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Letting things fall into place

BY ERIC SUNDERMANN | OCTOBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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mp3 sample: These United States

"I Want You to Keep Everything"

These United States has one goal in mind right now. It’s not to be the best rock group on Earth, or to have a No. 1 hit, or to sell out Madison Square Garden. Instead, it’s to simply continue the drive down Interstate 80 — everything else will fall into the place.

These United States takes a moment to swing off the interstate for a show at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., at 9 p.m. today with Or the Whale and Spirits of the Red City. Admission is free.

“All you have in music is the next show, the next tour, or the next album,” band leader Jesse Elliott said. “It’s really hard to say if everything’s going to implode tomorrow or if everything is going to keep getting better for the next 40 years. And of course, the reality falls somewhere in between.”

The group formed a couple years ago somewhere between apartments in Iowa City and Chicago. Elliott (a former Daily Iowan staff member and UI alum) teamed up with David Strackany (also a former DI writer and an UI alum), who goes by the moniker Paleo, to release the band’s début album in March 2008. Since then, These United States has released two more albums in roughly a year and a half. Its latest album, Everything Touches Everything, dropped a few weeks ago.

Elliott said there is no real strategy to the nontraditional process of releasing numerous albums so quickly.

“It’s mostly to keep ourselves artistically satisfied and having a good time,” he said. “We play a lot of shows and I think if you’re not continually incorporating new stuff into what you’re doing, it can get old pretty quickly. There may not be any positive strategy behind it, but we just feel like doing it.”

KRUI director Nathan Gould points to the band’s Iowa City roots as a representation of how the town sticks out from other parts of the Midwest.

“It really shows how lucky we are,” Gould said. “We are kind of an oasis where people come to live for a few years. These United States shows that we have people here who are diverse individuals and then go out to the coast and have great success.”

The group’s new album explores many different themes of life, love, and death, taking its title Everything Touches Everything quite literally.

“It’s all over the map, no pun intended,” Elliott said. “The hope and exuberance that you get about certain times, but then also about the immediate crash, or hangover, or depression that can accompany that, and then things starting over again. It’s about cycles.”

The members of These United States toured like madmen over the past couple years, playing hundreds and hundreds of places. Elliott describes the live performance full of fun, upbeat energy, and ruckus. However, with so many shows, each one is different.

“It depends on how a particular room or a particular night or a particular city is feeling to us,” Elliott said. “Weather changes everything. People change everything. The physical setup of a room changes everything. We change everything.”


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