February 28, 2011

with a little bit of love and a little bit of yeah yeah


Last night I was watching the Oscars, eating homemade fajitas, and mercilessly critiquing everyone from our comfy couch perch (oh, and Trent Reznor? Winning an Oscar? ..add that to the list of things I never thought I’d see when I was 16 and rebelling by listening to Pretty Hate Machine loudly on cassette in my 1987 Nissan Sentra).

Suddenly, amidst the self-congratulating by Hollywood for itself and victorious weeping, my ears perked up from a song in a commercial that sang charmingly about a little bit of love and a little bit of yeah yeah. It sparkled with both of the rich, seeping warmth and rasp of M. Ward along with the sweet folksy songwriting of Simon & Garfunkel — who was the artist behind this little song? Because I loved him, immediately.

Turns out I did love him actually, already.

The song is one of six new ones penned by Sam Means, half of the now-defunct The Format, for the 2008 indie movie The Sinking of Santa Isabel, about a fellow who goes to live in a treehouse. Sam has always been an amazing songwriter who uses classical sunny pop structure with a refreshing and humble spark, so now that I’ve listened to it a good dozen times — of course it’s him. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to find it.

Yeah Yeah – Sam Means

Soundtrack for The Sinking of Santa Isabel is available here.

July 23, 2009

New fun :: “Walking The Dog”


Back in May I went and saw the new band incarnation of Nate Ruess (frontman from The Format). They’re called “fun” and they certainly were – a shimmering, enthusiastic, multi-instrumental explosion of joy. With members of Anathallo and Steel Train, fun is gearing up to continue the goodness where The Format left off.

Nate’s got a marvelous theatrical voice that rises to the top of any songs he sings over. The Format were one of my favorite pop bands (and one of the best live shows) of my last 5 years, and I was sorry to see them break up.

The good news is, half the genius of Format lives on in fun (minus Sam Means, sadly) and GET THIS, PEOPLE: Nate sings a few Format songs during fun’s sets (like the colossal singalong of “The First Single”!!). I won’t deny how deeply good it felt to sing along with those again at the very top of my lungs. I thought I’d never hear them again live.

Fun just announced a bunch of Fall tour dates, and released a new song. It’s shiny and ebullient, loaded with feel-good “na na na naaaaa!”s. The full-length debut album Aim & Ignite comes out August 25th on Nettwerk.





With Hello Goodbye

August 14th                Chic’s                          El Paso, TX
August 15th                Launchpad                   Albuquerque, NM
August 16th                Club Congress            Tucson, AZ
August 18th                Club Karma                 Victorville, CA
August 19th                Chain Reaction            Anaheim, CA
August 19th                Chain Reaction            Anaheim, CA
August 21st                 Velvet Jones               Santa Barbara, CA
August 23rd                Stockton Empire Theatre    Stockton, CA
August 25th                Chop Suey                  Seattle, WA
August 26th                Hawthorne Theatre      Portland, OR
August 27th                The Boardwalk            Orangevale, CA

Headline Tour

September 8th              Kilby Court                 Salt Lake City, UT
September 9th              Club 156                     Boulder, CO
September 11th            Shelter                         Detroit, MI
September 12th            Intersection                  Grand Rapids, MI
September 13th            Water St.                     Rochester, NY
September 15th            Northstar                     Philadelphia, PA
September 16th            Great Scott                  Boston, MA
September 17th            Mercury Lounge         New York, NY
September 18th            Jammin Java                Vienna, VA
September 20th            Drunken Unicorn        Atlanta, GA
September 22nd            Rocketown                  Nashville, TN
September 23rd            Firebird                       St, Louis, MO
September 24th            Schuba’s                      Chicago, IL
September 25th            Triple Rock                 Minneapolis, MN

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May 12, 2009

Who’s down for some Fun tonight?


Tonight at the Marquis in Denver, we are fixin to have some Fun, of the variety that features Nate Ruess (formerly of The Format).

Fun is opening for Manchester Orchestra (also fun), along with Oakland’s Audrye Sessions and Winston Audio from Atlanta.

Benson Hedges – Fun

So much fun we can’t even stand it.

February 22, 2009

let’s cause a scene, clap our hands and stomp our feet

This past Friday afternoon, I had a day off work with some good company. As we drove back from a few of my state’s many fine craft breweries, we discussed the now-defunct Arizona band The Format. My friend was curious what all the fuss had been about their live show, which I told him was one of the best I have ever seen.

