Q&A: These United States' Jesse Elliott Proposes a "In the Garage" Duet With Weezer
Photo by Sarah Law These United States' Jesse Elliott is the guy with the second-least amount of facial hair
These United States is the first performer of SunFest 2010 -- their set
begins at 5:15 p.m. today. The clever New Music Night organizers dropped "awesome band
bait" to get you out of your desks early, so why not take it? The night's performers also include Locksley, Gringo Star, Contellations, the Crash Kings, We are Scientists and, of course, Weezer at 9 p.m. The full SunFest 2010 schedule is here. Get a well-priced ticket here, and we'll see you tonight.
No better way to get everyone in the mood for the revelry tonight than a banter-filled exchange with These United States' frontman Jesse Elliott. He says that his well-toured band of alt-country rockers has never been to Florida before, and that he's going to propose a duet-medley with Weezer at the show.
Read our scintillating, uncensored conversation after the jump.
New Times: Seems like a band named These United States should really play in all 50 states. How're you doing on that?
Jesse Elliott: Ha. Fair enough. Well, let's get an official count on this -- serious questions demand serious research. Lookin back at our tour history here...hmmmm...I'm seein 40 states, 1 district, 3 Canadian provinces, and a handful of European countries -- which, you know, are basically like states. So that's a pretty good count, right? We'll be adding Florida to that long and distinguished list for the first time tomorrow. Lucky 41!
All of the rest of the bands opening for Weezer (Alternative Rock) on Wednesday at SunFest have a parenthetical genre description listed on the SunFest site except for These United States. Why won't you let us box you in?
Yeah, I saw that -- that's funny. Someone just gave up? The virtuosity of our artistry exploded all the categories via which they had previously looked at and described life and the world around them? That seems the most likely explanation. I prefer to think of it that way rather than they just didn't have anything nice to say, so said nothing at all. We may never really know.
How will playing with a backdrop of palm trees help/hinder your performance?
It will inspire us to do great things, that much is for certain. If one of these great things is to climb a palm tree, it is more likely than not our performance will be hindered, if not carted off to the hospital or morgue. Which would still be a pretty good story, I suppose.
SunFest has actually been around almost a decade longer than Lollapalooza. (Take that Perry Farrell.) In any case, how does it feel to have a whole bunch of names like Lady GaGa (Lollapalooza) and Patti LaBelle (SunFest) on the same poster as you guys?
Man, you really stuck it to Perry Farrell. I got yr back, if it comes to fisticuffs. We will not rest until we have not only shared a poster but also a stage and a microphone with Lady GaGa and Patti LaBelle - at the same time. From this day forward, that is the mission statement of These United States. Thanks for that.
Your latest album title, Everything Touches Everything is a great concept. But it's also the shortest song on the album. Huh?
Yep. See how that answer was short, too? Funny stuff.
How many 17-year-old flannel shirts were obtained to film "The Important Thing" video? And, since you have recorded the song, have other more important things prompted you to rethink the lyrics?
Those were all ours. We really were the kids in that video. We still are, mostly. The video itself actually made me rethink the lyrics quite a bit -- it was just so loose and exuberant, and I realized there's a good amount of that overflowing silly abundant teenage joy thing going on in the lyrics that I'd never really noticed before. The punchline, of course, is that there isn't just one important thing. It all changes. It's all around you. Life is the important thing, and life is everything everywhere. Even including such awful and inspiring things as backyard teenage chaperoned pool parties in the suburbs. It's like Weezer's "In the Garage," now that I think about it. I think I'm gonna propose a duet-medley to Rivers Cuomo. "The Important Thing" into "Not Fade Away" into "In the Garage." This is brilliant stuff. Are you getting all this? This is going to change music history. Oh, man.
My favorite song on the album is probably "I'm Gonna Assemble a City." Both lyrically and musically. How much of the Washington D.C. political climate trickles into your lyrical inspiration?
Well thank you. We all really love that one, too -- and it's not one that a lot of people pick out or really look into. It's definitely the most straightforwardly political song I've written. We spend so much time all over the place that I wouldn't say any one city or state or place affects our songs more than any other. Except maybe Washington, DC. It's just such a strange place -- in a wonderful way, to my eyes -- and there's no way to really describe it until you've been there for a while. It's just such serious wealth and poverty, complete and absolute power and powerlessness, right next to each other, even on top of each other. It's got a very tumultuous almost violent undercurrent. Sirens all the time, from every direction, and you never know whether it's a murder or a diplomat. And it's geography is just beautiful and twisted and swampy and it's got all these old underground structures and trolley car parking lots that are empty now, that most people don't know about but are always walking across every day on the way to their job at the World Bank or the soup kitchen. The place just boils under your feet, crazy intensity. So it's not so much the political climate as just the human and social and economic climate of the place.
In 2010, what's the best part of being a regularly touring band?
Still being able to just barely hang on to being a regularly touring band, when so many friends around us are having to give up or move on to other things in their lives. Helluva hard way to try and make an actual living these days.
Seeing those friends have to give up and move on. Feels like a battlefield some days, and you're just running through it in slow motion watching people crumble into the dirt all around you. That's just life, though, I guess, whichever way it is you make it through the day or the night. We're no different from human beings doing everything human beings do all the time. Man, life's a bitter and a brilliant rush, huh?
SunFest New Music Night, with Weezer, We Are Scientists, Crash Kings, Constellations, These United States, Locksley, and Gringo Star. 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, at Bank of America Stage and Tire Kingdom Stage, Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach waterfront. Tickets cost $30 to $65. 561-659-5980; click here.
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