His hesitant and foggy interpretation of "that day" feels genuine, but it seems Means is holding something back. Then, he continues: "We both know we needed to do it and wanted to do it . . . [But] going into Dog Problems, it was all pretty exciting, because we hadn't experienced any success, outside of doing support tours. And we went through a big-window phase with labels — foreseeing how incredibly crazy it was gonna get, and that it was gonna take another two to three years. It kinda freaked me out a little bit."

Means was freaked out enough to walk away.

"Yeah, it was me," he says with some relief. "I'm married and had been married since a year and a half into starting the band. So the first four and five years of my married life was pretty hectic. There was definitely a lot of things that were going on, from whatever, a musical standpoint or just a head-bashing standpoint or just me being crazy, or I don't even remember anymore because it's been so long."

Sam Means: A real one-man band.
Sam Means: A real one-man band.


Sam Means is scheduled to release NONA on Saturday, April 21, at Valley independent record stores.

Looking back on The Format's career, he says that ending the group when he did was the right choice. "Whatever was going on, after a few days of it actually happening, we both knew it was definitely the way to go," he says.

"No matter what, we had a great partnership as a band," he says of Ruess. "Especially with Dog Problems. We worked with everyone we wanted to work with, and we had just gotten off of a bad label situation but also stepped into a really great management situation, so we were able to do pretty much everything we wanted — within reason and with our own budget."

For Means, the pressure of delivering more music under The Format banner didn't fit his writing style. "I felt like my restrictions are what made [my songs] great," he says. "I kinda felt that maybe he wanted to go toward a bigger spectrum that I necessarily didn't want to do, or maybe I couldn't or just didn't think I could.

"That probably was part of the problem, too — not having to answer to anyone else and working on my own," he says. "I took four years to [finish the EP]. I basically had to force myself to even do this EP, because I kinda thought, 'If I still want to work toward an album, I'd never get it done.'"

But the record is done; and for the first time, listeners will be able to hear Means alone, without his former partner to deliver the words.

"Yeah, he was the voice and he was very good at speaking for me, because for a very long time we were on the exact same page with everything," Means says of Ruess.

And whether he's ready or not, Means is singing for himself now.

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