Messin’ with the Format

Apr 9, 2003 at 12:00 am

When most musicians hear about the Format’s rapid rise in the ranks of the pop world, they either want to hurl (in the gastronomic sense) or hurl themselves off a quiet bridge. Consider how young Arizonans Nate Reuss and Sam Means wrote and recorded a couple tunes as a lark 12 months ago and are now signed to Elektra Records, the historic home of the Doors and Bread. Consider how Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins thinks you’ll dig ’em. If you were to cut them open and count the rings, there’d probably be semicircles.

“We’re pretty young, 20 and 22 years old,” says Reuss, calling from Marina del Rey where the band is recording their debut album with producer R. Walter Vincent (Pete Yorn, Liz Phair).

Since the Format will be appearing in town around the same time as tax day, we’ve decided to use the H&R Block format and give you 15 reasons why you should let the Format have your undivided attention.


Reason No. 1: They’ve paid their dues already!

The Format aren’t overnight successes, having invested four years in such underage punk outfits as Nevergonnascore and This Past Year. Says Reuss, “Both bands broke up and Sam and I were tired of the whole pop-punk-type genre.” What they recently recorded was the brilliant five-song EP called EP, which mates the yearning choruses of Weezer with the classic singer-songwriters of the early ’70s.

Reason No. 2: Their name sucks — but it could’ve been worse. They could’ve ridden out the nerd-rock train with monikers like Nevergonnascore but instead they chose a name as boring as the Outfield.

Reason No. 3: Their keen sense of the occasion. The first song they wrote for this new project was the aptly named “The First Single.” Reuss: “When we first wrote ‘The First Single,’ we didn’t think anything of it. Next thing you know, people paid attention to it.”

Reason No. 4: They really want their second single to be “The First Single.” “’Cuz I don’t want to change the name,” says Reuss, who complains that he’s under pressure to do just that. “People have said it’s arrogant to call it that. But we were totally joking. We didn’t write the song to mean ‘this is our first single, yeah, we’re gonna be huge.’” Arrogant? Nonsense. It’s not like when Eric Carmen called the Raspberries’ last charting 45 “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” in a fit of desperation. Or dubbing his first solo single “All By Myself.” That took balls — balls of cheese, my friend.

Reason No. 5: In industry terms, they’re still pure as the driven snow.

When asked if they’ve met any creepy industry types, Reuss has nothing but praise for Elektra. “I’ve heard major-label horror stories, so I’m always on the lookout.” That’s called scout preparedness. Next!

Reason No. 6: They’ve been in LA for two months and haven’t fraternized with a celebrity. No spotting Jamie Farr at the greengrocers. No standing in an ATM line behind Carrot Top. Nothing.

Reason No. 7: Their EP is released through Jim Adkins’ imprint label, Western Tread.

Reason No. 8: They only listen to pre-Islam Cat Stevens.

“We listen to a lot of Cat Stevens. I don’t think necessarily the music you write should translate to sounding like the people that influence you.”

Reason No. 9: The duo obviously loves the White Stripes.

“Obviously, the White Stripes are an exciting band.”

Reason No. 10: They’re creating jobs during a tough recession.

Unlike the Stripes, the Format’s all in favor of adding personnel to the live set. “We do a lot of overdubbing in the studio … We want as many people as possible onstage, as many people as we can afford.” No word yet if they’ll also keep a coterie of roadies that dress like the Riddler’s henchmen.

Reasons No. 11-15: Their five EP tracks contain 0 percent filler. From the bubbly “First Single” to the beautiful “At the Wake,” the country rollicking “One Shot Two Shots,” the title-perfect “Let’s Make This Moment a Crime” and “Even Better Yet,” which has the same lurching rhythm as “London Calling,” this debut shows an authority and pop facility that escapes many elder combos.

So give a Phoenix duo a chance to win your hearts and you will have accomplished something worthwhile in 2003, even if it means letting “American Idol” keep your player-hater muscles from atrophying.


The Format will perform Wednesday, April 23 on the Gullen Mall at Wayne State University. Socialburn is also on the bill. The free show starts at 3 p.m.

Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]