Total Quality Institute was born out of the mind of singer/songwriter Mark Stiehl. He brings his sense of humor, self deprecation, his frustrations and views on the world and government to TQI. Mark’s approach to music is a mystery to the band. Sometimes his ideas seem the opposite of what would work as the songs start to form, then it all clicks and makes sense. The result is something less ordinary.
Musically TQI has drawn comparisons to late 70′s bands like the Talking Heads and Television that were more on the “art” side of punk and sometimes the experimental hardcore band the Minutemen.
Bass player, Andrew MacFarlane was the first to join Stiehl back in ’04 while they were both learning to play their instruments. Andrew had just finished a 4 year stint as drummer in alt-country geeks James Jewell & Shew. He brought his rhythm from Shew and his melodic sense from being lead trumpet in the Emmaus High School jazz band and later in the Surf Psycho-billy outfit Crop Circle.
In early ’05 Stiehl and MacFarlane were playing a few songs at a friends house. Guitarist, Dave Keller was interested in the Stiehl’s songs and asked when the next practice was. He’s been showing up ever since even though the band has never asked him to join. Keller insists that a clean or slightly overdriven guitar is more raw than a distorted or fuzzed out guitar so that’s the norm for TQI. Fuzz, or effects like tremelo and echo are used for more emphasis. Keller’s inspiration ranges from 60′s pop, surf and garage, to the Clash to 90′s indie rockers Pavement.
There is a rawness and unpolished element which is all tied together by Drummer Andrew Amey, who has roots in both traditional jazz and hardcore. Amey joined the band on New Years Eve ’06. The bands drummer at the time was unable to make it to the New Years Eve party gig they landed. Amey lived in the apartment upstairs from the party and seemed like a good replacement. He immediately clicked with the band and was made TQI’s permanent drummer.
TQI home base is Kutztown, PA. They have played numerous dates in NYC, most notoriously at Otto’s Shrunken Head Tiki Bar and Brooklyn’s South Paw, and the Fire in Philly. They have been to Pittsburg and occasionally play in the Lehigh Valley. TQI considers Pottsville and the Blind Pigeon scene their second home even though it’s in the next county. Some of TQI’s first gig’s were at Hucklebuck’s and it’s always been a great time. You’ll be sure to see TQI at at least one of the Hootenannies or the BPR comp release through out the year.
More recently TQI has been focusing on a more local Kutztown scene with bi-annual shows at the Kutztown Fire Company. They’ve played with Gleason’s Drift, the Beings, Wet, the Wallace Brother’s and Horse at Halloween and St. Patty’s day the past two years. Look out for TQI and two other favorites from the Lehigh Valley and Schuylkill County at the upcoming Kutztown Fire Company Shows.
Mark Stiehl – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Andrew MacFarlane – Bass, Vocals
Dave Keller – Guitar, Vocals
Andrew Amey – Drums