Thinking about that conversation tonight, I pulled up the video I shot at Denver’s Gothic Theatre in September 2007. After watching it again, I still feel as explosively happy as I did when I took it, while all of us in the crowd shouted along at the top of our lungs. This was one of my favorite concert moments up to that point, and remains still:

The First Single – The Format

The Nate Ruess half of The Format is now in a band called FUN, while Sam Means has been recording music with Michelle DaRosa (Formerly of Straylight Run) for her new project, Destry.

I love these guys, and I miss the magic they created together.

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August 12, 2008

Brand new “fun” from Nate Ruess of The Format

When Arizona intelli-pop band The Format broke up a few months ago, a little part of my heart broke. I loved those guys; the homemade “Format Sunny Supermix” is still a superstar on my car radio, all summer every summer.

Well, hooray hooray for some good news before this summer ends: lead singer Nate Ruess has a new band, called simply “fun.” Strike two on the not good for Googling, guys. They’re trying to undermine my whole system of band data gathering. Subversive.

But hey, this new demo is just great; he doesn’t care to be forgiven, he only wants to be forgotten. Read more about the formation of the new band in a blog post from Nate, and listen to this sweet tune. It’s good to hear his voice again.

Benson & Hedges (demo) – fun

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February 5, 2008

The Format calls it quits

Arizona indie-pop band The Format posted on their MySpace yesterday that they are going their separate ways. To put it eloquently, this sucks.

These guys put on one of the single best live shows I’ve ever seen [show video & interview here]. There’s an earnest and incisive timbre to everything that Nate sings that always snags me, with multi-instrumental cascades on so many of their shimmering songs. Their shows are well-attended by 16 year olds, but they are all very enthusiastic sixteen year olds that make the audience feel like a single writhing organism, singing along with one voice. I’ll bet this announcement made at least a few girls cry after fourth period class yesterday.

Format MySpace Blog Post

“We have just put out word that we will not be making a new Format album. Please understand this was a tough decision and we’re both upset about it. While we accept there will be false speculation as to why, understand that Sam and I remain extremely close and in fact are still passing the twin peaks box set back and forth in an attempt to figure out who REALLY killed laura palmer.

We also want to thank everyone with and within the Format, particularly Mike, Don, and Marko, whom without, none of this would have ever even been fully realized. We both suggest you support their musical talents and whatever they decide to do. And lastly we want to thank the fans who made this the best 5 years of our lives.

- nate”

There’s such a wonderful confessional narrative in this song, “On Your Porch.” This is the acoustic version from the Snails EP. The lyrics seem appropriate today, for several reasons.

I was on your porch
The smoke sank into my skin
So I came inside to be with you
We talked all night
about everything you could imagine,
Cause come the morning, I’ll be gone

. . . .

So now here I sit
In a hotel off of Sunset
My thoughts bounce off of Sam’s guitar

And that’s the way it’s been
Ever since we were kids, but now
well now we’ve got something to prove
And I, I can see their eyes
Then tell me something — can they see mine?
‘Cause whats left to lose?
I’ve done enough,
And if I fail then I fail
but I gave it a shot

And these last three years I know they have been hard
But now it’s time to get out of the desert
and into the sun
Even if it’s alone
Even if it’s alone

I was on your porch last night
The smoke it sank into my skin

On Your Porch (acoustic) – The Format

[photo credit – Losanjealous]

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September 9, 2007

Interview with Nate Ruess from The Format

All you need to know about what a show from The Format is like can be learned by watching this (bouncy, sometimes too loud) video that I shot on Friday night at the Gothic Theatre:


Don’t you just want to be a part of that? Yes, yes you do.

The concert was every bit as fantastic as I was expecting (a few more pics here) and I was pleased to get a chance to catch up with Nate Ruess, the frontman of the group. The Format was formed in 2001 by Nate and his longtime friend Sam Means; they make great music.

Me: One of my favorite songs from you guys is “The First Single,” where you sing “You know the night life is just not for me.” However, you have chosen this nightclub-rock&roll-saturated 2am lifestyle, at least for now. Do you find it draining or do you love it? Or both?

Nate: We are fairly boring people so I’m still sticking to our guns on this one. And because we are so boring I think the “rock n roll” lifestyle gets to us really quickly. Unless it involves watching a good movie. Then I am game.

Denver is honored to be the last proper show of the long-running tour for Dog Problems. What’s next for you guys after this?

