Five Questions … with Jesse Elliott of These United States

September 7th, 2011


Although These United States formed just five years ago, they’ve already put out four full-length albums. Armed with an increasingly deep catalog, the prolific quintet has toured extensively throughout the US, England and other parts of Europe, gaining a reputation for lively shows that aren’t to be missed. And to make sure you don’t, head to Mercury Lounge tomorrow night to see These United States (above, playing “Pleasure and Pain and Pride and Me” and “Honor Amongst Thieves” in Washington Square Park for Baeble Music) live. In advance of the show frontman Jesse Elliott e-mailed The House List from Fedora to answer Five Questions.

You’ve been putting out an album a year since 2008. Are you guys working on anything new for later this year or in 2012?
Yeah, we’ve been heading back to Lexington[, Ky.,] every few weeks all year long, experimenting more than working this time around, taking our time, maybe realizing finally that most of the best things come fast but a few do come slow. Should have a new litter of beautiful, feral pups to sick on the world by next year. I mean, if not by 2012, then when, post-apocalypse?

What’s the toughest part about playing New York City?
Having to leave the next morning.

What music or song always makes you dance?
LCD Soundsystem. Genius.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
If you’ve leaned on a certain set of crutches for a very long time, you can start to develop your very own rhythm on them, you know. You start to hear more subtleties in each click. It starts to be more about the surface you’re traveling on rather than the crutches themselves. You start to travel down different types of surfaces just so you can hear the same set of crutches on them. Your ears get more sensitive to that kind of change. Maybe you get better at what you make or maybe you’re just more sensitive and that’s all.

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
I have to be really depressed to write any kind of song—sad one, happy one, bittersweet, melancholy, exuberant. I don’t get depressed very often, because the world is a beautiful place even when bad things are happening to you. So when I do find myself in that blessed depressed place, I gotta move very, very quick. I gotta go down to the corner cafe with Miguel, fast as we possibly can, throwing shoes and shirts on fast, order two jalapeños from Annie—again, fast— move through it all like a fast angry bulldozer, merciless, pointed right straight at that song, no regard for life or limb, fantasy or feeling, whether anything at all ever really happens to you alone or whether it happens to everyone all at once. Hopefully the latter. Let’s pray the latter. —R. Zizmor