We're really nervous! confesses Format front man Nate Ruess from his cell phone the day before his band prepares to embark on their first Japanese tour. I was talking to Jim from Jimmy Eat World today, and he told me that it's customary to bring gifts to the Japanese people. So we bought them hot sauce and dried scorpions, some of Arizona's tackiest souvenirs!
For the Format, an opportunity for a tour of Japan is just another symbol of the Peoria, Arizona band's growing success. Along with Format co-founder/fellow songwriter Sam Means, touring band mates Mike Schey, Don Raymond, Marko Buzard and Sean McCall, Ruess attributes the band's growing fan base to a combination of both the internet and word-of-mouth. He also feels that a band has earned a solid reputation when it comes to their shows. We really pride ourselves on being a good live band, Ruess explains. I think we stand out because we are unconventional with everything we do, from touring to writing, and it crosses over well to the crowd and they like that.
For a band that took their name from a satire on the redundancy of songs on the radio, the band doesn't follow a conventional blue print for their sound in the least. This is obvious when comparing the band's pop-driven first full-length release, Interventions and Lullabies to their latest Dog Problems, which features a deeper variety of instrumentation, inspiration and sounds. It would be really nice to think that the progression was natural, but we really wanted to challenge ourselves, says Ruess. It was really easy for us to write pop songs like those on Interventions, so we wanted to try harder to experiment by bringing in new sounds like horns, and trying to pay homage to the bands that inspired us. We always want to be different with each album we put out.
Before recording Dog Problems, the Format were dropped by Atlantic records, and decided to put the album out on their own indie label tied into Nettwerk Records. Ruess says that he and Means actually saw this as a great opportunity. We really wanted to be dropped. Sam and I were signed at such a young age thinking it was the be all end all, but we got really bitter working with that record company because they wanted us to be a certain way. Now we are in control, working with great people who respect us and aren't just looking for dollar signs. Ruess continues, We'd always be interested in hearing offers from major labels if the deal was beneficial for us and we had creative control, but right now Sam and I have surpassed all of our expectations, and are happy.
An aspect of the band's songwriting that is particularly interesting is the contrasting of Ruess' strongly emotional lyrics over bright and feel good music. I've always wondered why that is too, Ruess laughs. I feel like it's a shear coincidence. When I was writing Dog Problems I was in an emotional wreck state, but when it came out people kept saying that it was a very summer record. I think it's just the nature of pop music and the chords we used.
Just like their sound, the bands that the Format has toured with differ quite drastically. The band has opened for everyone from Taking Back Sunday to O.A.R. Ruess admits that some of the bands they have played with haven't been the best fit. I can't lie, it kind of bugs me. We're really grateful to have a lot of bands take us out, and they're all really great to the kids, but I don't know 90% of them and it sucks, he explains. If we want to play a slower set or a dynamic show, sometimes we get heckled and it just sucks. We really just want to move on and do our own thing.
In recent months the Format has had their music featured on a couple of MTV shows, and even made an appearance on one. Ruess shrugs this off stating, Those are just bonuses for us, and we're not banking our careers on that. We appreciate it, but we really just love to tour and play.
Ruess was more positive however on the bands recent network TV debut on Carson Daly's talk show. We're very cynical people, and we went into the taping thinking the worse and feeling very intimidated. But everyone was really nice to us, and a tonne of our fans were there which was great. I even watched it! Ruess says excitedly.
Ruess says that he and Means are currently working on constructing new Format songs but are in no rush to release a new full length. I'm really proud of the material that both Sam and I are writing right now, but were not working on a new album yet. I really want the next album to be a full band collaboration, says Ruess. We are recording a kids song for a compilation that is coming out on Nettwerk that was quick to write, but a lot of fun, and we are going to put out a live DVD.
Ruess promises that the Format will be touring in full force again this year. I promise with all my heart that we will be back to Canada. For sure this summer!
For upcoming tour dates, check the bands website at theformat.com.