“It’s all hype man” says Matt Ritson referring to the endless stream of lists that Formation have found themselves on for 2016. “It’s hard to tell really who’s gonna be big ‘cos no one’s released an album or solid body of work” agrees identical twin brother Will. “It’s cool that we’ve got a bit of momentum but for us it doesn’t mean anything until we release the album.”
Slowly simmering through the surface with their agitated electro-pop, few would describe supporting Foals on their European tour last summer and a number of festivals to come this year as a modest ‘bit of momentum’ but the Wimbledon duo are staying realistic. “We’re 26 now so we’re getting on with it. We can’t really fuck about” says singer Will who started the band with his brother, before recruiting three friends to complete Formation. “I don’t think we really nailed what we’re about yet on those two EPs, they were testing the water” he admits, but when it comes to their debut album, which is due for release this summer, he couldn’t be more self-assured, “It’ll be a surprise, it’s gonna be really fucking good. It’s definitely a marker and I’m gonna say not even just for us.”
The album, which is still without a title, may soon have some artwork as brothers Will and Matt rummage through postcards at London’s Tate Modern for inspiration. Just a few days before they’d been in Eastbourne finishing pre-production at deep house producer, Leon Vynehall’s, studio when they woke up to some unexpected news. “I knocked on the door and went ‘Will, David Bowie’s died and then he just went ‘I told you!” says synth player Matt. “Six to eight months ago we were sitting around the table and someone had died and I was like, he’s next man, Bowie’s next. I never should’ve said anything!” explains Will.
The pair, who’s unpredictable electronic groove has been likened to Bowie himself, decided to change their plans in the studio: “We did a version of a song that is gonna be on the album but as a tribute because when we wrote it we took inspiration from the line from ‘Fame’ that John Lennon was singing and I don’t wanna give away the name of the song but it’ll be at the very end of the album” grins Will.
It might be a risk to try and slip in a homage to one of Britain’s most loved icons in your debut album but the pair aren’t afraid of experimentation with the shuffling ‘Back Then’ and recently-inked ‘Love’ being the only previously released tracks that will feature on the album. More new material comes in the form of a track which spits a Beastie Boys style bassline and a song which may raise a few eyebrows, about chess. “It’s spoken word that builds up into this track about chess and for me it’s like the pinnacle of the album” says Matt. “It’s psychological warfare in a song” states Will intensely.
Whilst comparisons have been drawn between electro outfit LCD Soundsystem, Matt focuses more on the 90s hip-hop scene as an influence for the album. “We’re doing the whole thing with interludes. For us the whole album has to play from beginning to end and a big part of that for me, like Illmatic by Nas, is there are a few bits that happen in between tracks. There’s a lot of it in Biggie albums.” Reflecting on some of hip-hops pioneers, they also mention fellow 2016 up and coming London-based star Loyle Carner: “He’s wicked man, hip-hop is moving forward now. It’s on another level.” The band also have praise for other artists pushing through right now including VANT, Oscar and there’s an inevitable name-drop for Jack Garratt. “The way he does his thing, it’s like a fucking octopus!” exclaims Matt, but with such admiration for others, the duo feel their music is still very much side lined compared to their fellow musical pals.
Perhaps it’s because they’re more concerned about the perfectionist elements of their music rather than how many pints they can down before a show but Will states: “That whole lifestyle thing is bullshit” and Matt agrees: “I would definitely give those bands more credit than people do ‘cos when we went on the road with Foals I thought that they were just gonna get smashed but they have a drink after the show and love to hang out.” The pair enjoyed a short European stint with band of the moment Foals at the back end of 2015. When asked if they took any tips from them Will laughs: “Yes. Get a fucking tour bus! We would turn up at the next venue and they would already be there just waking up.”
Until they can afford a bed or two there’s no plans to get caught up and start on album number two just yet as Will stresses, “Once the album’s out you’ve got to learn to play the songs on it, it’s not just over”. Matt too is eager to relish the album release before it fades away: “Unless you get picked up for awards and people start talking about the album again the circle of talking about music doesn’t continue. It just ends when the PR campaign ends.”
(Photos by Josh Shreeve)