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United Nations is a screamosupergroup whose roots go back to at least 2005.
They consider "screamopower-violence"
as their main influence.
United Nations was started by Geoff Rickly, the vocalist/lyricist of the band Thursday. Other artists initially involved in the project possibly included Daryl Palumbo, vocalist of Glassjaw and Head Automatica, and Ben Koller, drummer for Converge. However, all members except for Rickly were under contracts with other record labels and were not legally permitted to work in projects released by another label, making it difficult for the official lineup to be well known.
Since Rickly is the only member whose primary band is currently not under contract, his name is the only one that can legally appear in press materials.
Press photos of the band released in 2008 depict four people wearing Ronald Reagan masks.
The idea of the side project can be traced back to the early 2000s,
but it was not until 2008 that United Nations took shape. In 2008, the band recorded enough material for two studio albums, two extended plays, and one parody album that would be released at some point.
The band was uncertain if these would be the only releases by the band, or if the band will regroup to record more songs.
United Nations released their self-titled debut on September 9, 2008, through Eyeball Records. The band was ready to release the album with essentially the same photo cover for the iconic cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road, with the exception of The Beatles engulfed in flames and walking to the left rather than the right. When stores began refusing to sell the album, pressing was halted with 1,000 albums already made. These were sold exclusively through the Eyeball Records webstore,
and it was later released with a different cover. The album received minor success and while it didn't chart on the Billboard 200, it did chart at number 44 on the Billboard Independent Albums and number 14 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers.
The vinyl pressing of the album (also limited to 1,000 copies) was intended to include a Kidz Bop version of their self-titled album, titled United Nations Plays Pretty For A Bunch Of Fucking Babies. However recordings of this album were lost.
Poster for United Nations' first show. Darkest Hour was added after poster was made.
At the time, United Nations detailed several possible future releases that were already recorded. One included a 7" EP that was released on Deathwish Inc. titled Never Mind the Bombings, Here's Your Six Figures, which was expected to face similar copyright issues due to the title and cover's parody of the Sex Pistols' album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.
Also announced, but not released as of 2014, a 10" vinyl EP titled Music For Interchanging Parts to be released on Temporary Residence which features one song in many parts, and a studio album titled Dark Side Of The UN. United Nations played their first show on January 20, 2009, the day of Barack Obama's presidential inauguration. They played alongside Anti-Flag, Darkest Hour, Ruiner, and The A.K.A.s in Washington DC.
Exactly four years after their first show, United Nations performed live on January 20, 2013, in Washington DC with Old Lines and Black Clouds.
In October/November 2013, United Nations toured the eastern US with Pianos Become the Teeth and Circle Takes the Square. The lineup for this tour featured Rickly, Jonah Bayer (Lovekill), Lukas Previn (Acid Tiger), and David Haik and Zac Sewell (Pianos Become the Teeth).
United Nations released their second studio album, The Next Four Years, on July 14, 2014 through Temporary Residence Limited.
The release of the album was preceded by a stream of "Serious Business". Following the release, the band toured the US in August 2014.
Before United Nations's Brooklyn set in August 2014, Jonah Bayer's sister and Saturday Night Live cast member Vanessa Bayer came on stage and roasted the band.
Musically, United Nations takes influence from mid 1990s screamo,
hardcore punk, powerviolence,
and post-hardcore bands such as Refused,
Nation of Ulysses,
Reversal of Man
and bands signed to Gravity Records
or Ebullition Records.
Their genre is also often described as grindcore.
United Nations pays tribute to the band's from which they take their influence from in their albums. On their self-titled debut album, the song titled "The Shape of Punk that Never Came" pays tribute to Refused's album The Shape of Punk to Come – most notably in the lyric "Dennis, are you listening? Is there something that I'm missing?" which is directed toward Dennis Lyxzén, the lead singer of Refused. The album United Nations Plays Pretty For A Bunch Of Fucking Babies was inspired by Nation of Ulysses' album Plays Pretty for Baby. Lyrically, United Nations has songs that feature both comical songs with assistance from comedy group Stella and comedian Kristen Schaal, and also songs that about social and political values. More specifically, United Nations was inspired by bands that "raised questions about political corruption, social inequity, personal responsibility and artistic freedom"
in opposition to bands that are more concerned with pop culture. Geoff Rickly commented on his vision for the band:
To me, it was like, maybe speaking sincerely about things isn't enough to make people pay attention. Maybe you have to make fun of people — and be a mirror — to show them how stupid they look, to get their attention. That's the idea. Punk is just way too safe these days, so we're hoping by making some audacious claims and doing some strange things and breaking a few laws, we can get people to think at least. It's the idea that you need to embrace the absurdity or it will fucking kill you. The world doesn't make sense, and trying to make sense of it is a fool's errand.
Original controversial cover art.
Before its release, stores refused to sell the band's debut self-titled album because of trademark issues. As a result, only 1,000 copies were made with the controversial cover, and later copies were made with an alternative cover. The one thousand original copies were sold exclusively through the band and Eyeball Records.
The actual international organization, United Nations, after which the band is named, discovered that a musical group had formed under the name of United Nations, and ordered Facebook to remove their official page.
After deleting their page, Facebook informed the band about the removal and also stated, "The use of the name 'United Nations' by the Band and the use of its Logo which resembles the UN emblem has not been authorized and violates international and United States laws..."
The band's record label comically responded the situation stating, "The United Nations, an international organization of some kind, has been taking issue with the band that shares its name. Who had the name first remains open to debate, but the problem exists nonetheless."
Their label also hinted at the possibility of no longer being able to release their debut album. In December 2008, a little over a month after the band's Facebook was deleted, their MySpace page was also deleted.
Due to the nature of the band, it is unclear who exactly is a member of United Nations at any given time. Early promotional images of the band depicted four people wearing Ronald Reagan masks, and all contributors were contractually obligated to remain anonymous.
The only member not under contract was Geoff Rickly of the band Thursday, for press and media purposes. However, Jonah Bayer and Lukas Previn later became publicly announced members of United Nations as well.
Many sources claim that Daryl Palumbo, Ben Koller, and also members of various bands signed to Eyeball Records contributed to United Nations.
The cease-and-desist letter sent to the band by the actual United Nations to Facebook to remove the band's profile listed approximately 30 people who the government entity suspected as being band members at the time.
In an 2008 interview with Rickly, he discussed the inclusion of non-instrument playing members, such as the comedy group Stella and comedian Kristen Schaal who helped write lyrics, and the creators of Homestar Runner who acted as "directors" for the band.
In a 2013 interview with Rickly, he elaborated on the revolving line-up of United Nations, stating: "The reason that we've been able to kind of get away with playing when we want to is because we change members and because we've never copyrighted any of the songs to any member. So, it's really hard to say who made what and who was just playing for a little while. That's something that has protected us — the anonymity of the band, the changing nature of the band — it's like, 'Well i was only in it for a little while, and then it was these guys, and then it was these guys, and then it was these guys...'"
In the same interview, managing editor of Alternative Press Scott Heisel asked Rickly if, because he is the only well-known member of United Nations, he was afraid of taking the full blame for any of the band's controversial or potentially illegal activity. He responded: "I don't feel like many bands take chances anymore. There's a lot of talk about being punk and revolutionary and this and that, but it's also awfully safe — punk seems awfully safe to me now, so I like the idea of doing something that's actually dangerous."