My hope is that you are reading this because you are interested. My hope is that you are reading this because you have been waiting. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve said anything, and for a lot of you it may have seen like I left on a weird note. For that I apologize but my hope is that you’ll feel that it was worth the wait. This letter is going out through The Format’s email list, so I’m hoping to talk directly to you, the folks who have always been so good to us.
The last time I wrote was when i had the unfortunate task of informing you that The Format had broken up. I must admit, it’s still kind of a touchy subject for me. After all, I spent almost seven years travelling the United States (and eventually much of the world) with some of my best friends, doing something that we all loved dearly. I had a great time doing what I love most; making and performing music. Sadly though, we made a decision to put The Format to the side and one of the best things about music is that it isn’t confined to working with only one specific group of people. I get to do it again.
For a music obsessive, one of the great things about touring is the opportunity to not only meet some of the most talented people on this planet, but its also the opportunity to make great friends and forge certain bonds. I can recall so many times when I’ve watched someone else on stage doing what they love and thinking to myself how fortunate I am to be in the same position. The day after The Format had broken up, I already knew that I couldn’t just call it quits. I wasn’t ready to give up music. I had a handful of songs that I was convinced were the best songs I’d written and I don’t think that I would have been able to live with myself if I had just left them to evaporate somewhere in the back of my mind. I don’t even think I had told my mother of the band’s demise before I made the two phone calls that set the amazing events of the past few months in motion.
Much like Dog Problems, some of the songs that I had been writing were in dire need of arrangements, harmonies, and a whole bunch of player piano. Did I ever know the guy: Andrew Dost. Hopefully you had the chance to see Andrew when he was in Anathallo, or when he was the seventh member of The Format on one of our ’Dog Problems’ tours. I remember being on tour with him and just being blown away at his ability to play almost every instrument with ease, sometimes switching from singing and playing the glockenspiel to playing the piano and flugelhorn (all mid-song!!!) (oh and I just read that last sentence back to myself and it reads like something out of the renaissance fair pamphlet). On that tour we spent many nights bonding over our love for Weezer b-sides, among many other things. So I called him, gave him the bad news, and asked him to help me finish these songs I’d been writing. He was anxious to get busy working on some of the rough song ideas I would send him. I remember a few days after we talked I was feeling really upset about how things were unfolding, when I received a call from his home in Michigan with the exclamation that he had written some harmonies to the end of a song I had sent him. I rushed home to download and proceeded to spend the rest of the day feeling invincible. Andrew and I were going to make a record, but I had one more phone call to make...
Whether I want to admit it or not, guitar is most likely (see...cant do it) my favourite instrument...I remember every great guitarist I’ve ever met (sure I can only count them on one hand) and since the moment I saw Jack Antonoff play he has always been the index finger. He and I can both vividly remember the first time we actually met, at a concert in New Jersey. We both remember thinking the other was an arrogant asshole. We were both kinda right. I barely got the words out of my mouth before he said yes, count him in. That fast.
At this point I was walking on air. We all made plans to meet in New York immediately. Looking back I didn’t know what I wanted to come out of this. I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t completely nuts, but in hindsight I must have been, because four days later we were sitting in Jack’s living room going over some of the music I had sent them. The first song we had worked on was "Benson Hedges" (the demo, which we record that very first day, is up on our MySpace). I remember Jack understanding it right away. He picked up the guitar and played it exactly the way I had heard it. Then there’s Dost: I had explained to him that when we would record the song properly, I would want a gospel choir. He said that he wanted a crack at it for the demo, so Jack and I left him alone for a while and tried our best not to laugh when we heard him singing so many different variations of "holyghost" from the other room. If only we had known what it was going to sound like when it was all said and done. My jaw dropped - in thirty minutes his one voice had recorded all of the harmonies and sketched out one heck of a gospel sound. We proceeded to collectively put more bells (literally) and whistles (the triangle) on the song and once Jack and Andrew had mixed it, we listened in a car in the garage and I had chills. If I had any fears or concerns, it was right then, once the song finished, that I knew I couldn’t have been in a better place. When we left New York after that first batch of demos, we knew that things were going to really change for us.
I flew back home to phoenix with the decision that it would be my last few weeks there. My girlfriend lives in New York. She and I had decided to get an apartment in Brooklyn. It was hard because Phoenix is "my city", despite the fact that I’ve been to 47 states (I keep count, sorry Alaska,
Maine and Montana) I had decided, like with many things in my life at the time, a change of scenery was in order. One of the first things I did when I got home was meet up with Sam to play him what we had been working on, after all, a few of the songs that we worked on were started by the both of us.
Sam, not only being one of my best friends, was also my musical companion for so long. Not only do I respect his opinion incredibly, but I also know that I need it. Fortunately he had the same excitement. It was nice to see a few of the songs that were to be on the next Format record ushered along NOT by strangers, but some of our good friends. Andrew came out to work for a week while i packed up, and a few weeks later i said an extremely tearful goodbye to my parents as I drove east.
The next few months had been more work, adjusting to the city and quietly figuring out who was going to help us on this crazy expedition. We didn’t have to go very far. Nettwerk was The Format’s management and really the company that helped ’Dog Problems’ become the off-the-beaten-path business success that it was. I was still being managed by them and when they heard the demos, they jumped (just like they did when they met Sam at our super-craziest, right before we got dropped. They’re nuts over there). I’ve been very lucky to have kept so many great friends through this whole thing, we have the same booking agent that we’ve had for the last six years, and he was one of, if not the first person, who really came forward to me and told me how important it was that I continue working and making music.
We are also very fortunate to be making a record with most of the same
Producers (their manager included!), arrangers, and musicians that helped me see out a dream when Sam and I made ’Dog Problems.’
And lately while jack has been on tour, Andrew and I have been jet-setting back and forth from New York to Michigan to Los Angeles getting all of the songs ready for when we head into the studio on September 1st. Somewhere in that time the very wonderful Andrew McMahon decided that he wanted our new band to play on his upcoming Jack’s Mannequin tour. I can’t begin to tell you how flattering it is that Andrew would have enough belief in us that he would take us on tour without our having made any official announcements about the band, let alone choosing a name. We were really taking our time and trying to get things right before this tour really set us into full motion.
So here I am now, months of silence and months of preparation, finally able to proudly introduce you to what has so gratefully been my life for the past seven months. I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous, and despite how much fun (ha!) I’m having there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about all of my friends in the format and the wonderful job we did for the last seven years. But things change and we have to move forward, I just never knew that I would be able to move this forward this fast. I’m dying to get back on stage and perform, I’m dying for you to hear what I get to hear. And I am so thankful for all of the support I’ve received from you guys over the last seven years and over the last seven months. So I really want this new band to be a celebration of the things we love and what it takes to accomplish and keep them. I can’t wait to keep doing this with Jack and Andrew and I am so fortunate to hopefully be a part of you, the listeners, lives. I’m not going anywhere. Why should you?
Ladies and gentlemen...
P.S. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU LISTEN LOUD.