On Oct. 24, 2000, Dischord Records released No Kill No Beep Beep, the debut album by Q and Not U. Ten years later, the album stands out as an apex of Washington, D.C.’s post-punk narrative. 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 a decade after recording it, and five years after the band broke up. Over the next two weeks on Arts Desk, we’ll catch up with some of the community Q and Not U immortalized.
Left to Right: Sara Klemm,Bonnie Schlegel, Katy Otto
Right around the time of this photo shoot, Bonnie Schlegel moved into Luzon House in Northeast with D.C. heavyweights Joe Easley (The Dismemberment Plan), Clark Sabine (The Halo Project, Motorcycle Wars), and Stephen Guidry (The Cassettes, The Torches). “That picture actually captures a memory of the community that I was a part of more so than any other in my life, Schlegel recalls. In fact, it was the only time, aside from family, that I ever felt home in something.” In her D.C. days, Schlegel played in Bald Rapunzel and drummed in Motorcycle Wars. “Punk was awareness,” says Schlegel. “Punk rock was the choice that you had in any given moment when you didn’t think there was one. It was definitely a philosophy and a rock which I am still building myself on.” Schlegel now lives in Vermont, where she’s raising her daughter and working on a solo project called Edie Moss. Has she stayed connected? Yes and no. “Facebook is a wonderful way to remain connected to friends, but as far as remaining connected to your community, there’s only a handful of people saying what’s going on,” she says. “MySpace certainly doesn’t let you know what’s going on in your communities. There’s a lot of data and you can get lost in that… it’s a false sense of connection in some ways.”
The same year this photo was taken, Schlegel was conspiring with Katy Otto to form Exotic Fever Records. Encouraged by their friend Clark Sabine to form an avenue for him to release music by The Halo Project, the two founded an independent label that Otto still runs today. Otto played drums in Bald Rapunzel with Schlegel, as well as other punk bands like Del Cielo, Problems, and now Trophy Wife. In addition to musical contributions, Otto put out numerous benefit compilations through Exotic Fever and setup benefit shows for local charities like HIPS.
Otto remembers No Kill No Beep Beep fondly. “I loved that album,” she says. “It was vital to so many of us. [It] felt like it was made of our anthems.” The band was fond of Otto, as well: “They gave me an initial cut of their demo as my 21st birthday present!” she says. Otto remembers the first Q and Not U show was at WMUC, for a live broadcast, and the band “had a slew of ridiculous TV sets blaring white noise”—-an appropriately arty beginning to an always ambitious band. Otto now lives in Philadelphia, where she recently celebrated Exotic Fever’s 10-year anniversary. As much as she loves D.C., she says she “did not feel at home as a working artist there any more,” and she’s found new challenges and inspiration in Philly. She plans to release another benefit compilation on Exotic Fever later this year that will feature a track by Schlegel’s Edie Moss.
Not long after EXF’s inception, Schlegel left Otto the reigns, and eventually Otto called on Sara Klemm for help. Klemm wasn’t a musician, but she did work with musicians forher charitable work. “One of the things that I’ve come to realize as I’ve spent more time in other cities is that, at least in the late ’90s and early aughts, the D.C. music community was pretty special in how much the people in it supported other non-music related projects,” she says. “When I was in school some friends and I started the D.C. Area Books to Prisons Project and, in retrospect, we really benefited from the tremendous support we got from the DIY musicians in the city—-both in terms of encouragement and financial support from benefit shows (of which Q and Not U played more than one or two).”
Klemm witnessed more than her fair share of Q and Not U shows, and while she may not have been in a band, she certainly got to share in much of the band experience. “I got to go on a small tour with the band the year after this record came out. I think it was about a week or so through the deep south. It was pretty fantastic.” Over time, she witnessed many of the band’s more eccentric moments, including, “Chris having ‘riot not diet’ written across his neck in permanent marker” and “an amp reading ‘DC is fucking Washington, DC hardcore’ when, I think, Chris got pinkeye on tour.”
Recently, Klemm headed north for school, but plans to come home soon. “I am currently in Baltimore,” she says. “I plan to be back in D.C. within the year. I’m in my third year of law school at the University of Maryland… I didn’t exactly make the move willingly though. I commuted from DC (via bus-MARC-light rail) for the first year and a half of school, and moved up here only last December. I miss D.C. every day.”
Be sure and catch the rest of the series.