Monday 3 January 2022

Song Premiere: Formants - Plague + Interview

It brings me great joy to be able to bring you my first song premiere of 2022. It's one that's a little bit special. It comes from a new project called Formants, which is an experimental electronic project featuring Derek Allen of post-hardcore band Lower Automation. I was introduced to it by Dave Norman of Zegema Beach Records, Tomb Tree (previously Tomb Tree Tapes) and now also of soft music imprint Softseed Music.

The album is called You'd Think It Was A Mistake and it will be getting the tape treatment that Dave is known for in a week's time. I was lucky enough to be able to listen to a couple of songs before finally settling on 'Plague' as the one I wanted to premiere. I really dig it and I think many of you will too.

Formants was created so that Derek could experiment with different ideas and with electronic music, influenced by the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Einsturzende Neubauten and Depeche Mode, amongst others. You can stream the song in full below:-

As well as premiering the song, I was able to ask Derek some questions about the project, the album and  the his love of electronic music. You can read the full interview below:-

1. What is the history of Formants? Has it always been a solo project?

I started Formants in 2018 or so. I’ve always been really into electronic/experimental music. My first show was actually opening for Dalek and Street Sects. I wanted an outlet for all of the stuff I was making that would never fit in the context of Lower Automation. In the studio it’s always been a solo project, but I have had a few friends (including Brian from Lower Automation) play live with me and contribute some samples. 

2.  What made you decide to go further down the electronic path with Formants, compared to your other band Lower Automation?

I’ve messed around with synthesizers and software since high school. I was primarily in electronic and industrial bands before Lower Automation was started. Actually, Lower Automation was started as a way to get away from all the electronic stuff and just play “organic” instruments.

3. Your debut release is called 'You'd Think It Was A Mistake’. What inspired you when making the album and what was the writing/recording process like?

I think the biggest inspiration for this album was working with Angry Blackmen on their first album and latest EP. It just made me realize how much I love grittiness and noise in music. That was a huge influence for how these tracks turned out. I wanted to get that same mood, but without using distortion outright. So I used lots of field recordings and tried to process sounds in different ways to get a similar feeling. 

4. The album is being released on cassette via new label Softseed Music. How did that agreement come about and how does it feel to be one of the first bands (if not the first) to be working with the label?

Dave’s main label, Zegema Beach, released Lower Automation’s first album last year. When I finished this album and decided I wanted to release it, I asked him if he knew anyone that would be interested. He sent me to a few people and told me to come back to him if none of them worked out. They all ended up passing on the album and Dave was still down to release it. 

5. More and more musicians are moving towards solo projects as a separate outlet from their main bands. Why do you think this is?

Playing in a band is such a democratic process - which is great, but it can be creatively frustrating at times. It’s really therapeutic to sit in the dark by yourself and just let whatever happens happen.

6.  Have you always been a fan of electronic/ambient music and if so, are you familiar with any other current artists/projects? If so, which ones stand out to you?

Yes - I love electronic music! My favorites are Hunz, Rabit, pretty much anything on the Halcyon Veil label, the new Low album, and Nebulo. 

7. What strikes me when listening to both Lower Automation and Formants is that you’re a fan of music and art. What artists/bands mean the most to you at the moment?

My favorite band is Public Enemy. I can’t describe what they mean to me, both sonically and lyrically. I think those first four albums are unmatched. But this last year, I’ve been really into Einsturzende Neubauten and Sisters of Mercy. For whatever reason, that’s been my comfort music the past year. 

8. Do you intend to play live with Formants?

Yeah, I have a Chicago show coming up in March. First Formants show in 2 years. It was supposed to be in January, but has been postponed due to Covid. 

9. It is early days I know, but how do you see Formants evolving and do you plan on releasing more music?

I finished this album in the early fall, and the vast majority of it was done last spring, so I’ve had some time to think about this. I think my next release will be somewhat more instrumental, or at least less lyric-based. I’d kinda like it to be more like the Formants live show - more experimental and free. 

10. I’m really interested in getting musicians views on the shape of today’s music industry. What do you think of things currently and where do you see music consumption going in the future?

I feel very out of the loop with the music industry. But I love Bandcamp. It’s what I use to find and buy pretty much all of the music I listen to - unless I can buy it directly from an artist. So I think that’s really exciting. I don’t use any streaming services, but that seems to be the way things are going. 

You can currently stream another album track called 'Liar' via Softseed Music's bandcamp page below, where the album is also available for digitally pre-order:-

Also, catch a glimpse of what the tapes are gonna look like below:-

For more news about the release, head to these social media pages:-

Formants -

Softseed Music -

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