Over the past five years, London label Dirty Hit has grown into one of the most interesting incubators of new British artists.
Initially formed as a home for The 1975, its roster has grown to include some of the most exciting bands in the country, including Wolf Alice, Pale Waves and The Japanese House. Latest signings QTY are Dirty Hit’s first singings from the US, bringing a quintessential East Coast sound to the label for the first time, and continuing its reputation as a sure sign of quality.
From the opening blast of last year’s single “Rodeo” it’s clear that QTY’s self-titled debut slots perfectly into the mould of classic New York City rock records: its combination of sharp, inquisitive melodies and laconic vocal delivery shares the same roots as bands from the Velvet Underground to The Strokes. Like those groups, QTY also understand that visuals are as important as music for a new guitar band: The black-and-white cover image of core members Dan Lardner and Alex Niemetz – both on guitar and vocals – in a timeless uniform of pin-straight hair, skinny jeans and leather jackets sets the tone as much as the opening track.
Each song is a different scene in the city, with primary lyricist Lardner navigating its days and nights, finding meaning in everyday ephemera: “Michael” catches him in the midst of an existential crisis, reminiscing on the security of his childhood home while puzzling at the absurdity of contemporary adult life: “Collecting crystals for my desk / But since when were rocks out of my budget? / Now I’m questioning things.” Niemetz takes lead vocals on “New Beginnings,” the album’s most reflective track, where everyday minutiae (“Should I wear black or wear white?”) is similarly juxtaposed with affecting lyricism – “Thank god for new beginnings/I want to be alive.”
The ever-changing city is almost literally mapped out on “Word For This,” with Lardner narrating a walk around the neighbourhood over hand claps, harmonies and other girl group embellishments: “I’m on the sidewalk/It’s my floorplan… Everything is brand new or recently moved,” he reports, recalling the droll observations and exploratory nature of Ezra Furman. More than ever, new guitar bands have to have a hook to differentiate them from the masses, and it’s the combination of Lardner’s witty company and QTY’s idiosyncratic approach to a well-loved sound that makes their debut a delight to spend time with.