USS – Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker
My cheeks are sore from smiling because I saw the best concert of my life last night! This week’s showcase, a story of how a band from Canada named USS grew above resistance, to spread a mission of smiling faces and happy hearts.
Toronto’s Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker or USS for short, have become a favorite of the area and have an incredible story of perseverance and overcoming the odds. They pledge to create music in the spirit of bringing people together and extend a message of life’s limitless possibilities.
How can you resist a band which aspires to incite dance parties, make people smile, laugh and spreads happiness?
USS – The Music
Classified as many different music groups styles:
Progressive Dance Folk.
Drum & Strum.
Acoustic Dub Infused Pop.
Alternative Rock Dance Duo.
My favorite from Raise the Hammer, “A blend of live instrumentation with accomplished turntables spinning Electronica, Drum & Bass, Dub, and Folk, molded into melodic Indie Pop.”
However, you want to look at it — it’s freaking awesome!
“Who’s With Me?”
Although their implementation may be unique, an acoustic guitar, a turntable and two microphones, it just works. Add a drummer on tour, and you have a banging rock show. They are original, bizarre at times and endearing all wrapped up into a lot of fantastic.
When you can’t pinpoint a genre, they are allowed to be progressive and as weird as they want.
To me, it is more like a rock concert and a rave mixed with a campfire sing along. You can’t help but dance to the beat and bask in the “melodic aloe vera” of USS.
The drum base beats and grunge guitar riffs amplify the 2 step rhythms. It makes it impossible not to bounce and groove to the flows. Their lyrics take you through a science chemistry lesson woven intricately with poems written for a long lost lover.
My Experiences – USS:
USS – New Music Fest Barrie 2013:
In 2013, I saw USS at the New Music Fest in Barrie. They were fantastic, energetic and a true crowd pleaser.
The crowd went crazy when they performed!
My media card was destroyed, so I had to find a picture for you. (Much better than ours would have been.)
Fellow Canadian band Big Wreck was also there.
USS – EdgeFest Echo BeachToronto 2014:
I saw them live again in 2014 at EdgeFest Echo Beach in Toronto. They were the highlight of the night although it was cool to see Said the Whale, became fans of Bear Hands and loved MS MR.
On stage USS are opposites, and you can honestly see the juxtaposition, the Yin Yang of their showmanship. It melds and unites everyone. It is a synergy felt across the audience.
A perfect description of the feeling that shines through in the music of USS. The two parts of the band create an experience I return to see again and again.
USS – Sixinthe6ix Series Danforth Music Hall 2016:
My third time seeing USS was this past December 2016, when they performed six nights straight at six different venues. It was an homage to their humble beginning in Toronto.
I was fortunate enough to see them on their last night at the Danforth Music Hall. I had a really great time at this venue, there was space to dance and have fun. The age range was broad, which was nice to not be the elders in the room.
Jason crowd surfed a lot during this show, and Derek happened to be close enough for an unexpected close-up.
USS – Guelph Music Theater 2017:
Most recently I had the experience with USS at the Guelph Music Theater on Saturday, January 28th.
VENUE: The Guelph Concert Theater, in Guelph, Ontario.
I had never been to this venue and really liked it. There were different levels and decks for you to have excellent vantage points of the show.
Parking was behind the building, very convenient.
The beer was only $7.50. Bonus. (Shows in Toronto can be more expensive.)
Where we attended the “meet and greet” with the guys, we had to arrive at 6:30 pm, we were let in around 6:45 pm.
MEET and GREET with USS:
I have to say this is such a fun thing to do if you love a band. Meet them!
I know there is a saying we should never meet our heroes, and it may be true in some cases but not USS. These two guys are so genuinely nice and take the time to talk to each person, sign items, take a selfie, tell a story and give plenty of hugs.
We did tell Ash we are from Newfoundland (“Newfies”) and he said he would think of us during “Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole” and seemed to have a high regard for our heritage.
OPENING BAND REPARTEE:
The opening band for the show was Repartee, an electronic band from Newfoundland! They were great, lead singer Meg Warren, is very energetic and engaging along with guitarist Robbie Brett, Dummer Nick Coultas-Clark, and Keyboardist Josh Banfield. Signed with Independent label Sleepless Records, they are considered an Indie band with pop hooks.