Gonna take a break from touring and being in a band, and try to write and make a record all at the same time I’m looking forward to it. But the first thing on my mind is finishing the tour.

Now, no pressure (who am I kidding, I’m eager) — but are you already working on writing a follow-up to Dog Problems?

Yeah we have five or so songs in their incubent stage. I’m anxious to hear what it’s going to sound like. In my head they’re great songs so far, but we have so much work left.

Here’s a possibly hard question – Everyone always asks me to “describe the sound” of The Format when I rave about you all to whoever will listen. How the heck do you usually answer that same question when people, doubtlessly and ad nauseum, propose it to you? How then shall we refer to you?

It’s the question that angers me most. I say pop if I’m not scared of the person asking me. But I’ll say rock if I think they pose a threat. But really I don’t know.

What new and distant horizons would you like to explore musically with your next album? I read something about steel drums?

Maybe a little bit, I tend to throw crazy words and instruments around but in the end it comes down to what’s best for the songs. With that being said…I hear a gospel choir.

[New song] Swans is fantastic, and I gotta say I loved the fact that there are jingle bells in there. Far underused outside of December festivities. I am curious to know what your studio space looks like, in terms of the dozens of instruments you use. You’ve got some awesome wacky stuff, eh?

Yeah for awhile before Dog Problems was recorded we spent a lot of time collecting crap, but the studio we recorded at in California had so many great instruments that we never used our own stuff. We are toying with the idea of make the next album in Arizona so I guess we might get to put 5 out-of-tune pump organs to use.

I am very interested in hearing about any new developments with your Vanity Label. Are you planning on adding some other artists to the roster? It must be a pretty cool feeling to be able to help and actually get good music heard by the general populace.

Yeah, we tend to forget we have the ability to sign other artists because we are so wrapped up in running the label for The Format. But once we hear something great or get a significant amount of time to work with someone, it’s something we would take very seriously.

[Me and Nate and my friend Jill after the show]

Bonus reading: A highly entertaining two-part tour blog written by Nate for Spin Magazine, wherein they crash a frat party and hone their skills in competitive drinking. [Part One] [Part Two]

July 2, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

So I learned how to play the game of Cornhole this weekend.

Seriously, don’t ask.
(I don’t know if it was more fun playing the game or just making endless jokes about the name of it).

The End Of The World

Irish band Ash has opened for bands like U2 and Weezer, and collaborated with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, but chances are really good that you’ve not heard of them if you aren’t British. Well, listen up. This is my new favorite song today, a soaring tune that I want to sing along with and be listening to if it is, indeed, the end of the world. Tinglingly good, I love the epic feel of the key changes (I am a sucker for those); for some reason this line gets me: “Can’t hardly see the stars, there’s too much light pollution . . . That’s the catch, it’s such a beautiful confusion.” Their 5th studio album Twilight Of The Innocents is out in the UK this week, and they say it shall be their last proper album (then moving to what Mason Jennings considered, and releasing only singles). Ash plays at London’s KOKO for a run this entire week, and then they hit the festival circuit this summer, including Asia, then Reading and Leeds festivals.

Dream Brother (alternate take)
Jeff Buckley

Reading a recent review by a friend of mine, I realized that I never weighed in on the new So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley collection, which was released in May to commemorate ten years of his absence. While it’s a bit disorienting to hear a rearranged Grace (no Mojo Pin starter? No Lilac Wine following Last Goodbye?), I like the overall effect here, and would recommend this addition for any Buckley fan who already loves his studio debut album front to back, as I do. The compilation adds some excellent songs of Jeff’s that surfaced after Grace (such as the sexy swooner Everybody Here Wants You, or The Sky Is A Landfill), as well as alternate takes on favorites. These new versions are interesting in the different vantage points they offer (Eternal Life slays like the best Zeppelin tune, there are some new lyrics here in Dream Brother), and while I wouldn’t say that I prefer any of the new versions more than the originals, this collection offers an apt and different take on the talent we lost.

The Night Starts Here

The new album from Montreal, Canada’s Stars isn’t even out until September, three long months away, but this newly released mp3 is already burning through the blogs (thanks Arts & Crafts!). In Our Bedroom After The War will be the newest album from this melodic, dreamlike, deftly-harmonizing band that I quite enjoy, and the first single continues where 2005′s Set Yourself On Fire left off – lots of turntaking in the verses between honey-voiced Amy Millan and incisive Torquil Campbell, over a backbeat of synths and layered orchestral pop.

