POSTED ON AUGUST 10, 2011:
Breaking the Mold
Aformatic shuns conventions and formula with its groove heavy hard rock
Aformatic: (ay-form-a-tic); without shape or form, not restricted by set rules or boundaries
When guitarist Andrew Seals put together his latest band, he knew he wanted it to be aggressive and progressive, he just didn't know exactly where the music would lead. Influenced by the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Ty Tabor and Eric Johnson, Sears' guitar playing would definitely be central to the development of the band and its sound, but even his tastes diverge and intersect genres and styles.
Once the music was written, however, finding the right lineup and getting the songs recorded proved to be more of a journey than he expected. And although he's more than pleased with the end result, it's probably safe to say that the end result is different than what he originally envisioned. Somewhere along the way, however, Aformatic came together to break the expectations often set on the local hard rock and metal scene.
Originally formed in May of 2008, Aformatic spent a year developing its songs and repertoire before entering the recording studio in April of 2009. With initial tracks finished over the first two months, when the band began recording the vocal tracks in June, guitarist and band leader Sears knew upon listening that something wasn't right. Although the chemistry felt OK, he knew that something was missing to give the band the edge that it needed. Recording sessions came to a halt as the band searched for a new lead singer.
Although auditions began in July of 2009, it wasn't until November that the band crossed paths with vocalist Eric Hawkens. Even then, Sears wasn't completely sure he was the man for the job.
As Sears tells it, Hawkens said he dug the band's material, but as he continued to play more tracks for him, he wasn't sure that he was really that into it. Initially, he offered the position to another singer, but after three weeks, he stepped aside, knowing the fit wasn't right.
Ultimately, he made a call to Hawkens and offered him the position in December and after taking his time to carefully consider, Hawkens accepted the role.
"The process (of deciding) was tough," Hawkens shared. "I always said that I wanted to be in a band where I was the least talented member, but it was kind of scary. I knew I'd have to live up to expectations and I knew this band would stretch me way more than I'd ever been stretched before. The guys in the band were serious, focused and driven and I had to really ask myself if I could be that serious and focused and driven as well."
Once the decision was made, Hawkens joined the group to hand out just before Christmas then departed for Texas to visit family for two weeks. Armed with an array of music, Hawkens shared that his wife did nearly all of the driving on the trip as he spent nearly the entire journey writing. Upon returning, Hawkens had written lyrics for eight of the twelve songs that appear on the band's debut disc, Your Disease.
After working out the arrangements and new lyrics, the band returned to the studio again in April of 2010, starting from scratch with Hank Charles at Valcour Sound. Although recording started quickly, with the band's drummer knocking out all of his tracks in one day and Hawkens completing five songs in his first two nights, he then hit a wall both vocally and creatively.
"I'm responsible for his car payment for about four months," Hawkens jokes about the sessions. I took it so seriously and wanted to get everything just right. I think it ended up taking about 20 sessions to get 11 songs done."
In the end, the band emerged with Your Disease, a twelve track romp disc that touches on metal, progressive and hard rock, but doesn't really settle into any one category.
Driven by Sears' compositions and guitar playing, the disc doesn't settle into standard metal or modern rock conventions, just as the band doesn't completely fit in with the metal scene with which it is most often associated.
You can probably attribute that to the diversity of influences and dichotomy of Sears' and Hawkens' backgrounds. Whereas Sears comes from a metal and hard rock background, Hawkens grew up listening to everyone from Jackson Brown to Bon Jovi, Dan Fogelberg to Earl Klugh. Hawkens acknowledges that by the time he was in high school, Silverchair and The Offspring were his greatest influences leading to his current affinity for Males Kennedy.
When Sears and Hawkens come together, however, their different backgrounds complement each other and give the music a balance. Sears' playing gives the songs an undeniable heaviness while Hawkens' lyrics and vocals smooth the rough edges and bring the music back to center and give it a more commercial appeal. More hard rock than heavy metal, Aformatic is more groove heavy than expected. The influence of Ty Tabor (of King's X) can be heard in some of the arrangements and more angular guitar references, but reference points like Vernon Reid and George Lynch are more common in the groove heavy riffing and huge hooks that Sears adds to the mix. On the flip side, Hawkens' throaty growl and grasp of melodies openly references Kennedy and Chad Kroeger, yet doesn't pull Aformatic into a formulaic rut.
Mostly, it's Sears's wide open arrangements that provide the foundation of the band's character. In fact, that's the basis of the band's name. As Sears' shared, "I know that my music is hard to put lyrics to, but Eric did a great job with coming up with stuff. At one point he said 'This is so all over the board, I'm not sure what to do with it. It has no form' and I said 'Yeah -- that's the point. It's Aformatic.' I made up the word, but it fits and describes our music so well, we ended up using it as the band name."
"I tell him he's lucky I'm ADD," Hawkens laughed. "I can hyperfocus and pick up a pad of paper and start writing and ten hours later, I realize I'm supposed to be at work."
Even though they come from different backgrounds, the pairing of Hawkens and Sears provides both the spark and balance that the band needs. Although their different approaches have led to some friction, Sears shared that the two have only really argued once and when he was ready to throw in the towel, it was Hawkens who said they'd all put too much effort into the band to throw it away. That maturity not only impressed Sears, but brought some degree of clarity to the situation.
"All bands fight at a certain point," Sears shared, "but if you stay together long enough you get through all of that. It shows the strength of the band and shines through the music. You can't force that."
That's an appropriate description of Aformatic's sound as well: it's not expected, but what the band has is something that can't be forced. From the heavy groove of "Pendulum" to the commercial hard rock of "Hollywood" to the collision of funk, heavy groove and metal that results in "War", Aformatic has made a music statement that defines the band with Your Disease.
Aformatic finally releases the disc with a CD release party at Shenanigans this Friday night, August 12. Doors open at 8pm and the show starts at 9pm with Zero Crossing opening the show. Aformatic will then take the stage and roll out its new CD before Siva Addiction (who is back from an opening run with Saliva) wraps up the evening. Cover is $5 at the door and Aformatic's debut disc will finally be available at the show for $10.
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