, and so on. We can tour in a smaller vehicle than we could with more members so our fuel costs are cut nearly in half. All those things add up quickly. I guess to answer your question about a preference, if I had to pick one I would pick the duo. Paul and I have been friends since high school and have been joined at the hip ever since. We get along and can obviously work and travel together for long stretches. I can’t stress enough, however, how much we loved playing with David Yow. He has remained very close to us and I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten to both be his friend and bandmate. Dude’s one of a kind.
We are and have always been open to playing with other people. In fact, we just finished tracking a record with Trevor Dunn. We are talking about doing some dates with him next year, it’s a matter of working it out logistically.
As for taking on another full-time member, it’s not out of the question, depending on who it might be. As of now, we are really digging being able to have these collaborations, yet not be totally beholden to them. We have a couple other things in the works with other people.
I know that before this E.P., Crover co-produced Life, Water, Living…. Did he perform on any tracks on that album?
MC: Yes, in much the same capacity. When we were tracking vocals for Life, Water, Living… Dale had suggested adding a third harmony part to one song. We were both a little hesitant for whatever reason, and he said, in his soft-spoken cadence, “come on, guys, I’m trying to sing on your record!” We, of course, were only too happy to oblige. He ended singing on a few things on that one. Working with him and Toshi Kasai has been yet another incredible blessing. It is not lost on us how lucky we are to get to work with our heroes. We are truly honored.
Is it “key” or “kwee,” and does the name have a specific meaning or was it selected because it doesn’t?
MC: Kwee. We chose it specifically because it doesn’t mean anything. We wanted a name that was oblique and didn’t conjure any kind of image like, say, Goat Master or The Black Things or whatever. We have always tried to be unique in our aesthetic and presentation.
More after the jump…