Apeman (Kinks cover)
The Format
In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Dog Problems, charismatic Arizona pop band The Format is offering that entire album free for download on their website, no catches, until July 16th. That’s a whole lot of goodness, gratis. The Format remains one of the most exciting live shows I’ve seen (very high on the list) and I recommend catching them on this current tour if you can. They love covers like I do, and have put their unique stamp on everything from Harry Nilsson to Bruce Springsteen. Here they take on the Kinks’ Apeman very faithfully — but it’s fun.

Come And Get It (demo)
Paul McCartney

Last week I got an email from my friend Tony wondering, hypothetically, if I might have enough frequent flyer miles to be his accomplice in the Paul McCartney private show at Amoeba Records in LA. On less than 24 hours notice, I could not swing it, but oh, how I need a private jet. This demo recording of the McCartney-penned Badfinger megahit (Paul laid this down one day at Abbey Road when he arrived early for a recording session) is something I’ve been listening to a lot recently. Posting it today is just an enjoyable excuse to link to Tony’s review of his ultimate fanboy experience. (Oh, and I think we can call Lefsetz a fanboy too).

June 6, 2007

News of the day

Ûž San Francisco musician/funny guy Matt Nathanson has a new song streaming over at his MySpace. Check out “Gone” in all its Goo-Goo-glory, a wrenching new song with a strong melody.

Matt writes some background on the song: “this song was tracked all at once, live… and this was the 3rd or 4th pass through. i vividly remember looking out into the tracking room while i was singing this, and seeing everyone completely in it. hunched over their instruments, eyes closed…entrenched in the words and the motion of the song. riding it like a wave. just absolutely KILLING it!… i hadn’t really experienced that kind of connection, that kind of communication, in the studio before… 6 people working like one. and the yearning and the desperation of the lyric totally came through them. through us…”

The deeply good new album Some Mad Hope will be out August 14th on Vanguard Records.

Ûž I am featured again on the newest Contrast Podcast #62: Seas, Oceans, and All Things Marine. My contribution was that fantastic song by Colorado artist Gregory Alan Isakov, “The Salt and The Sea.” It’s his love song to the Pacific Ocean, and mine.

Ûž The Format, who are one of the best bands I’ve seen live, have just announced a new headlining tour. It concludes in Colorado Sept 7th. Dates are on their MySpace, and you should absolutely go.

Ûž Finally, just one album a year for Ryan Adams is never enough (even though that’s A-OK with me). Lost Highway announced yesterday that there is a chance they will put out a Ryan Adams box set, with unreleased materials from the 48 Hours and Suicide Handbook “albums,” live songs from the Bedheads, and cuts from the Easy Tiger sessions.

If you preorder the (very strong) Easy Tiger album now, you get a bonus CD containing a live version of the song “These Girls,” which I got to hear on the album the other day. The most exciting news for me is that the song These Girls is actually a re-working of forgotten cast-off tune “Hey There Mrs. Lovely” from the ’99/2000 era, a song that I have long adored. The lyrics are different, and I am not sure if I like them as much as the original, but it is still a great-sounding song. The first 100 preorders also get a signed 7″:

February 8, 2007

Springsteen tribute show planned at Carnegie Hall

Bruce Springsteen is set to get the tribute treatment from the musical community on April 5 at Carnegie Hall in New York. If you were lucky enough to click on the ticket sale website on January 31, then you may have already snagged yourself a pair of tickets (in what concert producer Michael Dorf is calling a “premature leak.” Those are always a bit embarassing). Tickets legitimately went on sale Monday (and seem to be sold out) with the proceeds benefitting the Music For Youth program, as with previous tributes to Dylan & Joni Mitchell.

The benefit show will feature appearances from Badly Drawn Boy, Pete Yorn, Steve Earle, Chris Isaak and Josh Ritter, among others. I can’t find any recordings of Isaak ever covering Springsteen (some fan correct me if I am wrong), and same for Ritter (although there is plenty of press likening him to Springsteen’s songwriting). But here’s some hints of what the night may sound like . . .

Thunder Road – Badly Drawn Boy

Dancing In The Dark –> Murray (live) – Pete Yorn

State Trooper (live) – Steve Earle

And if I may, how awesome would it be to see these humble suggestions added to the lineup?

Hungry Heart – Jesse Malin

For You – The Format

No Surrender (live 9/30/05) – Eddie Vedder
(yeah, I’ve posted this before, but it’s one of my absolute favorites)

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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