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Format for unhappiness - Metro US

Format for unhappiness

Photograph by Jim Newberry

Download Dog Problems for free before The Format’s Aug. 7 show at the Croatian Cultural Centre at: www.theformat.com. The Format are, from left, Mike Schey, Sam Means, Marko Buzard, Nate Ruess, and Don Raymond.

Pop music and summer go together like beaches and barbecues.

Taking a cue from Southern California’s golden surf era, Arizona’s The Format is grounded in the sunny melodies of pop’s heyday. Vocalist Nate Ruess explained he and multi-instrumentalist Sam Means craft tunes from music they consider the world’s best: ’60s pop.

“Everything sounded better then,” he said. “Songs were so much better, the way they were built and recorded, and what the musicians were doing sounded really good.”

However, Ruess said those songs weren’t perfect. Aside from a few choice Beatles tunes, he didn’t like the lyrics of the ’60s and ’70s. Like fellow indie pop groups Of Montreal and The Shins, The Format replace happy-go-lucky themes with melancholy lyrics that appear in stark contrast to the musical hooks.

For example, the storyline running through the band’s latest, Dog Problems, tracks a couple’s attempts to resuscitate their dying relationship. Ruess said at first, he planned to make the theme even more pronounced and end on a happy note, but toned it down during writing.

“There was going to be a big realization at the end where everything was supposed to be happy,” he said. “But when I was writing about being happy, I realized I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t going to be able to fake it. Things were going badly.”

Along with losing his girlfriend, in fall 2005 Ruess’ band was dropped by their record label, and so released Dog Problems independently. Now recovered from both situations, Ruess is excited about the possibilities of recording on his own imprint, and is focusing on less personal, more perceptual writing.

“(Now we’re on our own label) everything is so much easier — it’s nice to be in control of our own destiny,” he said. “(But at first) it was really scary.”

rob.mcmahon@metronews.ca

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