They played songs from their first album, “All Lit Up,” including “Fall Apart,” “Unknown,” “All Lit up,” “Die B4U”, “Dukes,” “Nice Girls” and closed with “Electric Energy.” Electric energy sums them up pretty well; I kept getting visions of 80’s pop stars Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, and Paula Abdul when they played, they were great.
SYNOPSIS & Overall Impression for USS at the Guelph Music Hall:
USS started the show off with “Anti-Venom” and continued with hit after hit. I was in the crowd the whole time bouncing along while Derek stayed back on a deck to get better pictures. Both Ash and Jason were amazing, and you can see the love and bond they share.
Ash no longer wears sunglasses while performing. It’s great to see him present and engaging with the audience.
Jason did his signature headstand while spinning a record and even brought a guy on from the Dragon’s Den, and put him on his shoulders and spun the record with his feet.
There was a sing along with lights for the late great George Michael, rest his soul.
I did partake in the moss pit festivities to Damini, and it’s weird, but I just jumped and spun in circles bouncing off guys and girls. My gray hair must have made them a little more gentle with me, ;).
They played two songs from their new album “New World Alphabet,” “Work Shoes” which has been on rotation on the radio for a while now, “Us,” which is such a great song, and their new hit and I think crossover song “Who’s with me?”
The kids are already singing these songs at the top of their lungs, imagine what it will be like this summer at festivals, a couple of months after it’s release. USS have created a super album, adding to their already fantastic repertoire, and it is so freaking amazing for them. They totally deserve it.
SET LIST for USS at the Guelph Concert Theater:
The Set List of songs with related Album:
- Anti-Venom – Questamation
- Laces Out – Questamation
- Yo Hello Hooray (Everyday) – APPROVED
- Nepal – Advanced Basics
- This is the Best – Advanced Basics
- Freakquency – Advanced Basics
- Careless Whisper – George Michael homage
- Work Shoes – New World Alphabet
- Us – New World Alphabet
- KIT – APPROVED
- Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole – Welding the C:/
- Who’s With Me – New World Alphabet
- Damini – APPROVED
- Hydrogenuine – Advanced Basics
- N/A OK – APPROVED
- Pornostartrek – Welding the C:/
- Yin Yang – Advanced Basics
OUTRO – Hakuna Matata
“It means no worries for the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy
-Hakuna Matata – The Lion King
Thoughts on USS at The Guelph Music Hall:
Words cannot relay the feeling and intensity surrounding USS at a show. You have to go experience it yourself. They genuinely want to spread a message of happiness, and it is contagious.
Everyone sings along, everyone is smiling and happy, it is a humungous bubble of love and people dancing to the beats.
Their concerts are therapeutic, the songs and lyrics connect to people so much, you really can let it fall away and sing your heart out.
I will probably say this every time I go to a concert; my only disappointment is they couldn’t play longer and all of the songs in their catalog. It would have been great to hear all of their new songs from NEW WORLD ALPHABET.
I can’t wait for them to come through again, they are going to blow up with this album. I am so thrilled for USS. It’s weird I don’t know if it just being Canadian, but you feel so proud of these guys. You root for them, you want them to succeed, and you want them to spread their message further.
EXPANSION is coming for them, the universe is giving her blessing, all the intention put out, and hard work is paying off.
Next up Thunder Bay on Monday the 30th at Crocks and then on to Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Kamloops, Victoria, and Vancouver.
Be sure to check them out; you will have a fabulous time and become lifelong fans like Derek and me!
USS – NEW WORLD ALPHABET
The newest album from USS is called New World Alphabet. Although released on Friday the 13th, it was due to timing and the full moon, and there seems to be nothing causing them harm with the new album’s success.
For this album, they left their comfort zone and headed to California. They found themselves performing for and with people they had just met or only ever heard about.
“When you take yourself away from all your familiarities,” Jason told the Whig, “and now you’re in West Hollywood with a total stranger who has already made $10 million. That’s when you sit there, and your like “We’ve made it, we’re here, and we’re ready for what is next!”
