Entertainment, Interview

London band Formation talk Michael Jackson, yoga and crowd surfing

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Humanity Hallows caught up with Matt and Will Ritson, Jonny Tams and Kai Akinde-Hummel of London band Formation as they got ready to support Jagwar Ma at Manchester Academy 2

By Charlotte Howson
Image: Matt/Formation

I managed to catch up with the guys that make up the band Formation ahead of their second ever gig supporting the Aussie boys Jagwar Ma. Formation are not new to the Manchester crowd, having played in this city several times before, they were cool and collected for the night ahead.

Live performances started just a measly two years ago for Formation, and they’re already causing waves in the up and coming ‘ones to watch’ talk.  The band was formed originally by the twin duo, Matt and Will Ritson, from South London, who then went on to recruit a few of their talented pals from previous bands to come and join them on their experimental music venture: I chatted to Matt, Will, Jonny and Kai in their not so glamorous dressing room to see what they’re up to:

Hello everyone! So there’s certainly a buzz around you at the moment. Can you give us a brief overview of how the band started?

Matt: About 3years ago now, me and Will just started playing together, and Will came up with this idea to do improvised music with bass and drums. We started doing that and then we ended up writing a couple of tunes that we thought were good enough to start writing more and more until eventually we got Kai, who I used to play in a band with, on board to play drums, and then Jonny and Will also used to play in a band together so we got him on board too. Oh, and not forgetting Sash! His girlfriend’s having a baby, like right now, so he can’t join us for this tour. But there’s usually five of us.

How would you describe the music you’re producing? I don’t want to pin you down to a particular genre as your sounds are so eclectic!

Will: Jonny, what did you say earlier?

Jonny: Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson meets Terminator. Ya’know, with all the dance moves.

Kai: You’re gonna watch Jonny on stage tonight, he’s been practicing his dance moves in his mind!

How do you go about creating a new track, talk us through your experimental process?

Matt: Normally well, ’cause Will doesn’t do anything so, ha! Nah, it depends, sometimes we’ll just have a jam with a bass and riff that we’ll just play with for ages until it turns into something more, and then we’ll add things on top of that. Or I’ll just turn up at Will’s house and he’ll have a whole song written and not have told me about it. Or the other day, we were just rehearsing and we came up with something cool that might turn into a song. So it’s just a constant natural process.

Will: For this first album and all of the stuff we’ve done before, it’s been me and Matt writing, and then Sash wrote one tune with us for the album, actually. But the really fun thing after writing is how to translate the vibe, and getting these guys involved in doing that. Because the live part is where it matters most I guess! But, yeah, we are a bit experimental.

You’re the opening act for Jagwar Ma tonight. How did this musical friendship come about?

Matt: We had the same booking agent, which helps a lot!

Will: But we went to see them a year ago and tried to get on their tour before and they were like, “We don’t want a band with a drummer” because, if you’ve seen their setups, it’s quite extensive so they don’t have a lot of room. And as a support band you don’t have a lot of time, so setting a drum kit up can be a bit time consuming! But I think because we’re a man down for this we were like, “Listen, there’s only four of us, we’ll be super quick” and obviously the music that we play fits really well with their stuff, and they’re really nice guys and they wanted us on board. But a lot of shit had to occur for us to get on. Definitely having the same booking agent helps.

You’ve had your fair share of gigs and festival performances this past year. Any weird and wonderful rituals you have to perform before going on stage?

Jonny: We started doing that breathing thing once, didn’t we? At Latitude festival last year

Will: Yeah, we did that breathing thing and that wasn’t a good idea

Jonny: It wasn’t. We all got on stage light headed.

Matt: It’s like this power breathing thing. This Dutch guy called Wim Hof does it and it’s all about meditation. So we tried it before a show, and it was such a bad idea. But basically there’s no rituals. Actually, the first ever show we tried to do yoga before, and then we did like a few stretches and then we went on stage and everything was fucked. So much shit went wrong, it was such a stupid idea. Everyone was really calm like going on stage and then things started to go wrong, like one of my keyboards wasn’t working and I didn’t really have the urgency to deal with it. I was too relaxed. So no rituals, you just go on and you do it, jump right into it!

So when’s this debut album going to drop?!

Will: So, we recorded most of it in January and then it’s just been a whole ordeal with record labels, and it’s long, so long. But it’ll be out in February 2017! And then we’ve got a new single coming out at the end of this month which we’ve just shot the video for last week, directed by Mike Skinner, and then there should be another single in January, BIG singles!

Finally, any plans on heading to international destinations in the future? America, Australia? As you’ve already done your fair share of Europe whilst touring with Foals.

Matt: I think we’ll have to wait to see how to album does, but obviously we’d love to!

Will: Yeah, like, kind of those unexplored places: Japan, China

Jonny: Siberia!

Matt: We got an offer to play in Dubai which I think would be quite interesting.

Ok, now for a round of quick fire questions, are you ready?
Best venue/crowd you’ve played to?

Calvi on the Rocks music festival in Corsica 2015. That place was amazing!

Dream gig?

Corsica! Calvi on the Rocks again. It’s an island resort that they have set up with a show on at night time. And because it’s an island, there are only a few flights out every day, so you have to stay there, which means it’s basically a four day holiday. They fed us every day, it was just like paradise, free stay, free wine, big crowds and we were on stage watching the sunset with the cliffs and the ocean, and our friends from France drove down to join us, it was sick.

What could you not live without on tour?

Tea! And Gui of course, our tour manager.

Crowd surfing: yay or nay?

Will: I’ve done it a couple of times. But you gotta be ready for it, because you can’t jump into a crowd that aren’t ready for you.

Jonny: We should get a surf board and actually put it in the crowd and stand on it

Will: But I think you have to EARN it, you have to earn the right to crowd surf.

Trump or Clinton?

Neither. Both fucking idiots.

Charlotte is currently studying Textiles in Practice at Manchester School of Art. She has a passion for all things creative and likes to feed her creative appetite by travelling and immersing herself in different cultures. Follow her travels and creations on instagram @charhowsonn

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