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A discussion with USS about “Advanced Basics”

Submitted by on February 15, 2014 – 5:27 pmNo Comment

USS ABAfter Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker (USS) released their single “This is the Best” in early 2013 on radio waves and internet pages everywhere, it quickly became a household party hit. Soon after, people wanted more, and the anticipation for their new album started to build. Problem was, they were as wanted live as they were on record. The wait is finally over, and their fourth studio album “Advanced Basics” is now available. After the February release, Martyr’s Devin Size caught up with the dynamic duo of Jason “Human Kebab” Parsons and Ashley Buchholz about the development of the album and the uprising of Toronto’s USS to the international limelight. Originally it was slated to only be with Parsons, as Buchholz was unavailable, but luckily as the conversation went on with Parsons, Buchholz strolled in.

DS: Time to speak about the new album, fourth one coming out, how does it feel?

Parsons: To be honest, it’s just such a relief, because this is the hardest piece of work that we’ve ever been involved with in the past nine years. There’s obviously various stages in your career path and in creating music. But this one, is next level. There was this underlying pressure to be better than our previous effort. Every day we were in the studio working on how we can bring the heat on every single song and then finally as a body of work. We tried to incorporate sounds from our past three records, and how our songwriting and production as improved, and tied it all in together on “Advanced Basics.”

DS: True, the elements of both electronics and acoustics are distinct, yet so well blended. Was the meticulous use of analog versus digital on this record organic?

Parsons: It’s interesting because in our project, Ash and I kind of go back and forth with our sounds, and ideas when it comes to the electronic music, because we’re both into it. Back when we put out Welding the C:/, it was very organic in that we shaped the sound, in the way we felt best represented us and all the lunacy involved. We dialed that back on our last record USS Approved with songs as finely tuned as possible, less was more. Moving into Advanced Basics we wanted to make a marriage of it all, and we could pull it off.

DS: The development of both yours and Ashley’s individual and unique prowess is apparent on the album, did that contribute to the album’s marriage?

Parsons: For sure. I’ve gotten way more into electronic music, as a songwriter and as a DJ myself. And Ash has increasingly gotten more into his world of guitar and singing/songwriting, also working with multiple artists and helping them develop their songs and in turn learning in his own way, about melodies and things that he hadn’t previously thought of. And bettering himself as a lyricist. Then it was just throwing it all into the hat, and doing what we’ve always done, an acoustic guitar, two turntables, a DJ Mixer, and the Macbook. We’re more confident than ever before.USS CopterDS: Seems like it’s all tied into the overarching theme of the album. You’re using basic musical tactics in an advanced way, but on another note, you’re also bringing it back full circle from your first works as you said, brought that organic style back with all your experience in between that and this album now, sound about right?

Parsons: [laughs] It’s funny and really interesting how you just intertwined the concept of the record with how we perform music and write and record music, because nobody’s really ever given it that look yet to be honest. And that is, actually in essence, the whole point of it. We’ve experimented, and we’ve done the trials and errors, but in the end, always have our roots. We can break it down to pure basics and still give our audience the whole package and mix our songs in a completely different way. We still haven’t forgotten our roots, but we wanted to go as far as we could with the professionalism and production of this album, tied in with those roots. And there you have it.

DS: Exactly, and before we delve more into the content of the album, I wanted to talk about the crowd funding project behind the album, dubbed “Let’s Get Weird Together,” on the PledgeMusic platform.

Parsons: We had seen other bands and friends of our like Protest the Hero and their Indiegogo campaign, how successful it was, and how it was a tangible tool for any band who has a strong enough fan base who want to support you and help you move forward… Why not reach out to them and give them unique once in a lifetime opportunities just for the price of assisting us in the production of our latest album? It worked miraculously, and it’s still remarkable to us that we doubled our goal, hit 201% at the close of the campaign. We offered fans things like bowling parties where USS would show up and play a game with you and your friends, left funny voicemails on people machines, the ultimate package being a wedding package. At the very least, not only did it give the fans a chance for ownership of what we do, but it showed Ash and I how important we are in people’s lives. It makes you realize how hard you have to work to make something that matters to people this much, and I’m humbled by it every day.

DS: For you guys especially, this must be so meaningful, because if I can recall, there was a time a few years back where USS disbanded, or at least thought to, due to a dismal perspective and didn’t think all of this was going to happen. What do you think of back then in retrospect?

Parsons: If anything, it’s given us humility. If life experience has taught me anything, it’s patience, man. I spoke on this subject at a school in Oshawa yesterday, actually, and I used the example of the character Vinny Chase from Entourage. In his life, he makes a movie and becomes big, then nothing happens for years and he has to wait, doesn’t do any gigs, and in that time, just gets older and does other things. You have to be patient and keep at it, and wait for things to happen. The point being for bands and artists, that if you want to do this, and truly want to because you love it, not for fame or fortune, like I don’t even know what fame is, one day that excitement of meeting band mates and writing a few songs you think are good, getting known at local bars and playing shows, may one day turn into playing in Europe, and that’s why to stick to it.uss_pic2DS: Taking a track off the album such as “Nepal,” relates to exactly what you were just talking about, trying to draw inspiration to figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing, I feel like that tune can be a reflective anthem for anyone thinking that way…

At this point Parsons interjected…

Parsons: Dude, want a huge surprise right now? Here, wait a minute, I’ve got something, no, someone for you.

Enters Buchholz, the other half of USS, and the main lyricist for the duo, to answer the questions about the meaning of certain tracks on the new album. After I brought him up to speed, he replied, and the rest of the interview was with Ashley.

Buchholz: In that song, I’m relating a story. Once I started asking certain questions in life, it started opening certain doors. These layers kept peeling off, and I kept arriving at these harbours of tranquility, these places where something opens up, these epiphanies, and I found this pocket of peace. The trump card over this chaotic, I don’t know what’s going on world. So I turned to drugs, I turned to all of these things, the only things I could do to cope, whatever people have to do to cope with whatever this is. The more you go through life, the more layers keep peeling off.

DS: That’s why I love the arrangement of the songs on the album, they tell a continuous story, a concept throughout them, in almost a chronological order. For example, it goes from “This is the Best,” a song about getting lost in the nightlife, the drugs and the girls. Then the next morning is like “Nepal,” where you wake up self-reflective and pensive, no longer “higher than Nepal,” back to wondering what you’re doing, then it turns into “Freakquency.” A song about drive and ambition and getting things done…

Buchholz: Again it’s back to that feeling when you were a kid, and you would finally climb that tree, and that was good enough. This morning I was actually at the top of a 50’ pine tree, and I was swaying in the wind, and I felt like I was slow dancing with life. I’ve spent thousands of dollars in my life on substances, to try to get a feeling that is completely on the other side of the universe compared to this feeling of that tree. What a blessing, but to each his own. I’ll never be one to give a lecture on what is the right and wrong way. All I know, is when I honour my chemistry, that’s my philosophy. When you look in the mirror, just make sure you honour your chemistry.

Interview by Devin Size

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