With a new album and tour, the indie rock quintet has been keeping busy. But keyboardist Mike Leibovich was able to let us know more about QU and how their sound has changed since 2007.
You guys toured Europe and even made a trip to Japan in 2008, so why did you choose to move to Oakland out of all places?
Many of our friends and family members live in the Bay Area. We have been on the road with little breaks since 2006 and wanted to find a nice place in or around San Francisco to spend time being in one place. Touring is a really adventurous lifestyle, full of distractions from writing; Oakland was just the perfect place for us to spend six solid months writing this album. We spent our days writing and our nights in the city. It worked out perfectly.
When you finished your support for the album A Different Light, were you all ready to make another record?
Yes. When you spend two years supporting an album you begin to see really intricately what is working and what is not working about your songs. We questioned everything, decided that we really loved writing indie-pop songs, but wanted to be more sparse and tasteful in our instrumentation and arrangements. As songwriters, we’ve grown. As musicians, we’ve grown. It was definitely time for us to make another record.
Were there any specific goals/intentions you had when you entered the studio to record another full-length?
We wrote over 80 songs for this record. We took the best fifteen and went to our producer, Brad Wood, and asked him to be an honorary sixth member of our band. We did pre-production with him and went hunting for the spark of each song. Our main intention was that every part, every harmony, should face the same scrutiny. If it didn’t deserve to stay in the song, we took it out.
Was it hard to follow-up A Different Light because of that album’s popularity?
No, it wasn’t hard. I think ‘popularity’ is perhaps a bit hyperbolic haha.
How did you guys come up with the album title QU and its artwork?
The cover is a photograph by Don Sherwood, taken in 1932 (the fact that his last name is the name of our band is pure coincidence). We loved everything that the photo says and used a few others of his throughout the rest of the artwork. ‘Qu’ is a word that means nothing outside of the context of being the title of our record. We love the aesthetics of it and love that there is nothing already determined about it’s meaning.
Is there a specific story or theme that the new record revolves around?
Not exactly. But each song is a story about someone. Some are factual and some are fictional. We have a song about a soldier leaving for war and facing death. One about a child dealing with his parent’s divorce. A song about people under the current of life’s misfortunes. It actually sounds rather melancholic for a pop band. But I guess we’ve always leaned toward that with our lyrics.
Fans and critics alike have been saying bands like yourself don’t fit into today’s music scene because your genre has faded away. Has it disappeared or is it just making a small comeback?
I would disagree about a genre fading away. I think pop music and rock music will continue to be in demand. Though it may get harder to be noticed, I think it requires and encourages all of us to write better songs. When I think about some of my favorite songs (though they were written to be genre specific), if it is a great song, it will continue to have an impact.
With music constantly evolving, do you guys ever feel need to experiment with your sound?
By evolving, I wonder if you are suggesting electronic and synth based instrumentation? The more we spend time with our favorite records we start to notice that there is a successful trend in sparse instrumentation, letting each melody have a voice and room to stand up. We took the ‘less is more’ approach and I think it worked for us. We did branch out instrumentally just a bit. As the keyboard player, I brought in some steel drum samples, some glockenspiel, a lot more grand piano and rhodes, hammond b3, etc.
One aspect of your music that hasn’t changed is the bright and playful sound. How do you guys consistently create pieces of music that makes you want to clap your hands and sing along?
I think there is just an aspect to our chemistry as a group that contributes to that. I guess every band gets asked…”why do you do what you do?” and we all probably just have the same response…”we just do.”
How did you end up touring with Hanson?
Hanson and HelloGoodbye asked us to open up the tour for them. We toured with HelloGoodbye in Europe last winter and we are just pretty happy to be out with them again.
Are you guys treating fans to a few old gems or are you strictly introducing new material?
We are playing some songs from each of our three albums and introducing four new songs each night.
Will you guys ever record a live album?
Yes. Absolutely. We will let you know when we do!