Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Photo by Sarah Jurado

The seven-piece dance party band USE, nee United State of Electronica, is just about ready to release their long-awaited sophomore album L O V E W O R L D. Despite the time in between LPs, USE’s prominence hasn’t waned and they’ve remained one of the most popular bands in the northwest.

The next USE show is at Bumbershoot, on Sunday, September 6 at 4:15pm on the Broad Street Stage. It will be just two days prior to the digital release of L O V E W O R L D. The band is set to embark on a brief tour down the west coast.

I met up with USE’s two female singers, Amanda Khanjian and Carly Nicklaus (full disclosure: the latter has been a close friend for several years), over drinks at a Capitol Hill bar during happy hour to talk about the delay between USE albums, making music in a band with seven people and playing reunion shows for a band that had never broken up. As USE is one of the most fun bands to watch live, it should be unsurprising that this was one of the most fun interviews I’ve done.

I guess we should start with the question that you’re probably getting asked repeatedly, the last USE album was out in 2003 and now it has taken six years for the new album to come out. What’s been going on in the past six years?

Amanda: A lot happened: five people (in the band) got married. It (also) took a really long time writing the record.

Carly: When did we start recording?

Amanda: Almost two years ago now.

Carly: We did take a break, but we’ve been working on the record.

Amanda: There was the “reunion” show we played at the Comet (in 2007) but we never broke up! We were working on it and living our lives and working on the record. It definitely wasn’t on purpose that it took so long.

Carly: I don’t think any of thought it would take so long. It just did.

Were you getting tired of getting asked “when is the next USE record coming out?”

Carly: It was nice that people didn’t forget about us.

Amanda: We’ve all been really excited for it to come out for so long, so it’s exciting to hear that people want it to come out. That definitely wasn’t going to make me tired of hearing it. I felt bad because I was saying “next month” for two years.

Carly: It kept getting pushed back and back but we finally have a release date now.

You mentioned that “reunion” show at the Comet and if I remember correctly, USE was a “surprise” guest and the lineup was with The Lashes and Carly’s band, The Catch. But it didn’t stay secret for very long.

Carly: It took the pressure off of us because we didn’t have to promote the show plus playing at the Comet is really fun because it’s like playing a house party. It was just awesome.

Amanda: And then the power went out.

Carly: Yeah, we blew the power out. There’s a rad YouTube video that someone put up and all of the lights are off and the only time you can see us is when cameras are flashing and then at the end of the song, all of the power goes completely off.


Is the band now officially named “USE” and not “United State of Electronica”?

Carly: I think it still is.

Amanda: I think most of us prefer USE.

Carly: I don’t.

Amanda: But some people sometimes say “States of Electronica” but I think we’re fine either way.

Some people have referred to you as “Use” in conversation with me and I have no idea who in the hell they’re talking about.

Amanda: We get that a lot.

Carly: When we first started we always used to call ourselves “Use”. And we still do – sometimes.

How did you write this record? Does each person write their own parts individually?

Carly: We spend hours and hours jamming in the practice space. It’s really, really collaborative.

Amanda: But Carly will come up with an awesome melody or some of the “girl” parts.

Carly: Yeah, it starts with someone playing something and everyone joins along. It’s kind of a long way to work, but it’s been the way that we do it.

And we don’t have a “lead man” or a main songwriter.

I believe you both sing more on this record than on the previous one, am I wrong about that?

Amanda: No, I think we’re on this one more.

Carly: I think for myself, it was purposeful to get a lot more involved with the process.

Was that because The Catch isn’t really making any more music or playing right now?

Carly: Maybe that played a factor, but The Catch was still playing when we were writing the record. I just was more in to it and wanted to be a bigger part of the writing. Maybe I was that much more comfortable than I was seven years ago, when we wrote the first one.

Amanda: Sometimes we had the melody down but weren’t sure of the lyrics and added them at the last minute.

Carly: Yeah, we wrote a lot of the lyrics in the studio.

Amanda: We’d go off in a room while everyone else was recording their parts and write the lyrics.

Photo by Sarah Jurado

I also felt like this record sounds more like a pop record. There seems to be less reliance on the vocoder, for example.

Carly: I think we sound more like a band than a DJ. We sound more “for real” but I thought the first record was pretty poppy too.

I thought that album was very catchy, too.

Carly: We all sing a lot more. Me and Amanda sing a lot more, but the boys sing a lot more, especially Noah.

Carly: He only used a vocoder before and now he also sings with his own voice.

Amanda: I feel like this is more of a rock record sometimes, too. It has that “rock” sound.

I understand what you’re saying. I thought the guitars were a lot more prominent too.

Carly: This record has a lot more depth, too, in some ways. I think it’s a lot more thoughtful and eclectic.

Amanda: The themes of the record are a lot more complicated.

Carly: It’s a little bit more serious. It’s still really fun but a bit more serious, too.

Amanda: Like “What We Fightin’ 4?”

The record comes out next week, but what’s been the response from people who have heard it?

Carly: Well, they’re all really, really good friends.

Amanda: Yeah, they’re all people who already love us – except for the magazine (a rave, 8 out of 10 review in Spin).

Carly: That was the first thing we got from someone who wouldn’t care if he hurt our feelings.

What are USE’s short-term plans? The record comes out next week, digitally (on Tuesday) and then you’re touring the west coast, right?

Amanda: Just rocking the record.

Carly: Yeah, just trying to support the record. We’re talking about possibly going back on tour in October.

Amanda: I want to see how the kids will react; the five and under crowd.

Did five year olds love the last album?

Amanda: Oh my god. I was thinking (specifically) of my cousin’s kid. She loved it and partied on stage with us once.

Carly: You know it’s good if little kids like it.

{USE photos by the de-lovely Sarah Jurado}