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The United State of Electronica: Boogie Nights

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: March 2, 2005

United State of Electronica
w/Aqueduct
March 7, 9:30 p.m.
O'Leaver's
1322 S. Saddle Creek Rd.
$5











United State of Electronica has been described as a cross between Andrew W.K., Daft Punk and The Brady Bunch. Of the three, it's the Brady Bunch reference that hits the mark. Here is an ensemble of seven musicians whose good-time dance music shines with the same simple-minded goodness that glowed from that goofy '70s TV sitcom.

That said, United State of Electronic -- or U.S.E. -- sounds nothing like the band that sang "It's a Sunshine Day." Their music is a Technicolor rainbow of disco synths, head-bouncing strut-bass, Mr. Roboto vocoder and shiny group choruses singing smiley-face lyrics like "One more day / Things are getting better/ One more day with you" and "Girls got you down? / There's always music" and "It's always the right time to let your lovelight shine." Oh yeah, these kids are happy.

U.S.E.'s modern take on glitterball disco deserves to be heard in a bubblegum-colored roller skating rink, not in a smoky, dark mid-town pub like O'Leaver's. Vocoder specialist Noah Star Weaver says it doesn't matter where they play, U.S.E. is still gonna tear the place down. "We love playing anywhere," he said from his home in Ballard, Washington, a small community just north of Seattle. "We rock a stadium like it's a house party and rock a house party like it's a stadium."

 

 

 

Weaver said United State of Electronica's good-time groove grew out of Wonderful, another band he's in with U.S.E. guitarists Jason Holstrom and Peter Sali, and drummer/vocalist Jon E. Rock. "We've been doing U.S.E. since the summer of 2002. When it began, we had no intention of making a new band or doing dance music or anything like that."

While working on a Wonderful album, the four got together to "goof off and make music for fun," Weaver said. "We ended up writing some dance hits." Shane Tutmarc of Seattle band Dolour, who was then playing bass with U.S.E., signed the band up for a low-key Monday night gig at a local club. "We played our three songs two times each," Weaver said. "It was a lot of fun and people liked it, so we kept doing it and it exploded."

The band, which is rounded out by bassist Derek Chan and vocalists Amanda Okonek and Carly Jean Nicklaus, quickly sold 10,000 copies of their debut CD via their label, Mannheim -- a joke name derived from the band's early days when they told people they were from Mannheim, Germany. "Our original intention was to disguise our identities," Weaver said. "That grew into our label and the handmade, underground DIY style in which we released our albums. The original pressing of the U.S.E. album was hand spray painted using stencils."

U.S.E.'s DIY days are over now that they signed a deal with Sonic Boom Recordings, who is re-releasing the band's debut March 15. So is Side Out Records, a label in Japan where U.S.E. has a No. 2 hit on the pop charts with the single, "It Is On." Despite that, Mannheim lives on with the release of Wonderful's trippy, psychedelic debut. And both the U.S.E. and Wonderful albums are available for download free at mannheimworldwide.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 



"It was a lot of fun and people liked it, so we kept doing it and it exploded."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
"Seattle wasn't known for dancing when we started, either."

 

 

Weaver said U.S.E. wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Wonderful, whose style is a complete departure from U.S.E.'s dance grooves. "It's kind of the mental, spiritual aspect or counterpart to U.S.E.'s physical music," he said. "U.S.E. is for dancing to; Wonderful is for dreaming to."

Regardless, March 7 will be dedicated solely to the boogie. "It'll definitely be a dance party," Weaver said of the upcoming O'Leaver's gig, pooh-poohing the pub's small size. "There will be a dance party on stage for sure, and when there's seven people freaking out and giving everything they have, typically it's pretty easy for those present to join in the fun."

Yeah, but even in Omaha, a town known for its audiences of slump-shouldered, beer-fisted gawkers?

"Seattle wasn't known for dancing when we started, either," Weaver said. "It takes a little time anywhere we go. When we start our set, we look out and see maybe three people dancing -- they're the ones who've seen us before and aren't afraid to let go. People aren't used to going to a show to break a sweat, but eventually they respond to the music. We make people dance and celebrate and have a good time. That's what we're here for."


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Published in The Omaha Reader March 2, 2005. Copyright 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.