Broken Smiles: USS Calls It Quits, Announces New Album

After more than 15 years and countless headstand spins, USS is pulling the plug. 

The band announced Monday morning that it was time to hang up the DJ headphones, restring the guitar and see where their music would take them…as two separate, hugely talented people: Ash Boo-Schultz/Bucholz and Jason “Human Kebab” Parsons.

On Friday, fans were delighted by a new single from the band, “Happy,” which will now stand as the first song from their final album, Einsteins of Consciousness, due out in January. 

It’s yet another reason 2020 will be remembered as bittersweet: This is a band that has, for so many people, been a source of happiness, comfort, belonging and the feeling that no matter how bad things are, you’re going to make it to the other side. 

When the news came out Monday — during a particularly MONDAY Monday here, where my shoulder bag strap broke, I was almost late to work due to road construction and my security badge didn’t work — my first thought was of my uncle Lenny and my cousin Jenna. 

We went to see USS together on December 18, 2015, at the Rapids Theater in Niagara Falls. My uncle had seen them at least once before; I’m not sure if my cousin had, but we were so excited to go together. It was a little more than a day after I came home for Christmas and less than two weeks before I’d move back home to Buffalo for good. 

It was cold that night, as Decembers in WNY tend to be. We waited with the group of eager fans, shifting back and forth to stay warm, giggling from the cold as much as the anticipation. 

Canadian bands tend to sell out gigs in WNY on the regular, thanks to our shared radio stations and the (then) ease with which we could go back and forth, bands and fans, for shows in southern Ontario or Buffalo/Niagara Falls. When the lights were cut, we started dancing and didn’t stop for the entire set. (Hollerado opened; I had a very brief conversation with Menno at the merch table, asking — begging!!!– for them to play Firefly the next time they came to town. That’s another story.) 

At the time, my uncle was in his late 50s. You wouldn’t know it to see him dance — he’s got the energy and enthusiasm of a kid, arms all over the place, massive grin, more excitement and ambition than I expected. Jenna was a little more subdued but we all had a blast. 

After that, every time USS came to Buffalo, we were there. This was the thing we did together. This was *our band.* We saw them at least once more at the Rapids and at Canalside. The Canalside show was incredible: It was a really hot night after a rainy day so the air was incredibly thick. We hung back, under the Skyway, so we could have plenty of room. We needed it: I remember Jenna’s very long hair flying all over the place with abandon and no regard for appearances or a care in the world. I remember Lenny’s arms nearly hitting both of us as he flailed around and gave the music everything he had. I remember kicking my sandals off and dancing in the grass when “Damini” came on. By the end of the song, we were all out of breath, dizzy and exhausted. It was the finale but no one wanted to go home.  We were buzzing on the kind of electricity that comes from the kind of show that sticks in your memory long after your ears stop ringing.

“They just make me feel happy,” my uncle said when I called him Monday night. “I’m never in a bad mood, but they make me happy. When you’re dancing and listening to them, everything’s going good. Everyone’s having fun. Everyone’s having a great time. It’s just FUN. Everyone’s happy.”

My Aunt Trudy, his wife, echoed his feelings that the band just made her feel good whenever she heard them. “It was neat seeing everyone having a great time,” she said of a show at Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda, NY. (“Even if they were making complete idiots of themselves, lol,” she added.)

USS has that ability. They bring people together. It doesn’t matter your background, your typical band preferences, where you’re from, who you are, how you view the world, how loud or soft you like your music. USS is there to open your heart, make you dance, put a smile on your face and send you back into the world feeling like maybe, just maybe, everything might be OK after all. (Eventually.) They write positive songs that don’t try to wipe away or blink out of existence the negativity of the word, or anyone’s problems; they just want you to keep going, knowing that the sun will come up again. “We’re all the same blood, building the same frame, stuck in the same mud, cheating at the same game. We’re all the same nerve, feeling the same pain, stuck in the same curve.” None of us are alone in this mess. None of our victories are alone, either.

It also reconnects people. 

Andrea Garver is probably the biggest USS fan I know. If you’re a fan, you’ve seen her on Twitter posting pictures with the guys, at shows, fan club events, you name it. We knew each other as little kids — we’re talking like 7, 8, 9 years old, decades ago — and ended up working together in ‘16. This was not good news for her. 

She was introduced to USS through her husband, Anthony, but skipped one of USS’ shows at Artpark because she didn’t know the band yet and didn’t want to sit out in the rain. 

“Now I’d sit in a monsoon for them (and have, North Tonawanda show),” she says. 

“Fast forward to that winter and we went to see them on the second night of their double-header at Buffalo Iron WOrks. I was hooked. Immediately.” 

She agrees with my uncle: There’s something very special about USS. 

“Every single show I have a smile on my face and leave with no voice and sore legs from all the singing and dancing,” she says. “The rest is history. Thanks to them, I have made so many friends along the way. And I’ve really gotten to know them. Such humble, down-to-earth humans. What’s not to love?”

But keep dancing, USS fans. The guys are promising a proper farewell when it’s safe to do so. And remember: They’ve parted ways before, shortly after releasing Welding the C:/ in 2008. Human Kebab went to work on the Alberta oil pipeline and Ash went to the States to find himself, or at least kick around in the wilds of the Lower 48 for a bit. 

If The Edge playing “Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole” was enough to get the guys back together, maybe this won’t be the last we’ll see, or hear, of USS. 

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

One thought on “Broken Smiles: USS Calls It Quits, Announces New Album

  • October 28, 2020 at 4:30 am
    Permalink

    I love USS. This breaks my heart.

    Good article

    Reply

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