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Reporter goes backstage at Legends with The Format

Jess Shaffer | Monday, December 3, 2007

Though the combination of water bottles and Coronas had a place in The Format’s backstage hangout, there were no hordes of groupies to be found. Instead, some comfy couches, an Apple computer and college football set the scene. The Format’s personality is about as upfront and sincere as any fan would expect. The best way to describe the band’s members is refreshingly down to earth.

The group’s founders, Nate Ruess and Sam Means, are currently taking time off from full band performances, using the free time to relax and work on new material while intermittently playing at university venues. They cited favorite shows at schools in Irvine, Phoenix and Memphis. But they haven’t all been easy, low maintenance appearances. Under previous conditions of obnoxiously early slots or equipment lost in poor flight connections, the band did admit to not always being on its A-game.

Its talent doesn’t seem to be too threatened by flukes. The band has received critical praise for its unique sound. It must have something going for it to draw hundreds of fans to Legends Saturday, despite sleet storms and campus wind tunnels. Perhaps The Format’s commitment to creating complete, cohesive albums, rather than CDs of singles surrounded by fillers, keeps fans wanting more.

Musical purity of this type reflects the band’s appreciation for 1960s and 1970s music. When asked about its interest in rock’s golden age, the band noted an admiration for the quality of work and the experience of that time but also valued the merits of the current music scene. Though Means did admit to not know what fans were doing the first time he saw lighted cell phones wave in the air, don’t look to this band to preach about returning to the integrity of lighters.

This intelligent balance of respect for the past and contentment with the present explains The Format’s all-time favorite bands, the Beatles and Lindsey Buckingham. It also accounts for its gratitude for being compared to bands like Jellyfish. Overall The Format isn’t too concerned with rivalry.

When asked who its biggest competition was, The Format answered Steel Train. But not for the reasons you might think. Ruess grumbled that touring companions always beat them in bowling and dodge ball matches. Maybe The Format would have a better chance against Fleetwood Mac, the act the band said it would most like to tour with.

The Format’s unassuming vibe speaks well to its ideas on the progression of its style, leaving it free of pretention. The group wants to make each record better than the next, and it looks forward most to playing its new material at concerts. It was most excited to sample its new song, Bends and Hedges.

While the band conceded that “money is awesome,” it also maintained that being satisfied with its work is paramount. The Format isn’t about to sacrifice the veracity of its talent for a larger fan base or more profit.

While band members said they value fan interest, they’re not concerned with catering to their fan base. Luckily for them, they earn enough that they don’t have to work – a luxury that grants them more time to work on their music.