USS, short for Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker, has become one of Canada’s most celebrated rock bands to date, selling out shows across the country and charting on radio stations with every release. Created in 2008 by Ashley Buchholz and Jason Parsons after the twosome bonded over music while working at a golf course, USS has been quick to join the ranks of The Sheepdogs, the Arkells and July Talk as Canada’s alternative rock band to watch. They’ve also become fan favourites across the pond, headlining stages across Europe and Japan. They’ve described themselves as a mixture of a campfire after-party and Nirvana Unplugged, and I’d have to agree. I gave Jason a call before they began their 16-stop tour of Canada and the US this October, to see what he’s listening to, what he’s looking forward to, and what advice he has for the student bands on campus today.
What is your current number one song?
Wow, you know it’s funny within the last hour I was just speaking about that new twenty one pilots song “My Blood”. I’ve been noticing it more and more on Alt Rock Radio. And I’m not over how that band just brings people to the feeding frenzy of their music. Our drummer told me about them because they were a two-hander like Ash and I, and they go anywhere from rock to punk to rap to reggae, that they incorporate it all into their music to get the finished product.
What’s your favourite gig you’ve ever played?
I would probably say four summers ago in Toronto at TD Echo Beach, we headlined Edgefest, there was almost 5000 people, it was one of the biggest years of our bands existence and we were just doing the right things. The fans were behind us and we just couldn’t be stopped. We had the opportunity to really just curate our own Edgefest with all the bands and artists that we loved and had been watching: Said the Whale, Bear Hands, MS MR, Dear Rouge. It was so rewarding and so much hard work went into it, it’s still humbling to think that all the pieces of the puzzle came together on that night in July four years ago.
If you could perform live with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
We’ve often said that Nirvana has been the number one influence on our band, I can’t help but think that to share a bill with them and open for them when Kurt was alive, to be a part of that energy and live out your wildest dreams. His band’s music has had such an impact on everything that we do, from the chords to the melody’s that Ash sings. Just the raw energy of the grunge punk they were creating, that would be the top of the list for USS. You can’t help but wear your influences on your sleeve, and we often hear it from people close to you like “well this sounds like this and this” it’s like, well no shit. I’ve been listening to that song for twenty years. Sometimes it’s for better or for worse, but I’m going to have walked away inspired by the music that I love and have listened to.
You’re one of Canada’s most celebrated rock bands, with an upcoming tour around the country: what up and coming Canadian musicians are you listening to now?
Four years ago, we played in an inflatable Pepsi bottle with The Elwins in downtown Toronto, and we got to know them as people before we even got to hear their music or hear them play. Last summer we were playing a show in Peterborough to end our 2017 and they were playing across the street, and we got invited to their set. It was like raw energy, I was like, “woah, that’s the same band from three years ago in the Pepsi bottle”. And now I’m hearing them all over the radio, the same stations that play us. Me and Ash were just so intrigued by those guys, and it seemed like they were at the beginning of this incredible journey that they’re on and we wish them nothing but the best, and it’s great that they said yes to coming on tour with us, and we’re excited to see where they go next.
Kingston is a student town, with a ton of student bands: what is your top piece of advice for student bands looking to go professional?
I don’t know how many students would remember, it might be before your time but Soundclash came out of Queen’s. The Arkells went to McMaster. I went to Trent and I was in bands. At the university or college level if you’re surrounded by like minded people and you like to play music and you have these stages and bars that you can play for fellow students at, that you should take full advantage of the fact that you’ll have an audience because people will be at those establishments anyways. If it’s your fellow colleagues, who better than to have as a support for you while you play music as a hobby. Everyone’s in Kingston from September to April to get their degree, and this will be the last time that you’re surrounded by people that have to be in the same place as you for the whole school year. Where else to hone your chops and practice and play music and learn to love the process of it then when you have that audience available? Just get out there and play.
Your tour is taking you all over Canada, from Ottawa to Kamloops: what city are you most looking forward to playing?
Well in Toronto we’re going to be playing Rebel, which used to be the Sound Academy, which is actually where Ash and I started all this 10 years ago, so we definitely feel like we have some unfinished business in our hometown. We’re really close to selling it out, which is definitely a goal of ours. Edmonton is our biggest show, at the Shaw Conference Centre. We sold out there when we opened for Mother Mother so we definitely have something to prove there. But every city we go to we love performing. We love coming to Kingston and playing at venues like Ale because we’ve established a home base in the city, we’ve been performing in Kingston for years and every time it’s just as fun and energetic. It might not be every artists goal to perform in a city like Kingston, but we have a lot of fun, and we love the community.
Your most recent release was “Medicine” which garnered a spot on the Spotify Viral 50 chart: where did the inspiration for the song come from?
We actually wrote that song while we were down in Nashville in 2017, with a guy named Todd Clark who became the producer of the song. Ash was in a courtship with a young woman and he was really getting frustrated with the situation because he wasn’t getting what he wanted out of it, but he realized that he’d actually been that person in other relationships that he’d had, so he did end up getting a taste of his own medicine in that relationship. He was really being honest with himself when he was talking about it in the writing room, at that just translated once he started recording the vocals.
This year is USS’ 10thanniversary. Where do you see USS in 10 years?
Well, hopefully we get the opportunity to play in every continent, that’s always been a goal of ours. We want to keep going into cities and selling out shows, but we keep setting bigger challenges for ourselves, because that gives us greater opportunities. 10 years is a long time for an artist, we’ve known people that have been in the industry for longer and it’s an industry that’s always changing. A lot of our story still hasn’t been written yet. We keep having great moments, but we haven’t had that one moment that’s really pushed us over the top, so maybe that will happen in the next 10 years, we’ll see.
Catch USS playing in Kingston on October 24th, at Ale House. Give them a listen on the Spotify Playlist linked below!