Q&A with These United States

Jesse Elliott, photo by Tamara

These United States play exuberant, uplifting alt-Americana rock & roll. They formerly called Washington,DC home, but are now based in New York, and spend copious amounts of time on the road. The band recently opened for country legend Willie Nelson, and are touring now in support of their fifth studio album, the eponymous These United States. They’ll be making a stop to play Black Cat this Saturday, July 7th. This week TUS frontman Jesse Elliott offered WLDC’s Alexia Kauffman a little peek inside his mind. Check it out here.

Alexia: How did you first start playing music?

Jesse: Honestly, it was like soccer, or math club, or all these strange things we got signed up for when we were very young and couldn’t possibly know any better and they turned out to be these beautiful human endeavors that people had been doing for centuries, just a goal and a ball and a bunch of other humans to kick it all around between. 
Alexia: Was there any artist or album that first sparked your love of rock music?

Jesse: The Who. 
Alexia: You all were based in DC for a while- what was the catalyst for your move?

Jesse: We were moving around so much, it just made sense to keep moving. we had one foot on the platform, at one point, and then all of a sudden both of them were on the train, and we couldn’t say why, but even the platform looked perfect in the distance, from that far away – so why not? 
Alexia: You are a really prolific group, what’s the songwriting process like for you? 
Jesse: It’s like experiments, like they do in science, and so once you start you feel professionally obligated to try every possible permutation until you’re dead and gone, which we’re not yet, so here we are still mixing up vials that we won’t ever really understand, thank God.

Alexia: Your new album These United States sounds great- it’s really fun, and has a really full, beautiful sound. Can you tell me a little about making this album?  
Jesse: It took a very long time, by our standards, and a whole lot of people. It’s the science thing we were just talking about, and somehow I convinced Justin and Tom and Duane and Robby and Rob and Kyle and all our friends and even enemies and everyone else who helped out that we had just one more turn to go until we would see the light, so I think we’re just about to see it any minute now.
Alexia: What inspires you?

Jesse: A Short History of Nearly Everything

Alexia: Do you have any favorite moment or weird story from tour?

Jesse: We had this strange dark fluorescent mystical night of a thousand insect bites, almost a plague it seemed at one point, like the whole world was attacking us with a single moment, and maybe even wanted us gone, even though there’s no way that the Blue Ridge Mountains could even possibly care whether we were here or we were gone, and right when the biggest spider I’d ever seen outside of the Boundary Waters was just about to attack, I devised this clever escape route, and my bandmates who the hell knows why they followed me through this trap door I had made up just by virtue of my own dumb mind, and right when we dropped through and suddenly thought all was even more lost than it had been the moment before, cause it really was all that much darker and deeper than we had previously been, right then, Anna struck a match, and there in the cellar was sitting A Short History of Nearly Everything. Weird.

Alexia: I saw that you recently played a show opening for Willie Nelson! What was that like?

Jesse: Willie Nelson is a motherfucking genius. Every nod of his head, every single syllable he gives to another person. I’ll never understand it, and I swear I’ll try my hardest until my dying day not to even try. 

Alexia: What are you listening to these days?

Jesse: Willie Nelson.
Alexia: What’s on the horizon for TUS?

Jesse: A Short History of Nearly Everything

Check out the video for “Everything Touches Everything” by These United States here!

See These United States play this Saturday, July 7th at Black Cat!

These United States

w/The Henry Clay People

and Kingsley Flood

$13/ mainstage/doors at 9:00pm

Alexia Kauffman

Alexia was born and raised in Arlington, VA. She has been a cellist since age four, and a lover of rock & roll soon after. The first tape she owned was “Make It Big” by Wham, and the first tape she bought was Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and she still loves both. She was a member of local synth-rock outfit Soft Complex for several years, and has recorded with bands including Engine Down and Two if By Sea. By day she works for a non-profit distributing royalties to musicians and labels. She currently plays cello, lap-steel guitar and tambourine in the DC post-folk/Americana band The Torches.

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