The Format is what would happen if a congested Cat Stevens fronted an '80s-influenced, synthed-up Beatles tribute band, and wrote lyrics as creatively true as "Snails see the benefits, the beauty in every inch of life" ("Snails"). Named as an inside jab at the recording industry's habit of churning out cookie-cutter tunes, this Phoenix-based duo is anything but generic pop, and that's not just because of multi-instrumentalist Sam Means' feel-good hooks that tickle the happy bone and surprise as often as movie serial killers. Nate Ruess brings it home with his knack for crafty lyrics, like debut Interventions and Lullabies' best ditty, "Tie the Rope": "Just tie the rope and kick the chair/Leave me hanging there, gasping for air." If you've been jonesing for new songs, look no further than the band's merchandise table, where you'll find a limited-edition EP called Snails. It's sort of like a "thank you" to fans. -- Cole Haddon
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The Format is scheduled to perform on Thursday, November 10, at the ASU Arboretum in Tempe.