In the '00s, the 14-legged love machine that was U.S.E seemed to be on the verge of superstardom. The Seattle group's absurdly ebullient dance music was huge in Japan and had important American critics ululating with hyperbole. Indie-rock fans and electronic-music heads united in their admiration for U.S.E, whose members conjured a euphoria so overwhelming, they almost had a benevolent, cultish aura about them. Aural and lyrical love was U.S.E's drug, and people needed to score.
U.S.E (short for United State of Electronica) didn't blow up as expected, though, and they dispersed following a 2009 New Year's Eve show after releasing two albums and five singles. Their catalog abounds with anthems geared to evaporate cynicism and gloom with the flourish of a radiant synth swell, an ecstatic guitar chime, a pell-mell disco beat, and an angelic vocal. I had the good fortune to witness hundreds of Japanese fanatics lose their minds to U.S.E in Tokyo and Osaka, and it felt, looked, and sounded like a Pacific Northwest Beatlemania in miniature.
Since then, U.S.E's musicians relocated to New York City, Los Angeles, Northern California, and other parts, with some starting families. Despite the changes, the band remained close and kept busy musically. Guitarist Jason Holstrom issued a series of excellent electronic ambient releases as Sunstrom Sound and made spacey pop as Tonight Sky. He and U.S.E singers Carly Nicklaus and Amanda Okonek generated sparks in the pop/R&B outfit Bardot. Keyboardist/vocalist Noah Star Weaver wrote 200 songs and released 50 with Joy Follows, guitarist Pete Sali has created three titan town albums, and drummer Jon e. Rock just finished a record with LAZERBLADE.
Now for the really good news: U.S.E—whose members (including bassist Derek Chan) now live in the 206 again—are reuniting at the Sunset for what should be a pneumatic NYE roof-raiser. "This was a surprising development, although sort of brewing for the last year or so maybe," says Holstrom. "Our underlying numerology may have gotten our attention, as our last show was NYE [going into] 2010, and 2020 seems like a big deal historically, politically, cosmically, personally, etc."
"Even though we weren't playing shows or making music as U.S.E, the magical energy and love we have for each other never died," Okonek says. "We knew it would take some serious coordination and maybe a few miracles to make this happen." Weaver adds, "Seems like the world could use a little more love right about now, and that's a sound we know how to make together."
Despite the complications of day jobs and family obligations, U.S.E have been prepping hard for this auspicious comeback, even though they admit it's something of a miracle they can get together and play the sugar-smacked disco jam "Open Your Eyes" after all these years. The band even worked on a new song in late November. Speaking as a collective, they say: "It's hot and inspiring, it feels like a brand-new day. It's got the same voices and sounds with maybe a new level of experience. The music is alive and so much fun to play together."
As for the Sunset show, people can expect a clutch of classics along with at least one new U.S.E jam. "A new batch of tunes would be the next big step for the band, which will take a further level of commitment," they say. "We'll see how the stars align for all of that."