To promote the album in Toronto, they stuck their album cover on a food truck, drove around the GTA and offered smoothies and pop-up shows with smoke machines.
They wanted to make a tangible experience for their fans, not just online, as in touch the guitar it’s real. For it to be exciting and to cause enthusiasm like a sports event. So, they went out, and they were real with their fans during this promotion.
I love this album and yes I have listened to it over 30 times.
Ash said he used an alphabet system in his notes O for Outlook, I for insight, and the whole album was based on this principle, thus New World Alphabet and his new outlook on life.
Here is a list of tracks for your enjoyment.
My only complaint would be: I wish it were a longer album. At just under 30 minutes total, I am only just getting into the groove and “Vulcan” starts, my solution; put it on repeat.
THE STORY OF USS:
Formed in 2007, Ashley Buchholz (Ash Boo-Schultz) with his trademark sunglasses as the vocalist and guitarist. Paired with the ever energetic and truly electric Jason Parsons (The Human Kebab) a headstand spin-master and crowd amplifying DJ, these guys put on an amazing and energized show.
The Synergy of USS:
Two guys were searching for meaning and purpose in their lives.
“At the time I was going to Chapters every day,” Ash said to The Journal in 2009, “and raided the self-help section, trying to find an answer, trying to find the reset button on my life.”
It seems the fates aligned when Ash and Jason first met, and formed “Team of Captains” in 2005.
Jason had just finished university and Ash had just dropped out of music school.
“It was this amazing meeting in the ascent and decent in life,” says Ash, “We grabbed some breakers, did some experiments and one thing led to another.” They didn’t intend to start a band; it was a natural progression.
“Jay DJ’ed a lot, and I would go to his basement dance parties,” recalls Ash, “One time he suggested to bring my guitar and started dropping amazing records, and I started to play along.”
“Fell in Love with A Girl” – The White Stripes Cover”
The Name USS:
The name USS, Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker, stems from Ash’s quest for self-realization.
“To be omnipresent, to exist everywhere and at the same time is what it means to be ubiquitous, and its synergy is the total effect of that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
“I was thinking, ‘Who do I want to be?’, ‘Who do I want to become?’” Ash told The Journal, “I was flipping through a dictionary one day, and it was the word Ubiquitous.” Ash set intention into the universe when he wrote the word down. “The band name hit me as a title of the type of person I was striving to be,” he says, “All these amazing and wonderful things started to happen. Success manifested in the intention of that title.”
He decided to shake up the foundation of his life, his blueprint of this bungalow he wanted to become.
“Yo Hello Hooray (Everyday)”
The lyrics are what Ash calls “fortune cookies,” little snippets of his thoughts, insight, and jokes. He is an introvert and spends a lot of time alone, but who is also very open and honest about his life and his music. He ponders the world, what he hears and witnesses, and writes it all down in notebooks.
His songs also impassion a raw sense of love, loss, and addiction. Songs created to help listeners deal with the turmoil of love and relationships, let the pain fall away and rock it out. He writes about experiences which have happened to him, including mental illness, the worst and the best. It’s real life, and you can tell.
He writes to liberate his soul, lift the heaviness, making each day a little lighter than the one before.
It’s like therapy, you can whisper and scream with a guitar, and no one will think you are crazy.
Performing is what USS live for, and they take the time to talk and interact with their fans at each show.
The Realism of USS:
USS makes music by combining what they want to hear and are continuously inspired by other bands and artists. Their philosophy is to show how trials and tribulations in life can connect and reach an audience. The result is to heal, bring joy and change the world.
“People can feel a realism about us — that we lived through the music and with the music through us.” Jason expressed to RIFF YOU, “That realism, now more than ever is important. People want to believe in the people who write and perform it. They want to believe that the artists have the same convictions as they did when they wrote the music as to when they’re on stage and to when they spoke to you at a merchandise booth.”
Jason’s handle the Human Kebab stems from a University joke turning into an alias. A guy so full of energy and maybe Red Bull, he doesn’t stop the entire show.
