By: Vanessa Polojac
Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker took their Jam Van, a bag full of instant ramen and smoothie blenders to liven up a somber morning in front of University Hall.
On the morning of Jan. 10, Toronto-based duo Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker gave McMaster students a mini concert and preview of their second album New World Alphabet, which released just three days later.
Ash Buchholz (vocals and guitar) and Jason Parsons (turntable and guitar) have been performing together since 2008 and have released three EPs and two full-length albums in that time. The two came together because of their passion for all genres of music and experimentation with instrumentation and sound.
“The moment we got together was me waking up in his parents basement and he was at his turn tables playing mid 90s hip-hop records. It just summoned me… I picked up his brother’s guitar and just started singing along. There was no conversation of being in a band together it just sort of happened,” explained Buchholz.
USS is as playful in their presence as there are in their compositions, rooting itself in both grunge and bonfire guitar music, while toying with hip hop inspired percussion and turn table techniques. The unique musical outcome partly comes from the invention of the instrument that Parson plays on stage.
“We wanted to make our radio and TV appearances more interesting… We took the Paul McCartney bass from Guitar Hero and we Velcro strapped a Numark DJ mixer onto it and that is what you see onstage. We sort of created and invented our own version of a turntable guitar,” said Parsons.
USS has been a constant favourite on popular Southern Ontario radio stations such as Y108 and Indie.88 with singles like “This is the Best”, “Shipwreck” and “Yin Yang” and their current New World Alphabet single, “Work Shoes”. In 2013, they were nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year at the Juno awards and 102.1 The Edge’s Casby award for Favourite New Song. The band reflected on the popularity and rise of fame from the release of their first album Questamation and hopes they receive similar reception for New World Alphabet.
“It’s unbelievable to hear our music on those types of radio stations. We’ll hear the Foo Fighters… a band we both grew up on, then we’ll hear Coldplay, a band that we got into in our older years and then we’ll hear our song. We never thought we could be juxtaposed with bands that we greatly admire and look up to,” said Parsons.
The pair were excited to preview the new album in McMaster and in Hamilton, where they have previously enjoyed positive concert and fan experiences. Their team came up with the pop-up event to specifically preview the album, and give out free ramen, smoothies and high-fives to loyal fans and passerby alike.
The distribution smoothies and ramen to the fans has become a trademark experience when going to a USS concert and was an idea that Buchholz came up with nine years ago while he arrived from work to perform at a venue.
To reenergize himself, he made a smoothie that he later shared with his fans on stage. Bucholz and Parson carry on the smoothie sharing tradition in many of their concerts, to which they assigned a great deal of symbolic significance.
“The smoothies became an experiential uprising and symbolism. As I’m making this [smoothie], everybody’s collective energies are coming into this. We put into our bodies and bring that out to the next person,” explained Buchholz.
That same brand of off-beat, positive energy will be travelling across Canada for the remainder of the month, with a nearby show at the London Concert Theatre on Jan. 26.