QWAM On Punk, Un-Punk & New EP

QWAM mixes sweet vocal harmonies and fast punk riffs for face-melting tunes.

The members of the NYC-based band all come from punk backgrounds. They’ve played in punk bands, been in the punk scene or were just fans of punk music.

However, their EP coming out January 19, isn’t a pure punk document—inspirations from other genres like pop and classic rock are easy to spot.

“Oh yeah, I sang harmonies, I ‘un-punked’ some of it,” QWAM singer Felicia Lobo tells BTRtoday. “I experimented with my voice, because I could actually hear myself for the first time. In terms of I didn’t have to sing everything super punk, I could experiment with dynamics.”

The most obvious un-punking happens half-way through “Dirty Feet” when Lobo’s vocals take on a smooth and sensual sound before transitioning back to fast guttural shouts.

Inspired by bands like Pup and The Distillers, QWAM is punk rock at its core. But QWAM puts a twist on their sound but keeps the grit. Don’t call them pop punk. Their melodies and tones are dark and riotous. Call it punk-ish.

Catch their record release show January 24 in Brooklyn at The Knitting Factory. Also on the bill is Dead Stars and Jigsaw Youth.

In the meantime, read the entire interview with QWAM below.

BTRtoday(BTR): QWAM is an interesting band name, where did it come from?

Felicia Lobo-vocals (FL): It stands for all of our initials put together

(Everyone Laughs)

BTR: How did you guys meet and decide to form a band together?

Matt Keim-guitar (MK): (To FL) I met you at a theater rehearsal because you needed a sound designer for a horror theatre production. At the end of one rehearsal you asked if I wanted to start a punk band.

FL: You said yes and we called it Sweatshop and scheduled practice for the next day. Then we went through a bunch of drummers, and, uhhhh, we said goodbye to them…

Rachel Zisette-drums (RZ): We had a friend of a friend and I just went to a house on Halsey…

Eddie Kuspiel-bass (EK): And then I met Matt and Felicia at a show that I played with Felicia’s boyfriend’s band, Fat Heaven, and then we came back here and jammed, and now I’m in the band.

BTR: Tell me about this upcoming EP—what’s the creative process been like?

FL: Eddie and Rachel joined the band one month before going into the studio. But thankfully we all learned it really fast.

RZ: Yeah, it’s true. We were new so we didn’t want to fuck it up. I think it was better that way—to play it fresh. Like, I was still trying to learn the structure of the songs while we were recording them. As opposed to feeling that we knew them. It was good that way. Keeps you on your toes.

EK: It was a little longer than I thought. Like, we were in the band for a little longer than I thought before we started recording. It was cold out when we were at Studio G.

BTR: Did you guys experiment with anything on this record?

MK Gang vocals. Some of our friends came and recorded background vocals with us.

FL: I experimented with my voice, because I could actually hear myself for the first time. In terms of I didn’t have to sing everything super punk. I could experiment with dynamics.

EK: And you sang harmonies.

FL: Oh yeah. I sang harmonies, I ‘un-punked’ some of it.

RZ: I put a chain with a bottle cap drilled to it on a cymbal. Someone gave it to me.

EK: I don’t even remember what bass I played. It was an orange one. It was cool. It was very big. It was very heavy. I guess we weren’t very experimental.

RZ: We just knocked it out. We weren’t like taking acid. It was like should we do this? Yeah, let’s do it.

EK: And then we did it.

RZ: I feel like you can spend so much time on a first thing, you’ll just be over it by the time it’s done. You should still be under it, ya know?

BTR: What kind of influences went into it, musical and just in general?

MK: We’ve definitely been inspired by Pup.

FL: I mean “Glitter Paint” is kind of Distillers-y. It was what I was listening to that week.

MK: That’s kind of how we write.

FL: Yeah, a lot of the songs are what I’m dealing with in my life and then I write it down.

RZ I was trying not to sound not like a square.

(Everyone laughs)

FL: Well you were definitely a star.

RZ: Exactly. A star or a circle.

FL: I was going to say circle, but star felt more fun.

BTR: What about this new single from it, “Dirty Feet”—what inspired that song?

MK: The guitar part is something from playing with my best friend growing up. I brought it to practice one day and Dirty Feet is what came out.

FL: The lyrics are very representative of how I was feeling about my life in New York at the time. Trying to hold on to who I understand myself to be in a place that is in constant change. There’s so many people here it’s easy to lose track of yourself. Also, Matt lives on Hancock Street and we used to practice there before the old lady kicked us out.

BTR: What’s a live show like for QWAM?

EK: Lots of dancing and lots of head-banging.

MK: A surprising amount.

EK: I’m very sore the next day.

RZ: I feel like they’re learning experiences. You can hear different people, different volume levels. As a new band you kind of rely on being able to hear everyone. Like, when we were playing in Baltimore we couldn’t hear Felicia at all and I realized I didn’t really know the songs, just Felicia’s words.

BTR: What’s in the future for QWAM?

EK: Fresh merch! Pins, shirts, cassettes.

MK: Lots of empty Modelo cans, tours around the North East, a new punk 7″ and hopefully a full album.

FL: Hell yeah! What Matt said.