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USS on their momentum towards connection through music

By Courtney Heffernan

VANCOUVER — One day after the release of New World Alphabet, Ashley Buchholz of USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) feels so buoyant he’s at risk of floating away.

“I’ve been having to wear steel-toed shoes to make sure that I stay on the ground,” says Buchholz. “I’m in quite an ethereal [state]. This is the byproduct of catharsis, this lightness.”

Even though New World Alphabet is USS’s fifth album, the excitement Buchholz feels differs from their previous releases. His excitement is a testament to the work he and his bandmate Jason Parsons put into New World Alphabet. Now that the album is complete, Buchholz describes his emotions with metaphors of air and water. His predominant feeling is awe: “Now life is just floating.”

New World Alphabet represents a creative turning point for the Toronto-based duo. The album’s sound is the fusion of two-step, acoustic rock, and hip hop that is USS’s signature. The theme is a departure from the predominantly inward focus of their previous albums (the self-destructive mentality on their 2014 single “This Is The Best” comes to mind). Instead, the focus on New World Alphabet is external, with a goal of fostering connection. “Who’s With Me” is USS’s anthem for togetherness.

Conceptually, New World Alphabet begins after one resolves to make a change. Buchholz says, “[The album] boils down to the statement that precludes any great, true change in one’s life: ‘I’ve had enough’… All of a sudden you start acting differently, and you start talking differently, and you start being around different people and your life starts to change.” From there, says Buchholz, one starts to use language differently to communicate a changed perspective. This new language is a new world alphabet.

The shift from an inward to outward focus is indicative of Buchholz’s changed mindset. In USS’s 2008 single “Hollow Point Sniper Hyperbole,” Buchholz needs someone to save him from his sinking ship. Almost ten years later, he wants to act like a lighthouse for those who are feeling isolated by their depression and anxiety. “I want to be a lighthouse instead of lost at sea,” he says. “I’m tired of being the one who’s lost at sea.”

Buchholz is a self-professed introvert who, for a time, isolated himself because he felt uncomfortable around other people. Eventually he realized, “We get so sick when it’s just about us.” He made a decision to change his mindset and in so doing, he felt an energy that became the catalyst for his desire to connect. He says, “There’s this point in the process when it stops being so much about you… [It changes] to ‘How can I make you feel better? How can I help you?’ This whole album is informed by that momentum.”

A few dates into a Canadian tour that will take them across the country, Buchholz already knows what he hopes USS will accomplish in their performances: he wants to foster the maximum connection. For Buchholz and Parsons, the tour is an “opportunity to be able to connect with people.” When he performs, whether he is playing older USS material or songs from New World Alphabet, “I’m singing those songs to people that need that vibration, that comforting vibration.” His hope is that everyone – himself and Parsons included – come away from the show with feelings of togetherness and joy.

USS perform at the Garrick Centre (Winnipeg) on February 1, Palace Theatre f.k.a. Flames Central (Calgary) on February 3, Shaw Conference Centre (Edmonton) on February 4, Pulse Nightclub (Lethbridge) on February 6, Alix Goolden Hall (Victoria) on February 9 and 12 and at the Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver) on February 10.

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