“He’s in the 1/4 of 1/2 of 1 percentile of the population who can process emotions,” Ash says of Jason. “Get mad if you need to get mad but let it go, be direct, take life on, be able to put on different hats, love life and be so grateful about every little thing.”
Jason also feels a strong bond and admires the artist Ash has become; he said to AMBLY, “The biggest surprise in all the years of knowing Ash, is he is truly an artist. That can be such a general statement that anyone can take it any way they want,” he goes on to say, “What I mean is when we get together to perform, travel, or hang out eating shawarma, every single thing he does and breath he takes is carefully calculated. I think it is part of why our music translates so well with fans. He really is everything that he preaches.”
“Whether he’s the happiest and most energetic man on the planet or depressed and anti-social. That’s what makes him an artist,” he concludes, “I don’t think there are many true artists out there now.”
Ash is known for making smoothies on stage; he once described it in 2009 as the process of blending all the enthusiasm and joy in the room and ingesting it.
He then takes energy received and brings it to the next show to absorb some more; the feeling exponentially grows each show spreading the happiness. Although he started making the shakes due to lack of time between work and the shows. It has turned into a consistent practice of keeping the momentum and energy of each show going indefinitely.
USS on Performing:
Ash compares performing live to tantra, “It feels like I and the collective entity the audience and the performances are having passionate sex.” He goes on to say, “There is that level of intimacy. It’s like my journal is on an overhead projector above me on the stage as I’m singing. It says come and witness me on my most vulnerable and honest moments of my entire existence.”
USS has been an Independent band throughout their history. Barry Taylor in the early days “USS is no doubt 100%, the best-kept secret in Canada’s Independent scene.”
Jason is an avid promoter of independent music and artists. He has said he recognizes the politics of the music and radio industries and how it can affect independent music artists. He understands the importance of social media in promoting and marketing. They value fans and depend on them to support their albums through crowd-funding like Pledgemusic.
The success of these campaigns shows how much the fans love the music of USS and want to see more.
The Music Back List of USS:
USS – Welding the C:/ 2008:
The independently released EP named Welding the C:/ (as in the C drive of a computer) was sent out without much thought to its success. Performing live for a few months while roofing. Both Ash and Jason must have thought it wouldn’t amount to anything and parted ways just after they completed the album. Ash went to America in pursuit of himself with some friends, and Jason to Alberta to work the oil fields.
USS blew up on the radio in Toronto in 2008.
The station 102.1 the Edge helped tremendously by listening to fans. They grabbed the band from obscurity and threw them into heavy rotation. The repetitive plays and requests on the alternative rock station catapulted their first single Hollow Point Sniper Hyperbole. The thing is, they didn’t have an album when mainstream came calling, and only the six songs recorded on the EP.
Radio and USS:
Sure the pressure of having their first song on the radio got to them at times. But they found their place and kept pushing forward for the right reasons and keeping to their mission.
“There is so much competition in the music industry,” Jason reflected in 2014, “If you’re the kind of artist where you start on the radio, you have to continue to feed the machine because that’s your lifeblood.” He goes on to say, “If we weren’t a radio band and just an alternative rock-electric dance duo that drove around in a Chrysler Dynasty and toured, and built an Indie following. It would’ve made a slow evolution.” In retrospect, he says, “How many artists would buckle under the pressure of major radio support, without a record label?”
I remember when the song dropped, I marveled at its uniqueness and fantastically intricate lyrics.
How could I resist with his salute to Newfoundland:
I’m flying with Brian, my friend
Neighboured a medley of beans
– Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole – Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker
The success of the Hollow Point Snipper Hyperbole and Pornostartrek caused the members to rethink their endeavor, and they re-formed.
They both returned to Ontario to put together a video, as you can see it showcases the sound and essence of the band., performed live on MTV Canada.
“Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole”
USS went on to win an Edge 102.1 CASBY award the same year.
Quoted as saying their music is like “Nirvana unplugged at a rave, not that we are Nirvana necessarily, but that sort of vibe.” I can attest, it’s exactly what it is like.
USS – Questamation 2009:
Questamation their first album was released in 2009. The song Anti-Venom featured in Major League BaseBall 2K11 video game and also went on to become a fan favorite and staple at their shows.
