Attention downtrodden rock bands everywhere: If you think getting dumped by your girlfriend is rough, try getting dropped by your record label. Twice. Although they're still barely in their twenties, that's exactly what happened to Sam Means and Nate Ruess, otherwise known as The Format. However, instead of letting the experience destroy them, the band has transformed the ordeal into something positive. (Hell, they threw parties both times it happened.)
"It sort of mockingly turned the whole major-label side of the music business into a dance," explains Ruess about one of Dog Problems' most telling songs, "The Compromise." "There's a line, 'I can feel your feet touching mine,' which pretty much explains it all in the sense of 'if you're not willing to play the game, we'll just find someone else.' And that's quite alright with me." Although the band was inundated with major-label offers after their split with Atlantic, they decided to release under their own Vanity Label imprint, distributed by Sony/BMGa move that allowed them to make the album they wanted to make.
"It was great," says Ruess, describing the process of recording Dog Problems with producer Steve McDonald (Red Kross). "I'd go into the studio, make decisions and never have to hear things like, "I don't know if that has enough octane," he continues, laughing. "I feel like on the last record, we were pressured to make an album full of singles, and this time we could just do whatever we want." It's true; six of the songs on Dog Problems have full orchestration (three of which are arranged by Jellyfish mastermind Roger Manning), and while the band may not have felt pressured to write singles, well, nearly every song on the disc could be one.
However, the label issues are only part of the story behind Dog Problemsand hearing Ruess explain the album's title is the best way to understand where much of the album's emotional content came from. "The title Dog Problems comes from the fact that every time my longterm girlfriend and I got back together, we'd get a dog, thinking that it would save our relationship," Ruess explains. In fact, you can actually trace Ruess' tumultuous relationship through the songs on the album: "Matches" sets the scene and "I'm Actual" recounts the events actually going down, while songs toward the end of the disc have a sentimental and almost philosophical bent"Snails" in particular, which uses the animal as a metaphor for making the most of the time we have with our loved ones.
But even if you don't know what each song is about, the medium is also the message. With its horns and complex arrangements, "Dog Problems" has the scope of an elaborate show tune; "Oceans" is so instantly recognizable that it's difficult to believe you haven't heard it before; and "She Doesn't Get It," features a guitar intro based on Bruce Springsteen's "Growin' Up," but quickly morphs into a hook-filled anthem reminiscent of the band's pop-friendly peers. Ghosts of XTC, Harry Nilsson and, of course, The Beatles haunt the rest of Dog Problems, but the album also takes profound inspiration from Brian Wilson. "The new album is definitely a pop record; that's the only way I can describe it," admits Reuss, clearly referring to a time before Britney Spears and boy bands co-opted the term to sell SUVs.
However, despite all this, the most amazing part of The Format's still unfolding story is the way they've survivedno, thrivedin the face of adversity. In the past three years, the band has shared the stage with Motion City Soundtrack, Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional and kept their fans updated via "The Living Room" section of their Web site, where they've posted acoustic versions of Dog Problems songs to tide over their growing legion of listenersand somehow without MTV or radio play, their fanbase has grown exponentially.
So, how does it feel with the album finally set for release?
"It's so exciting," Ruess beams. "We were worried that since the record was delayed for a year, maybe people had forgotten about usbut our fanbase has tripled." He pauses, trying to articulate three years worth of work into one sentence. "I don't know how any of this has happened, but I feel like this is just the beginning."
Not reuniting just yet, but we're happy to announce new vinyl in honor of Dog Problems' 10 year anniversary!
There are reissues in new variants and for the first time, our EP in 10" Highlighter Yellow and B-Sides & Rarities in double ultra clear!
First 1k orders of ANYTHING NEW will receive a FREE Live at The Mayan DVD and instant digital downloads of both our 2006 live EPs.
hellomerch.com The Format Official Online Store. Your source for all The Format Merchandise including T-Shirts, Hoodies, CD’s, Vinyl LP’s, Posters, Stickers, Buttons and More!
10 Songs by Sam Means is out today on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Google, etc! Check it out!
itunes.apple.com Preview, buy, and download songs from the album 10 Songs, including ”How to Sing,” ”We're Alone,” ”Other Side of You,” and many more. Buy the album for $8.99. Songs start at $0.99.
Pre-orders for 10 SONGS by Sam Means are now available in his store. Stream both new songs there as well!
From Sam with love :)
"I am absolutely thrilled to announce my new album 10 SONGS will be released on Jan 22nd via Hello Records. The first single "We're Alone" is streaming RIGHT NOW through an exclusive premier with Stereogum and will be available in all digital outlets this Friday, October 23!" http://bit.ly/1Km8K71
stereogum.com Long before fun. took over the world with the virtually inescapable summer anthem "We Are Young," lead singer Nate Ruess was involved in another project called the Format with Sam Means. Having enjoyed success between 2001-2008, the band took an indefinite hiatus, leaving Ruess free to sing about Em…
Gahhhhhhh!!!!! My first solo album, Grand Romantic, is finally out today! It has been such a long wait and I couldn’t be happier than to share this with all of you.
Over the last few albums I've been a part of, I've kinda made it a thing to send along a note talking about how much went into it and what it means to me. But I think putting my name, alone, on it- says enough. Instead I'd just like to take a moment and say "thank you". For those that supported my music all the way back to The Format, and have continued till this day. And to everyone that's come along the way. I would have never taken this opportunity to create something I'm beyond proud of (and still haven't stopped listening to myself...which is a little dorky to admit) if it wasn't for what feels like endless support over the last 15 years. I can't wait to get back on the road and get a chance to thank you in person. But I hope in the meantime you listen and learn and sing. And most importantly- I hope the songs mean something to you the same way they do for me.
Get it on iTunes, Amazon.com, Google Play, stream it on Spotify or pick it up at your local record store.
- Nate Ruess
soundcloud.com Nate Ruess's debut solo album, Grand Romantic, out now on Fueled By Ramen Records. Pre-order Grand Romantic today at: iTunes: http://smarturl.it/grandromantic Google Play: http://smarturl.it/grand
Dog Problems vinyl misprints only $4, deluxe black vinyl only $15 and everything else in the store 20% off through the rest of the week @ theformatmerch.com
Sam Means is recording his debut full-length record with Dog Problems and Aim & Ignite producer, Steven McDonald, scheduled to be released summer 2015. Follow him on Facebook for updates! https://www.facebook.com/sammeanz