On Oct. 24, 2000, Dischord Records released No Kill No Beep Beep, the classic debut by Q and Not U. The cover is an arresting, whimsical snapshot of the punk-rock community that spawned the record—the band asked its friends and peers, most of them under 25 at the time, to pose for a portrait that would show D.C. wasn’t just a town of old punks. In this week’s Washington City Paper, Q and Not U’s members reflect on their rookie achievement. On Arts Desk, we’re catching up with some of the community Q and Not U immortalized.
Left to Right: Dan Piotrowski, Zinnia Piotrowski
Since its inception in 2004, High Two has released records by artists like His Name Is Alive, Dave Burrell, and Sonic Liberation Front. The Philadelphia-based label appeals to both the Pitchfork crowd and the NPR set by showcasing experimental and jazz-focused acts, and some of the records it’s put out have garnered international acclaim. High Two’s founder, Dan Piotrowski, lives in Philly now, but back in the late ’90s, he was still in school at the University of Maryland. While he was getting his education, Dan worked at the campus newspaper, The Diamondback, and at WMUC, where he met John Davis. He started hanging out with Davis’ musical crew. “I met all of the members of Q And Not U by playing street hockey with John in Silver Spring in the days when the band was forming,” says Dan.
Looking back on the now-infamous album cover, Dan says: “What was cool about the photo shoot was that it was just a thing in the middle of the day on a Saturday that a bunch of my friends were doing. It was a fun thing to go do. I knew the theme was primary colors, but I’m not sure if anyone knew that we would be on the cover. I thought we were there as backdrop.” Examining the outfit he wore in the photo, Dan recalls: “The color scheme was a perfect opportunity for me to where my red and yellow Vans, which [Zinnia Piotrowski] always kind of thought were ridiculous. I didn’t wear them too often. I didn’t want to be known as the guy with the red and yellow Vans, although, some people know me as such as through the pic.” His Vans may forever be a part of history, but Dan’s more embarrassing accessory escaped notice. “I am also holding a Pac-Man hat,” he says. “Glad no one can tell that.”
Dan married Zinnia Piotrowski a year after the shoot. “I think it’s really cool that my future wife and I are in there together,” he says. After getting hitched the two headed up to Philly together. “Some of my fondest memories of my early years of being in Philly [are from] how often Q and Not U would play here and stay with us,” Dan says. “It was always great when they came to town.” Regarding the band’s music, Dan thinks it was a push in the right direction for D.C. “I think the scene there had gotten really conservative—-bands trying to fit the Dischord sound. I think [Q and Not U] really expanded the Dischord sound. Classic Don [Zientara] guitar sounds with a broader influence than most of the bands from the Dischord heyday.”
For Dan, it wasn’t just musical aesthetics that drew him to the area; what stuck with him more was the scene’s overall approach. “I think the thing that I appreciated about the D.C. scene was less its punkness,” he says. Dan explains he was more drawn to the town’s “DIY culture: It really sustained WMUC and was really important to the music-fan subculture at UMd.”
In case you missed it, here’s the rest of the series.