When I first heard IQEQ, I was intrigued by their unique, difficult-to-define sound, and was--then and there--a fan. With their debut full-length CD, Quietly In Line, hitting Record Exchange shelves on May 29, I took the opportunity to sit down with 26-year-old drummer Nate Paradis, 26-year-old guitarist Tom Kershaw, 26-year-old keyboardist/clarinetist Dan McMahon and 20-year-old bassist Kyle Letner (all four members share singing duties) to try to get a handle on the men and the music of IQEQ. Turns out, that's like trying to herd kittens: not an easy task, but a hell of a lot of fun.
Boise Weekly: One way for people--musicians, media, music lovers--to talk about a band is to find similar bands to compare them to. I'm having a hard time trying to find comparisons for you guys.
What do you tell people when they ask what kind of music you play?
Nate: We call it "proggy-garagey-jazz-rock."
Kyle: I just say, "Anything but hip-hop or country."
Nate: Yeah, it's tough. You can't just say, "Oh, I don't know."
How long did it take to make Quietly In Line and what was the impetus behind it?
Tom: About nine months. We decided to do the album and just started recording whenever it was convenient. We have what we call "church" every Sunday [rehearsal in Paradis' garage at his house in Mountain Home]. We'd go to "church" and record.
Who writes the songs?
Nate: We all do.
Tom: I'll write a song and then give it to the band. All of us do it. We all have at least one song on the CD that we wrote completely ourselves.
Nate: Like a lot of times, Danny and Tom would have a song and then we'd just put it through our "filter": We add parts that we all like.
Tom: Everyone is afforded input.
Do you guys use a lot of sampling?
Tom: Nate actually has a noise machine, which has a sampler and a lot of other crazy sounds.
Nate: I create all the sounds at home and use looping ... I might use a guitar or a keyboard ... I have a couple of devices that just make noise on their own.
On the CD, the song "Tribute" has four movements, and they don't run back-to-back. What's the story behind that?
Tom: I think I wrote most of the first and the second [movements]. The fourth one is completely Danny, and the third one is him and I together although he wrote most of it.
Did you plan to have one song in parts like that?
Tom: No. It's funny. We were like, "Let's write an epic song."
Nate: I remember Tom calling me one day and saying, "Man, you're going to shit your pants. We wrote a 45-minute song!" We knew we had to break it up into manageable pieces.
Dan: It was actually "A Tribute to George W. Bush in E-minor."
Nate: I think it's kind of obvious if you listen to the lyrics that there are definitely some ideas there regarding certain people.
Tom: Kind of satire. It's not really a tribute.
Nate: Kind of tongue-in-cheek.
Does it feel like your live sound has translated well to CD?
Tom: Definitely. I think it's a strong representation of who we are.
Dan: I think a lot of times we went the other way around like the way we stacked click tracks together. Then we would listen to what we recorded and say, "That's what we need to sound like live."
Nate: We've kind of challenged ourselves so much, especially Danny and Tom with some of the arrangements of the vocal harmonies; it really puts us to the test to do some of that stuff live, and we're still working on it. Like "Lovesong" is a tough one live.
Does it feel like you can usually pull it off, though? Do you ever get off stage and just go, "Oh, shit?"
Tom: There have been a few of those for sure.
Nate: There have been some disasters.
Dan: There's always that. There's always something in a set you could have done better. I don't think you can ever play a perfect set.
Where'd you get the name IQEQ?
Nate: I just thought it sounded good rolling off the tongue.
Dan: Before I was even in the band, it always made me think "intelligent sound quality."
Nate: I kind of came to that conclusion after, and thought it sounded kind of pompous. So, we've kind of just given up to the fact that it's meant to be abstract, and anybody can give it their own meaning. I've fought to establish a meaning for it but kind of got beat out. I wanted it to stand for "I Quit Expecting Quiet."
Kyle: I had one person say, "Intelligent Equalize," and I said, "You're the first person to not ask me what it stands for and come up with your own thing." Or, people will say, "What the hell is I-KEK?"
Nate: It's open, like our music. I like that it's open-ended. I mean, a lot of our lyrics are direct, but a lot of them are more abstract, almost nonsense. It kind of forces [the listener] to think about it.
So you have the listener in mind when you're creating music?
Tom: Absolutely. A lot of times I think, "I have this opportunity to stand in front of a crowd of people and say whatever the hell I want ...
Nate: Isn't it great? ...
Tom: ... and what the hell do I want to say?
Nate: I like the Jack White lyric, "Any man with a microphone can tell you what he loves the most." We have this opportunity and it's a blessing.
Do you love performing?
Tom: It's the most fun thing ever.
Nate: The energy when we play live, when we're on stage ...
And the audience feedback ...
Nate: That's something we've struggled with: getting people to react. A lot of times, we'll finish a weird song and it will just be kind of quiet.
What are you hoping people will do?
Nate: I don't know. Maybe that is the appropriate response, just to think about it.
Tom: And think, "That's something I haven't heard before."
Nate: And, it's not exactly music to slam your body up against someone else's.
What do people say to you after a show?
Kyle: It's like when people ask what we play. We try to narrow it down, but we're like, "Honestly, you just have to listen to it. Listen to the CD. Come to a show." And then after, they say, "It was good. You guys do what you do really well."
Nate: I think people can tell we love doing it. We pour our hearts into it, and people can definitely tell. And, that just happens.
IQEQ's debut release, Quietly In Line, is available at Record Exchange and at www.cdbaby.com, and you can hear samples of their sound at www.myspace.com/iqeq. On June 8, IQEQ will be performing at the Blue Eye Speakeasy in Nampa, 1226 1st. St., 208-466-8868.