Good music often reads like poetry. It is a conglomeration of beautifully flowing lyrics subtly offset by musical artistry. All of the elements blend together seamlessly without one overpowering another and it is riddled with hints of allegorical mystery and creative ingenuity. It is a lyrical journey through the mind of the poet and, when done correctly, evokes a sense of escapism.
Washington D.C.’s very own These United States, who will be kicking off their 33-city tour on March 3 at IOTA Club & Café in Arlington, Va., have mastered this format and deliver songs that softly whisper poetic prowess. Helmed by singer/songwriter/poetic mastermind Jesse Elliot, These United States takes its listeners through a musical journey that Elliot describes as a “.word-pop jangly rail yard dreamer (that) sounds like Johnny Appleseed, crazy, with a pot on his head, walking the million miles, barefoot, singing to the birds.” Can you see the poetic tendencies already?
Elliot tells the tale of a band that “meandered and exploded, bubbling up from different people in various formations and deformations.” These United States is a collaboration of more than 30 D.C. and Chicago-based artists all under the guidance of Elliot, who converge into one harmonious sound.
With a penchant for Johnny Appleseed, the Muppets, Amelia Earhart and the Ocean, These United States blends folk, rock, blues and traces of pop on their debut album, “A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden” (United Interests) – set to release March 4 after the start of their tour. Elliot cleverly illustrates the album as “People running away from the gardens [of Eden] and into the forests . war, peace, love, hate, death, breath, sound- it is all there.” What started as stories on paper soon translated into a musical tour de force that portrays what Elliot calls “a beautiful raving lunatic Frankenstein with heads and body parts from all different directions.” With online indie music Journal Daytrotter calling it “one of the best records you will hear this year,” “Eden” makes These United States a must listen to for any music fan.
While the writing and recording process may be considered unconventional, the band’s 33-stop tour that starts on the eve of their album release is truly unique. Each of the 33 shows will consist of a completely different lineup, with the exception of Elliot, and create a new and innovative approach to each song for every show. With joy and passion, Elliot views the tour as a natural extension of the writing process. With his mix-and-match band of musicians, Elliot will “mix songs up, shake ’em down, rough ’em up, hang their clattering skeletons in the breeze and piñata them with new flesh.” What this ambitious and exciting tour will create is a fresh and unique experience for each and every stop, thereby creating a truly one-of-a-kind experience for concert-goers around the country.
For their show at IOTA on March 3, These United States will play the entire 36-minute album in what Elliot calls “the strangest Monday night that’s ever happened to Arlington.” Additionally, they will be joined by friends and fellow musicians The Federal Reserve Collective (no, not the bank.)
While These United States may be a band spread out between two cities, Elliot firmly roots the project in D.C. They prove that there is more to the District than Fugazi, Jazz and GW’s very own Jukebox the Ghost. They are part of the ever-growing D.C. “indie” scene, which includes bands like Kitty Hawk, Le Loupe and Georgie James. In pioneering fashion, D.C. is quickly becoming a musical forced to be reckoned with.
When asked how These United States deals with making such forward-thinking music in a relatively off-the-map city for creative indie rock, Elliot simply replied, “I think people know where Washington, D.C., is. We’ll tell them as politely as possible, if they don’t.”
These United States will be performing their CD release show Monday March 3 at IOTA Club & Café (2832 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, Va.) with The Federal Reserve Collective. Doors open at 5 p.m. and tickets are available for $10 at the door only. The show is 21+.