Perfect Strangers

Qui's avant-garde rock is just weird enough that it might be brilliant

Over the course of musical history, there are people who have become greatly respected and revered for being truly f---ing weird. But by being unabashedly, unapologetically weird, artists like Frank Zappa and David Bowie and Sonic Youth and Sunn O))) — all considered bizarre at one point or another — changed the expression on the face of modern rock.

One day we might be putting Qui — a revered Los Angeles avant-garde rock duo — in that same category. Over the course of the past decade, the band has gone from being the project of two high school friends, to a band signed to Mike Patton's respected Ipecac Records, to a band with David Yow of the Jesus Lizard as its vocalist, to a band that almost died.

After moving from their hometown of Minneapolis to sunny L.A., guitarist Matt Cronk and drummer Paul Christensen formed Qui (pronounced "kwee") and put out a strange noise-punk record called Baby Kisses. That attracted the attention of Yow, who joined the band full time, contributing his bizarro reptilian gyrations and bleats onstage, and vocals for half of the songs on what would be the band's only Ipecac release, Love's Miracle.

But when shit got good for Qui is when, frankly, shit got really bad for Qui. On the same day in 2008, Cronk suffered a stroke while, across the country, Yow was hospitalized with a collapsed lung.

By the time both men finally recovered, Yow decided music was no longer for a man in his 50s and Ipecac had dropped the band from its roster. So Cronk and Christensen picked up where they left off — starting to assemble the pieces that would become this year's release Life, Water, Living... .

It's a record that both rages and smiles — one where tracks feature both men harmonizing and singing from their hearts like sweet little songbirds, others that are balls-out burners of wailing guitars and sputtering drums.

"It seems like if we were to put out another batch of really nasty, screamy stuff we'd always be relegated as 'Not as good when David Yow was in the band.' You know?" Cronk says over the phone. "Particularly with the ensemble singing and the different instrumentation, I think that's maybe playing more to our strengths and something that's unique."

Their strengths are paying off for them.

"Several review people have said we're a cross between the Melvins and Frank Zappa and Ween. And those are three of my very favorites," Cronk says. "I would never liken us in importance or significance to any of those bands, but I certainly like being mentioned in the same breath." ♦

Qui with bitwvlf and Ian Miles • Sun, March 9, at 9 pm • $5 • 21+ • Mootsy's • 406 W. Sprague • 838-1570

Ashley McBryde: This Town Talks Tour @ Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox

Thu., Sept. 23, 8 p.m.
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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...