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Air Formation - Interview

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 11 / 3 / 2003

Air Formation - Interview


Brighton space rock band Air Formation have recently released their stunning full-length debut album, "Ends in Light'. Olga Sladeckova speaks to frontman Matt Bartram about it, and the group's plans for the future

When the album 'Ends In Light' by Air Formation came through the door with my post and I played it, I knew immediately that I wanted to know more about the band. The 9 track album inspired my senses, especially with the strength of its music, which was played with the lightest approach. I felt like I was being carried away by its powerful tunes. I'm a fan of My Bloody Valentine which may give you a clue to what they sound like. There is a great amount of potential in Air Formation's music which, however, puts it in a class of it own. Air Formation consists of 4 Brighton-based friends Matt Bartram, Ben Pierce, Richard Parks and Ian Sheridan. Even though the band have been together for only a short time they have already put out a respectable number of releases, including 'Ends In Light', their full-length debut album and a self titled mini album which were released on Drive-In Records. There are more releases due in the near future. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Matt Bertnam, the band's singer, guitarist and programmer, to learn more about the band. The group was forced to go through a rapid name change before choosing the name Air Formation. Matt told us about this, and also about the band's forthcoming album 'Stay Inside/Feel Everything' and its future plans. PB: How did the band form and why did you choose the name Air Formation? MB: Ben (Bass), Paul Browning (Guitar) and me had been making music together on and off since about 1994. Then in early 1998 we formed b.e.a.b Approved, with the addition of a keyboard player and set about writing and recording a bunch of songs. Two of these were released by a French label Isonauta and two of the others we pressed ourselves on a limited run of 250 7"s. At the end of 1999 the keyboard player quit, so I asked my longest standing friend Richard if he'd have a go. Thankfully he was more than happy to help out. In June 2000 we recorded six songs and sent them to Mike at Drive-in Records in the USA who loved what he heard and offered to release them as an EP/Mini-CD. Before he pressed them up Mike wanted us to check that we could use the name b.e.a.b Approved (an electrical saftey standard stamp that's on T.V's and fridges) so I contacted them and they flatly refused. At the time we had a new song called 'Air Formation' that we really liked the sound of, so we renamed the band and changed the song to In Formation. To be honest, I always had trouble saying "b.e.a.b appoved" quickly at gigs and I now think it sounds a bit naff... So I'm pleased they said "No". PB: How do you work in the band on writing music and lyrics? MB: I will generally bring basic songs, the guitar, drums, and melody, to the others and they go about using their talents to bring them alive. The first self-titled EP certainly worked that way (except the last song which was an inprovisation as we had spare time in the studio). On 'Ends in Light' we collaborated more, but still went through a similar process. Richard and I wrote 'Long Way Out to Me' and Ben and I wrote 'Still'. For a couple of the other tracks I took the basic seeds from our improvisations and built songs around them ('In Formation' and 'Other Ways Round'). PB: When listening to 'Ends In Light' it's almost impossible to hear the vocal or understand the lyrics. By reading the titles of songs such as 'Take It Easy', 'Slow You Down', 'Long Way Out To Me' or closing 'Ends In Light', it seems, however, that there is quite a lot in depth to them. Could you reveal what are the lyrics about - in general? MB: I listened to 'Ends In Light' for the first time in ages last month and the vocals seemed a lot louder than I remembered! When the music's nice and atmospheric we don't want to go and spoil the feel of it with a loud vocal. I like to think that we're here to create song-based soundscapes. The words are there, and the more you listen to it the easier it will become to decifer them. I would say though that the lyrical mood on 'Ends in Light' is downbeat and reflective as well as observational of our situation at the time. Paul left the band just before the first EP was released, so to be wrong-footed at a time when things were getting exciting was sad and frustrating. I called the album 'Ends in Light' as we tried to look at the band's future optimistically despite unexpectedly becoming a three-piece. PB: You will be releasing a secondnd album, 'Stay Inside/Feel Everything', in the Autumn on Clairecords. Have you decided which songs will go on it and could you say what the music on the album will sound like? MB: The new album was recorded last September and this month we've been doing some last minute remixing and finishing touches. It's certainly more upbeat than 'Ends in Light'; and, closer to the first EP if I was making comparisions, but a lot more advanced than both the previous releases. Ian (Guitar) joined us in the summer of 2001 and has definitely put his mark on this album, so the guitars get louder this time round. The sound of the whole band has got bigger, and we can't wait for it to be released. I think it's going surprise a lot of people. You will even be able to hear the words on one on the songs...... BP: Do you have a favourite song on the forthcoming album? Which one is it and why? MB: I'm always drawn to the slow songs I write, maybe because they are the hardest to work through and complete. There is a song on the album called 'Why I Lost You' that has a fantastic bassline. It is drenched in feedback and keyboard drones which, as far as I'm concerned, is a great combination. This song will perfectly compliment those hazy summer days, or is just there for falling asleep to. PB: Will there be any live shows in the near future and if where and when? MB: We are looking to plan some dates around the country in the summer, and until then we will be playing a few one-off shows in and around Brighton. The only one we have confirmed so far will be on the 12th of April, at a venue called''The Hobgoblin' (this is going to be a real low-key show as it's Richard's birthday). We haven't played as much as we should have over the last couple of years but plan to change that this year. Our main problem is that as our CD's are mainly released by labels in the U.S we don't have many contacts here at home (which feels pretty bizarre). So if anybody can help that'd be real handy. (airformation@hotmail.com). PB: Are you intending to stay in Brighton or would you consider moving, maybe to London? MB: I don't think I could ever move away from the sea. It's wonderful to hear and to see it everyday. To replace that with hustleand bustle on a daily basis just wouldn't make sense to me. I always enjoy my time in London but it's nice to leave it behind at the end of the day. PB: What are your plans in the future? We have written a song that will be released as a split 7" with a fantastic band called Experimental Aircraft from Austin, Texas. It will be released towards the end of the year by Rollerderby Records. Rollerderby are also soon releasing a compilation album that includes an exclusive Air Formation track. Then, next year I hope to be in a position to start thinking about writng the next album. But really I just want to concentrate on playing live. Now we've got the songs (and a stable line-up) I want as many people as possible to hear them. PB: If you could pick any band in music history which one would you like to support and why? MB: That's easy! I didn't even have to think about that one. It would have to be Flying Saucer Attack. I love them so much and was lucky enough to have seen them back in '96. Although their frontmanDave Pearce always said he thought their live shows were a tad shoddy, I loved every second of it. I would have to be able to join them on stage as well though, just so I could take part in a feedback-experimental-drone-fest. That'd be great! PB: Thank you!

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Air Formation - Interview

Air Formation - Interview

Air Formation - Interview

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