Sensitive Badass: Quix*o*tic’s Brendan Majewski, 1973-2011
Artist and musician Brendan Majewski wasn’t the first bassist offered a spot in Quix*o*tic, the defunct, doo-wop-inspired art-punk band from D.C., and he wasn’t the last to play in it before it broke up in 2002. But from 1998 to 2001, the bulk of the band’s existence, he helped Quix*o*tic build a sizable following in the District and across the country, and tour the world with legends like Sonic Youth. He later formed the sludgy New York two-piece Orphan, and crossed paths with some of indie rock’s biggest names. Majewski took his own life on Jan. 20, according to the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, leaving behind a hefty music legacy. He was 37.
Majewski was born in Marquette, Mich., on Dec. 9, 1973. The son of an American diplomat, he spent much of his childhood in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. He met fellow Maryland Institute College of Art student Mira Billotte in Baltimore in the late 1990s and they hit it off, occasionally playing music when he wasn’t playing in his band Murder. In 1998, Mira and her sister Christina decided to form a band with their brother on bass. He declined, and the two turned to Majewski. They called the group Quix*o*tic.
“Our first gig was on April Fool’s Day in ’98,” says Mira. “Then we toured every year after that.” The band eschewed the fast, aggressive sound D.C. was known for at the time and opted for a more challenging brand of post-punk. The quieter, distanced sound was more delicate than Quix*o*tic’s contemporaries; the band had an affinity for difficult No Wave sounds and ’60s R&B melodies refracted through a creepy lens. During Majewski’s tenure, the band formed its own label and self-released a single, “Heliotrope,” and an album, Night For Day, for which Qui*x*otic went into the studio with Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto.
“The first time we went to Europe, we played at an installation curated by [Sonic Youth’s] Kim Gordon in Holland,” says Mira. “She asked everyone that participated in the show to give her a piece, either visual or writing, and she had it printed in this book that was published by Purple magazine.” Majewski and his bandmates each had their art published in a limited-edition book alongside names like Jim O’Rourke, Thurston Moore, Chan Marshall, and the director Spike Jonze.
Not long after Majewski joined Quix*o*tic, he met Kristina Mazzocchi, then of the band The Long Goodbye. The two dated for seven years, and briefly formed a band called Cut Purse that played about three shows. “He was so talented and different,” says Mazzocchi. “He was a sensitive badass—someone you’d want to know.”
Mazzocchi remembered an incident at the old Black Cat. “I was hanging out onstage with Quix*o*tic, when all of the sudden Eddie Vedder walks up. He says, ‘Hey man, I really like your band, do you guys wanna come hang out at my show tomorrow night?’” The band went out with Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth the following evening. Mazzocchi said, “It was just so bizarre and representative of how other musicians felt about [Majewski] and Quix*o*tic. They inspired other musicians.”
After parting ways with Quix*o*tic in 2001, Majewski and Mazzocchi moved to New York. Majewski quickly jumped into the art world, first working for Team Gallery and later for the visual artist Banks Violette. In 2006, Majewski formed Orphan with drummer Speck Brown, and created art and videos for the band. The duo earned praise from Vice magazine and The New York Times, blazed through South by Southwest in 2008, and played a gallery opening in Berlin the same year. Orphan played the Whitney Biennial last spring, and released two full-lengths and a split.
“I think [Majewski] was pretty proud of Orphan, to be honest,” says Brown. “He was really the greatest musician I’ve ever played with in my life. He was the most caring, considerate, and intelligent person that I’ve ever known, and really a sensitive guy. It’s a terrible shame, because he had a lot to offer.”