This past Tuesday, Toronto electro-duo Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker (more commonly known as USS) released their fourth studio effort, Advanced Basics. The record is the culmination of hundreds of live shows and a dedication to the creation of original electronic music that tends to colour outside of the lines.
Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, the duo – performing at Moncton’s Tide & Boar next Thursday night – is governed by realistic expectations of what it means to be making music in the year 2014.
“We have totally realistic expectations when it comes to becoming successful,” USS DJ, emcee, turntablist and hype-man Jason Parsons (aka Human Kebab) begins. “Nothing irks me more than the sense of entitlement that some musicians have. Everyone expects that just because they put a video up on YouTube that they are going to start to sell out shows all over the country.
“Touring is critical to help build the story of almost any band these days. While we get some radio support, we are far from being a mainstream kind of band. It is pretty humbling to roll into a city like Moncton where we have only played once before. If we are lucky, we will play a show to like 20 people and if we can make a good impression upon those people and the staff, maybe there will be 40 or 50 people out next time. There is always a bit of an air of mystery to what any given show will hold for us. We love that experience though. We find it very rewarding.”
USS was brought together approximately nine years ago when Parsons met vocalist and guitarist Ash Buchholz (Boo-Schultz) at a rather unlikely place: the golf course. The duo didn’t meet on the links, however.
The naturally outgoing Parsons went to work at the golf course after having graduated university. He says that Buchholz, a notoriously shy individual, picked up a job at the course to help reintegrate himself in social settings. In a rather clear-cut case of opposites attracting, the future bandmates individually performed at a show as support for another act after which they then discussed the idea of making music together.
“It was at the show that each of us performed separately that we each kind of became enthralled with the other,” Parsons says. “He ended up approaching me wanting to follow this vision of creating ‘dream surf drum n’ bass’ music. Ash was the guy that had an affinity for late ’90s electronic music but also had a soft spot for pop music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’80s too. I thought it was great.”
Asked if he feels that touring and performing has helped bring Boo-Schultz out of his shell somewhat, Parsons says it is an ongoing, positive conversation between the two of them.
“We are often discussing where he is at and if he is feeling comfortable with everything. But really, the big plus is that making music has kind of forced him to put his music out to the world to see if it comes back to him. We’ve been very fortunate that it has been coming back.”
Advanced Basics sees USS once again team up with producer Tawgs Salter (Lights, Walk Off The Earth) to help bring the record to life. After having overseen the production of their first two releases on their own, Salter first worked with the band on the group’s 2011 release, USS Approved. Parsons credits the producer for forcing the band to step up the quality of the songs that they were writing, something he instilled in them the first time they worked together.
“The evolution of the band has been a bit of a mixed bag of excitement and opportunities,” Parsons says. “When we set out the idea of doing an electronic-based alt-rock kind of group, we toured and moved forward and were able to see what was working and what wasn’t.
“After Tawgs got involved with the making of the third record, he really kind of ruled us with an iron fist. His whole viewpoint was ‘I believe in you but you have to work on the songs and write the best songs possible.’ He pushed us to make our music more accessible but the end result of that was writing some of the best material of our career, which in turn brought us to nine different countries around the world.”
At the end of the day, any group’s success largely relies upon their ability to craft unforgettable melodies. After all, when was the last time anyone was drawn to a live show based solely upon the stage show and not the songs?
Parsons is confident (but not arrogant) with the band’s chances of continued success with Advanced Basics. USS is determined to move forward one way or another; faith and patience are in abundance.
“Any band can go out there and have a crazy lighting show or blow up a bunch of stuff on stage but if you don’t have the songs for people to pay attention to, you are only dressing the part. It is a big undertaking to make it in this business. We are very fortunate to have the right people working on our behalf. This is the album where Ash and I wanted to say hi to the world. We also realize however that we have to put our time in and work hard. It is not going to be an overnight kind of success.”
What: Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker (USS)
When: Thursday Feb. 20, 9 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Gastropub, 700 Main St., Moncton
Advance tickets are $13, available online at tideandboar.com or by phone at (506) 857-9118