Music News

The Format Founder Just Wants to Have Some “fun.”

It's a liberating feeling to break free from a commitment or relationship that was holding you back. From time to time in the life of an artist, a creative funk comes along with the people and surroundings he previously cherished: situations that had infused him with creativity and ingenuity turn into one big artistic prison.

For musicians, new freedom usually turns into the formation of another band or going solo. It's just like breaking up with a significant other — the thought of a fresh start with someone else can be very tempting. The reasons for wanting to put a halt to what was once a beautiful musical relationship include having a less-than-supportive record label, personality conflicts with bandmates, and simply not caring about the future of the band.

Anyone who really knows what happened with Peoria's The Format — a band that, at one point, was seen as the Valley's best indie-rock hope — isn't talking. The band crashed in February 2008 after five years and has been more or less cooling its heels ever since, with new and, so far, less-buzzing projects.

Nate Ruess, who formed the band with childhood friend Sam Means, took off to Brooklyn to form fun., his new project featuring a former member of Anathallo and one current member of Steel Train. You could argue Ruess was the driving force behind The Format, penning songs that often touched on whatever his life was currently throwing at him. The band's last album, 2006's Dog Problems, was named after a few pooches Ruess inherited from a girlfriend who thought bringing dogs into a tumultuous relationship was a good idea.

So is it any coincidence that Ruess decided to aptly and succinctly name his new band fun.? I think not. At least he kept it mature and didn't name it Screw You or The Last Two Years Were Crap.

When a band parts ways, it can be amicable or it can be nasty, ending up with the most talented member forging ahead with a new band that's willing to play by his or her rules.

Ruess is a talented songwriter and musician and he often deliberately, it seems, gives his song titles some vitriol. Take, for instance, fun.'s first single, "At Least I'm Not as Sad (as I Used to Be)." The title could easily be interpreted as a shot at Sam Means. However, it also could be a take on Ruess' personal life, which has seen its fair share of ups and downs. So far, fun. has notched a opening slot for Manchester Orchestra's headlining tour, and their debut album is slated for release in August. You can't argue with the band's early success, no doubt tied to Ruess' time spent honing his skills with The Format. As nasty — or as amicable — as that breakup was for Ruess and the rest of The Format, it would appear that right now fun. is the sole beneficiary. Ruess knows, as well as most people, that dwelling on the past sure as hell gets you nowhere these days. No, doing so would be absolutely no fun.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Lopez