GEMS Is No Longer A D.C. Band, But We’ll Try Not To Hold That Against Them

By Ally Schweitzer

Ex-D.C. duo GEMS has a new city (boo!) and a new album coming soon (yay!)
Ex-D.C. duo GEMS has a new city (boo!) and a new album coming soon (yay!) Kristen Wrzesniewski

Circa 2012, dream-pop duo GEMS sounded refreshing amid D.C.’s somewhat conservative indie-rock scene.

Processed with VSCOcam with b4 preset

Kill the One You Love

With floaty songs like “Pegasus” and “Never Age,” University of Virginia grads Lindsay Pitts and Cliff Usher tapped into a sound sweeping cool music blogs at the time: teary electronic pop indebted to British record label 4AD.

It was a somewhat engineered choice, as Usher told Washington City Paper in 2013. Pitts and Usher had been getting nowhere with their previous band, indie-folk act Birdlips. Reinventing themselves as GEMS, with a sleeker style and trendier sound, nearly guaranteed the musicians a bigger audience.

Now GEMS seems closer to the break it’s always wanted, with a publicity firm, a record deal and a formal debut — Kill the One You Love — expected out Oct. 30. The pair has already released two songs from the LP: “Living As A Ghost,” premiered in August by NPR, and “Tangled Memories,” a single the band dropped today.

But while Kill the One You Love will come out on D.C. imprint Carpark Records, GEMS is no longer a D.C.-area band: Pitts and Usher recently relocated to Los Angeles, the city that seems to have displaced New York as the No. 1 destination for D.C.’s aspiring music stars.

For local fans of GEMS, the duo’s departure may feel like a betrayal — but the same couldn’t be said of their new music. It’s as morose and pristine as ever.

GEMS plays U Street Music Hall Oct. 23 with Autre Ne Veut.