Years before the annoyingly bubbly cast of Glee covered Nate Ruess’ depressing pop lyrics from his band fun., his previous, but just-as-depressing and slightly less hinged music of the Format stole the hearts of many. Nearly ten years ago, Interventions + Lullabies was released via Elektra.
Ruess and longtime friend Sam Means formed The Format in 2001 in Arizona. The duo created catchy tunes on the debut album Interventions + Lullabies in 2003, and gave the record industry a little slap in the face. The band’s name plays with the notion that a certain “format” is necessary for a song to become a hit. While the duo never hit the stature that fun. has, their popularity was widespread. Unfortunately it only lasted until 2008.
In 2006, The Format released its second album, Dog Problems, with a darker and fuller tone compared to the sounds of acoustic indie pop on Interventions & Lullabies Both albums feature depressing lyrics, but what seemed to start off as sadness later became angry. The Format’s simple tunes of its first record were orchestrated with horns in Dog Problems. Interventions + Lullabies, though, is much more than it seems on the surface.
“The First Single” was the aptly titled hit song off the album, which was featured on the first season of “Laguna Beach.” The catchy tune is similar in sing-a-long-ability as “We Are Young,” but is mellower. In the title track off Dog Problems, Ruess refers back to the line “and I hate what I’ve become” in this tune. The song of self-loathing is the first of many in the Format’s discography, but the lyrics are so relatable, as he seems to just sing what everyone going through a tough time would think. Ruess later retracted his statement saying “when I said I hate what I’ve become, I lied I hated who I was.”
Tracks like “Tie the Rope” and “Sore Thumb” are gloomy, despite the fluffy mask. The Format has a strange formula that had high schoolers shouting: “Just tie the rope, and kick the chair, just leave me hanging there gasping for air. Don’t mind me three feet from the ceiling,” many unaware of what they were actually singing. And that’s the distinct flair of this album. The Format progressed to slightly more obvious signs of distraught in Dog Problems, with a rougher sound.
One of two slower songs on this album is “On Your Porch,” a quiet love song. Ruess bares his soul in this track, singing of a sick father, leaving home and going on your own. Accompanied by Means guitar as he sings, Ruess’ voice is never as vulnerable as it is here. In many stories he tells, he wraps anger, irony or sarcasm around sadness, but in “On Your Porch,” he belts it out. Ruess uses the same tone in the final track “A Save Situation,” a 2-minute track where he sings about needing to go home.
When The Format first arrived on the music scene it broke the barrier. Not to say this was the first band to create sad music to happy tunes, but the blend of pop guitar riffs and seemingly simplistic melodies were catchy as hell.
The Format – Interventions + Lullabies Track List:
- “The First Single (You Know Me)”
- “Wait, Wait, Wait”
- “Give It Up”
- “Tie the Rope”
- “Tune Out”
- “I’m Ready, I Am”
- “On Your Porch”
- “Sore Thumb”
- “A Mess to Be Made”
- “Let’s Make This Moment a Crime”
- “Career Day”
- “A Save Situation”