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Tuesday, August 29, 2006
The Format's Nate Ruess - Interview
The Format's Nate Ruess was good enough to take time out of a very busy schedule and chat with us about his amazing band. We had so many questions and so little time; maybe next chance we can find out more about his extracurricular activities and non-band-related interests.
Noise for Toaster: Just getting the basic stuff out of the way. Where were you born?
Nate: I was born in Iowa City, Iowa.
NfT: When did you move to Arizona, then?
Nate: When i was four.
NfT: How about the first tape that you bought?
Nate: Um, I think it was Arrested Development.
NfT: And as for siblings, are you the oldest, the youngest, only..
Nate: I’m the youngest, I have a sister who’s a year older than me.
NfT: And favorite accompaniment for a peanut butter sandwich?
Nate: Mmm.. I think, bananas.
NfT: Bananas? I used to eat those all the time, when I was little.
Nate: They’re awesome. I could use one right now.
Now general band questions...
NfT: So, pretty much the favorite thing for article writers and reviewers to write about with you guys is the whole major label drop – and I’m not going to make you tell that story for the umpteenth time.
Nate: Thank you, thank you so much.
NfT: But as for the creative process in the studio, how is it to be working independently?
Nate: It’s unreal, I mean there’s no pressure to do what anyone wants you to do or expects you to do. And that was a good thing, because we wanted Dog Problems to be... well, I hate to say it, but Dog Problems was for us, and you know, if people want to jump on board and like it then that’s just an added bonus. It was a record we wanted to make for ourselves and just get out of our system. There were times where we went a little overboard, or didn’t get to go overboard enough, but it was all by our own choice.
NfT: So, where you guys come from – Phoenix?
Nate: Yeah, yeah, I’d say we’re from Phoenix, for sure.
NfT: Do you think it’s had an effect on the type of songs you’ve written?
Nate: I think to an extent, yeah. People keep talking about how it’s a summertime record, I think it’s just hot all the time so maybe that’s why they feel that way.
NfT: Did that have any impact on how you got signed to Elektra?
Nate: Oh, yeah, I don’t know, the radio station in Arizona played our songs a lot and I think that eventually lead to a major label finding us and signing us. It was a big station and they just loved the song, and it was a trip when it happened, because we just didn’t know anything, and we weren’t actually planning on doing anything.
NfT: This is such a crap question, but sometimes it needs to be asked. On today’s terms of success – like getting a track on The O.C. Soundtrack or some shit, or, well you guys were featured on Laguna Beach, I think I read – so, all of that stuff aside, how would you define a band being successful?
Nate: To me, success is what people decide is success. For me this has been such a huge success, just doing Dog Problems and doing it successfully, and doing it how we’ve always wanted to do. That’s all I was looking for. Everything else is just sort of extra icing. For other bands it might be about selling a million records or something like that. I’m just so content with what we’re at now, all of this is just extra stuff. I mean, I’m not gonna lie, I get excited when I find out how many records we’re selling or what shows sold out. It’s nice to know that what we’re doing, people are taking notice, but I think I would be at the same level of happiness just knowing that I made the record that I wanted to make.
NfT: We were personally impressed with the way you guys handled the album’s leak over the internet –
Nate: Oh, my.
NfT: - did you guys panic, or what?
Nate: I panicked for a second, then I realized that stuff like that constantly happens, and with this band bad stuff constantly happens and it’s best to just to – well, this was probably the second time – when we got dropped from the label it looked like potentially a bad thing but now we’re really sort of excited about it and we embraced it and sort of took that the same way with the album leaking, we kind of just embraced it, looking back now I’m so glad it happened.
NfT: and so you guys ended up selling it digitally.
Nate: Yeah, it ended up being great - and you know, then we didn’t shock the shit out of people with what the new record sounded like.
NfT: So the Queen harmonization thing – I’m sorry, everyone compares you to queen, I hope that’s cool – was that new for you on this record? Or was it the full orchestration?
Nate: We’re totally used to doing the big harmony thing, I don’t play an instrument so that’s all I can do. If I’m going to litter myself all over the songs then I’ve got to do it with oo’s and ahh’s. The orchestration was sort of a new thing for us, it was something we’ve always wanted to do, and we just demanded that that be the case for this record. Probably most records from here on out are going to have a pretty good deal of orchestration, it accompanies Sam and I so well.
NfT: Now for the touring bit, how does the orchestra work out on stage?
Nate: Oh well we’ve got this amazing band Anathallo out on the tour and they have horns and we have back up vocalists and horn players from that band. I feel like there’s nothing else you can really add to the songs, and in the live setting nothing’s really missing. After this tour I’m not sure, maybe we’ll just continuously bring out a band with a horn section, or we might add another member, I don’t know.
NfT: So any embarrassing tour detail stories?
Nate: Um, just pretty much me out there on the stage every night, I feel pretty embarrassing.
NfT: Why? [Laughs]
Nate: I’m out there and I’m like “show’s going great, show’s going great, why don’t I just say the stupidest thing – there I go, I just said it.” That’s how it works every night. I’m just trying to see if I can stick to, “Thank you, this is our next song.”
NfT: And with venues, the more intimate the better? Or do you like bigger venues?
Nate: I think it all depends on the crowd – it’s totally the crowd.
NfT: Okay, so we usually like to do a little lightning round, a "this or that" session. We'll wrap it up with that today.
Editor's note: To avoid redundancy, Nate's choice is in bold.
- Dolphin or Eagle
- Train or Plane
- The Beatles or the Stones
- Vanilla or Chocolate
- ! or ?
- Horns or Strings
- Hard taco or Soft taco
- New York or Los Angeles (his choice was "by far")
- City or Countryside
- Club or Arena
- Pirate or Ninja
Thanks so much, Nate. And I forgive you that you chose Ninja over Pirate.
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