"Sometime around September, drummer Doug Stormont is moving to Denver," Cuthbertson reveals. "At that time, I'll consider moving to Denver as well, but I'd prefer to find a new bassist and drummer in KC. Q could conceivably end then, but I plan to continue playing and writing this music for a long time."
If Cuthbertson seems optimistic in the face of losing his entire rhythm section, it's because he's faced similar quandaries in the past. Q version 1.0 emerged in 1997, when Cuthbertson, then playing lead guitar, hooked up with bassist "Handsome Dave" Schlotterback, vocalist Brendon Glad and drummer Pat Hubbell. The possibilities offered by math rock, a genre characterized by complex songs filled with rhythmic shifts and odd time signatures, intrigued Cuthbertson, who aimed to alter that sound's status quo.
"I thought the asymmetrical rhythms could be used in a more musical and accessible manner than I'd heard in most cases," Cuthbertson explains. "Making the different sections of a song rhythmically different added a great deal of contrast and texture that was missing from most songs I was hearing and completely absent from radio music."
The original lineup split in early '98 after playing a few gigs, but Cuthbertson, undeterred, placed a drummer-wanted ad in the Pitch and found Mark Axmann. With Glad still in place, Q became a quartet with the addition of Cody Brown, who switched off bass and guitar duties with Cuthbertson during shows. This lineup, under the watchful eye of Red House guru Ed Rose, recorded Q's debut disc, Heads.
"The lineup that produced Heads had a great deal of conflict," Cuthbertson says. "For a while, that seemed like a positive thing." Still, he adds, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, "I was itching to record a wider variety of more dynamic songs and had been outvoted on many of the decisions. It was supposed to be a demo to get our foot in the door and serve as a fundraiser for a follow-up album, but it didn't really work that way. It completely defined us for a long time instead of simply starting us out."
As the disc earned the group acclaim, the aforementioned conflict started to come to a, well, head. "By the time we were recording it, we were on the verge of breaking up but had financially committed nonrefundable deposits, so we stayed together much longer than we would have had we postponed our recording date," he recalls. "That lineup overcame incredible musical and personal conflicts for nearly two years. I've battled depression on and off, sometimes more successfully than others, and collectively, we've also dealt with legal matters, substances, anxiety, family and financial troubles. All of these things have shaped our moods, music and outlooks."
About a month after the 2000 Klammies, at which Q was nominated for best new band, this lineup disintegrated. When Axmann and Brown left, Cuthbertson returned to guitar full time and assumed the majority of the vocal duties, with Glad taking over bass while still fronting the band on a few numbers. When drummer Stormont of The Switch joined, Q was once again a trio. In June, however, Glad left, leaving Cuthbertson as the senior partner, with Chuck Irons of Space Is Kind, Recliner and To Conquer? filling in until the group finds a permanent replacement.
"Heads is grossly outdated by now, and I was hoping to have released a new album this summer until it was clearly pointless due to bandmates moving and whatnot," Cuthbertson says. "We've developed a style and sound, not well-represented by Heads at this point, which is fairly distinct, especially from the formulaic, watered-down, lukewarm focus-group-tested stuff to which most people are overexposed. We're melodic and sweet at times, but we're also explosive and powerful. The songs are almost twice as long as most pop songs but have enough change and cover enough musical territory to stay within listeners' attention spans. It's catchy but not easy to dance to. We're the Arby's of rock. Different is good."
Despite Stormont's impending move to Colorado, the two have been working on some new songs at Stormont's home studio, which are available in MP3 form at the band's Web site, http://mathroq.iuma.com. Cuthbertson remains confident that these tunes will be released at some point, regardless of whether he remains in Kansas City. "The album's worth of unreleased stuff is mine, and I'll either continue Q with that material, new people and whatever they bring to the table, or the new group will use a new name and feature the newer and unreleased songs," he says. "So it's more likely to be a rebuilding phase than an end, much like last spring when Doug joined the band. It was certainly a drastic evolution to a more dynamic and musical trio, but it wasn't a completely new band. It's all about the music, the power of creating something I like enough to share it, and the incredible, near-telepathic link that develops between band members while playing."