“Recording it was like a kamikaze suicide mission,” recalls Jason of the album, “things just didn’t stop. We kept surfing along on a wave that just got bigger and bigger.”
They were in the recording studio for 20 hours a day for 33 days going through their tickle trunk of songs and samples to make their first album. The passion and connection they share for their craft bring about a hyper-dynamic approach to music.
This album described as a reflection of inner peace and happiness to the Toronto Journal in 2009. Its theme is to ask and answer questions enthusiastically rather than shy away and stew on them. The result, a question mark and exclamation point making the title Questamation.
One of my favorites on this album is Cloud Boy. It was one of their first songs and shows the trust between Ash and Jason to go forward. The song recognizes the potential in someone; it is about them taking a chance on the music.
“At the time I was an extremely broken, turbulent person, and Jason recognized something in me.” Ash reiterates, “The best anti-depressant in the world would be to get a pint of his blood.”
“Here’s my heart, don’t let me down
Don’t let me down
Here’s my all, I won’t let you down
Won’t let you down”
-Cloud Boy – USS
USS went on to tour with Ill Scarlett in 2010 and participated in “Toronto plays for Haiti” with numerous other Canadian artists. They were chosen to go to India as the Canadian representatives for the “Be There” Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange.
They love the Canadian Indie music scene, it is a small close circle, and the guys have always felt welcome. To USS it is the best to get to know other artists, their motivations, and experiences.
Getting to meet other rockers and have moments of understanding with what each has had to conquer and get through. The support and friendships made over the years reiterate being nice, having good thoughts and kind words about other people are important and inspiring.
USS – APPROVED 2011:
In 2011 they released the EP APPROVED, which resulted in such Canadian Alternative charting hits as N/A OK, Yo Hello, and my personal favorite and also theirs to play, a metaphor for life as a love song, Damini.
Ash saw a documentary on how an elephant died and its partner would not leave. Would not eat, or drink and days later collapsed and died by its partner’s side. The Elephants name was Damini.
They won a Canadian Independent Music Award for Favourite Group of the Year.
USS – OVERCOMING RESISTANCE
Have you ever felt you like you are an impostor in creating your art?
Try considering your impostor syndrome as a form of resistance. It is as if you have an internal critic and dream basher, always trying to bring you down. Writers are not the only ones who feel this way, all artists and creative people can feel uncertainty when they measure their work at times.
When you have low self-esteem, you doubt your talent. Resistance can hinder your creative passion and pursuit of your dreams.
Ash has had a hard time with resistance. His signature sunglasses were worn on stage because he had his eyes closed. He didn’t look at the audience for fear they would see through him and know he was not good enough.
“I wouldn’t leave my house without my sunglasses…I didn’t want you to see how I really felt about myself,” he has said.
Having past burdens and not dealing with them in a positive way, led to a lifestyle of drugs and not feeling his emotions for many years. In and out of psych wards and drug induced hazes, Ash finally decided to turn a new leaf.
In late 2013 after doing a ton of drugs, he came to the realization his life wasn’t satisfying, it was boring, he was unfulfilled, he felt empty and ashamed. He didn’t call his mom anymore. He wasn’t close to anyone. So, he decided to try something new.
USS a New Outlook:
By setting intention out there, good things started to happen, and a lot of doors started to open.
Altering his lifestyle to a more holistic, meditative, yoga inspired, to quiet his mind and reconnected with his dad and it has helped him work through his emotional weight. He decided to “de-Peter Pan” himself and took more responsibility in his life.
He reflected on his addiction to A Mother World, “I don’t glorify or demonize drugs. I do want to be a good role model in life.” He says, “I have a certain perspective of what I wish I could have been exposed to at an earlier age. It’s ok to grow up if you still have fun, it doesn’t mean you don’t become responsible, you can be responsible and have fun.”
USS – Advanced Basics 2014:
2014’s Advanced Basics EP their 4th album, is a testament to their collective will. It also allowed them to tour with Hedley, Classified and Mother Mother.
To Ash, the album was a challenge and a blessing; it was cathartic for him to be ripped apart and get many of the songs off his heart and out of his mind. A form of insight gained through cognitive therapy hashed out in verse.
