One Girl, Two Cities

Q&A with Qaanaaq

qaanaaq at gamut gallery

This is the fourth of a 5 part series of interviews with Gus Watkins (also featuring Steve Jaksa, Ray Minge and Ben Prohaska of Qaanaaq), a local music artist. He is a member of five different bands, all with different members, all of whom are releasing a CD over the course of their collective residency at Gamut Gallery this summer and fall. They’re calling the series of shows Genrebeast.

The Genrebest manifesto is as follows: We believe music is about art movement, not genre; community, not scene; playing, not partying.

Qaanaaq will perform September 2 to celebrate the release of their new album “Separate / Weak,” and will be joined by Jaedyn James & The Hunger, Courtney Yasmineh and there will be live soundscapes between acts.

The gents responded to my questions in Two Truths and a Lie format, and they’re letting you determine which is which.

Q. Explain a little bit of the history of Qaanaaq.
A) We met betting on lobster fights in Belmont, MD. Named our band after infamous Eskimo supremacist Leonard Qaanaaq.
B) Steve, Ray, and Gus were in a band called Hot Ashes that broke up. We recruited Ben to finish up some of the gigs we had booked. But at rehearsal we found it was more fun to write new material and find a new identity than it was to rehash an old identity, so we got to writing.

C) Qaanaaq, formerly Thule or New Thule, is the main town in the northern part of the Qaasuitsup municipality in northwestern Greenland. It is one of the northernmost towns in the world. The inhabitants of Qaanaaq speak Kalaallisut and Danish and many also speak the Inuktun language. The town has a population of 656 as of 2013.

Q.  How did you come up with the name?
A) All the good band names are taken
B) Blood ritual

C) Ben didn’t like “Big Moth”

Q. Describe the live soundscapes that are taking place between acts at the show.
A) Peaks of jubilant ecstasy and the gulfs of moaning despair
B)  Toward the four winds four speedy cherubim
Put to their mouths the sounding alchemy
By herald’s voice explained: the hollow abyss
Hears far and wide, and all the host of hell
With deafening shout returns them loud acclaim.

C) Live drone & ambient tunes from some of Minneapolis’ finest producers.


Q. Do you have any particular influences when it comes to the band’s style?
A) The music you hear at Zumba class
B) Anything unique, satisfying, uncharted or tantalizingly unsatisfying

C) A penchant for trying new apples

Q. What’s the intention behind the album “Separate / Weak”?
A) To contribute to the survival of the small community of Qaanaaq
B) To contribute to the survival of the music community of Minneapolis

C) The album was a cathartic way to process some heavy shit. It’s actually a pretty dark album, lyrically, but no one bothered to ask Gus if things were okay.

Q. What one place, anywhere in the world, do you think would be the most fitting but also coolest place for Qaanaaq to perform?
A) Underwater world
B) Qaanaaq

C) Kowalski’s

Q. Are there 2 or 3 commonalities between everyone in the band that you’ve found surprising?
A) Our love of Tahitian Treat; our despisal of shitty new wave bands; our collective pleasure at seeing big moths flitter about in the night
B) Everybody but Ray knows Conan The Barbarian by heart; everybody but Gus enjoys playing the “All Things Considered” Theme Song; everybody but Ben liked the name “Big Moth”

C) Steve has beaten us all at chess including himself; every single one of us has a Wizard in a D&D 2.5 campaign, but we didn’t find out about it for years after playing together; we’re legally required to take our shirts off at shows, but we refuse to comply (Try us, MPD)


Join Qaanaaq, Jaedyn James and The Hunger, and Courtney Yasmineh at Gamut Gallery September 2. Click here to purchase tickets, and add their last show to your calendar:

October 29: ACTN

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