He allows for a heavenly melody in his songs because he understands it is how people relate. Everyone loves a sing-along.
The title Advanced Basics stems from “weaning yourself off every instant gratification and knowing that,” said Ash, “it’s going to be real simple, but it’s not going to be easy’”
The EP produced by Tawgs Salter found a gem with the hit This is the Best which reached #3 on the Canadian alternative charts; another fan favorite Yin Yang also reached #3.
Jason told the story of how the album formed to AMBLY. “Advanced Basics was actually started in 2012. It started with “This is the Best” where we were writing it then thought to each other “we’re going for it.”” He went on to say, “From there we were already so confident we’d have a release we’d all be proud of, and we kept the bar really high for ourselves.”
“When we served it to the public, everyone seemed to like it, and it was more the foundation of how Advanced Basics came to be.” Jason continues with “I’d have to say “This is the best” is one of the biggest highlights, it’s one of the biggest songs we’ve had in the last nine year Ash, and I have been together. It was the start of the process.”
“This is the Best”
The hit song “Yin Yang” came to be when their engineer “Mike threw this track at us, it hit us completely at random. It appealed to our senses, and it was natural to sit in the studio and figure the parts out.” He goes on to say, “Ash was in the booth being funny, and his joking around ended being the ‘All I, all I, all I, all I’ parts…The lyrics came from a place of serious and hilarious.”
Jason finds what is “amazing about musical creation, is as long as your intentions are in the right place, I think anyone can create a song they like.” He reiterates, “Whether or not it becomes successful publicly is irrelevant as long as you’re happy and proud of what you create.”
They carefully melded rock and electronic dance music (EDM) with pop hooks capable of helping the band cross over to several audience segments on this album, and you can see the results of their efforts.
Although satisfying in many ways Advanced Basics was also “a stressed filled process. It wasn’t until I got the masters back that I truly had a smiling proud moment of ‘I can’t believe we did it and pulled this off!” Jason says the two had mixed vibes throughout the process and worked meticulously to try to follow up USS Approved. He said his inner circle felt this was their best album to date. “It is amazing how critical you can be of yourself and the process and not really realize you had the answers all along.”
“I’ve come to learn you are only as good as your next song,” Jason said to RIFF YOU, “You try to keep things coming from a natural and organic place, but at the same time, you’re questioning the material in your repertoire and what you have at your disposal.” He goes on to say, “nowadays with the music industry reshaping as we speak you still have to move with the times and keep your integrity intact.”
Touring brings them to campus shows, festivals, clubs, and other venues. They feel they enter unknown in many cases and leave with new fans each show.
“We know success is just patience, understanding, and an open mind,” Jason says. They are supportive of each other and commit to each other for the long hall. Whether entertaining crowds of 1000’s or in a small venue with only 20 people, they realize they are still on their way to their ultimate destination.
The progression of their first show in a bar in Stouffville, Ontario to performing at the Air Canada Center in Toronto is validating to Ash. “It’s vindicating because I stuck with something through thin and thicker and thinner, I just know I have a mission, duty, and simple, profound purpose now.”
In a better head space and committed to a new lifestyle, the band flourished, earning their first Juno nomination in 2015.
Using universal melody, Ash learned to develop his craft with many inspirations depending on what he is listening, ones like the Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran or even Enya. (I love this era of music, as I write this I am dancing in my chair). The band was also inspired by 90’s rap wars, giving the example of Cypress Hill and Sonic Youth’s “I Love Mary Jane” as an example of a dynamic duo in music.
“I Love Mary Jane – Cypress Hill & Sonic Youth”
“We’re very led by our influences.” Jason told The Wig,”Whether it is 80’s pop music, 90’s grunge, electronic dance music, hip-hop, we sort of threw it all into a hat from our different perspectives and sort of meet halfway.”
What have I learned from USS:
To new bands starting out, “Don’t be afraid of business,” advises Ash, “and don’t be a hater.”
Be kind and helpful to others.
Spread happiness and positivity around you.
Write your thoughts down.
Persist and not give up.
Rock stars can be wonderful people.
Keep creating everyone and reach for your dreams!