Reformat‘s second album Precursed is a thrilling blend of experimental music inspired by their shared love of heavy metal, electronica, vintage pop and science fiction. Reformat is created by Luke Pajak and carried an eclectic combination of influences.
To start could you introduce the band members and how you got together.
I’m Luke and we have producer Russ (Napalm Death / At the Gates) and drummer Jay in the band too. Both Russells.
Russ produced I Killed Pharaoh, one of my previous bands and we quickly bonded over a shared love of music and talking nonsense. He’s worked on all of my musical projects over the years and we’ve been besties since. I first met Jay when he was tiny! With Russ for a dad, Jay had very little hope of a normal life.
Could you explain the main differences between new album Precursed and your debut The Singularity?
The most obvious difference is it’s probably more direct than the first album…we’re experimental but I’d say we get to the point pretty fast this time around. Emotionally there’s also more anger and sadness on the surface. We still focus on melody but the tracks are impulsive and things evolve more quickly. Beyond that, it’s pretty much the sound we established on The Singularity. I’m really enjoying using the Sequential Prophet-6 instead of the Juno 106 but all of the same sort of textures are in there. Overall I’d call Precursed a more abrasive piece of music than the first album.
One of my favourite tracks on Precursed is ‘Sierra Oscar‘. It launches straight in, starting with an immediate ferocious soundscape and yet switches to dance music with the synths giving a distorted vocals before rocking in again, loud and powerful to the end. Could you share the inspiration behind this track?
I’m glad you like this track. Everyone seems to have a different favourite so far, which is really cool. Lyrically it’s inspired by a situation which felt like it followed me through the day and chased me into my sleep. There was no escaping it for a while but ultimately creating this music allowed me some much-needed moments of peace. Making this album felt like such a release and despite the sometimes frantic feeling of this track, I hope a sense of relief comes through in the sound, as much as the darkness does.
As you’ve pointed out, musically it’s more connected to nineties dance music than anything from the first album and that was a conscious decision—to kind of evolve from the decades which had largely inspired the previous album. I also wanted to express the feeling I have listening to tracks like ‘Stor Eiglass‘ by Squarepusher. As a result, the whole thing feels a bit like MDMA to me and I think that’s down to the almost euphoric relief I felt after finally escaping the nightmares.
The variety of soundscapes on Precursed is broad. There appear to be no boundaries. For example ‘Haruspex‘ is quite experimental and yet final track ‘Post Breath’ begins so very quietly. Do you have a particular favourite atmosphere you enjoy creating?
I really enjoy that freedom to be experimental. We’re big fans of all sorts of music and thinking about it, there’s definitely the sense that anything goes, to the extent that I actually don’t really notice that what we’re creating isn’t exactly pop music. I certainly don’t recall a time where Russ has suggested we rein it in—which is perhaps something we should do more of (haha).
In terms of atmospheres, it’s a mixture. I particularly enjoy creating moments that are both heavy and melodic, I find it cathartic. There’s always that focus on what we’re tapping into emotionally, which I think is necessary for listeners to connect when vocals are so sparse. Equally, those spacious moments of calm are just as important and fun for me to create as well. I guess the combination of the two things together is what defines our sound on this album, to an extent.
What is the creative process in Reformat? Do you begin with specific ideas or is it more improvised when you are together?
It pretty much starts with demos I’ve been recording over a given period of time. Russ then suggests which direction they might take and from there we’ll get Jay’s input, once the structures are a bit more considered. The tracks essentially evolve over the internet for a while before we even think about getting into the same space. On the latest album, Jay demo’d drums on an electric kit early on, so I could tighten up the synth and guitar ideas around his playing, rather than the basic patterns I’d initially programmed. Once the tracks were in good shape, we got him into the studio with Russ to finalise the drums in a live room. It really brings the whole thing to life once he’s unleashed on the drums. I then re-recorded guitars and synths to lock in with the new grooves before mixing at Russ’ studio. We certainly had the luxury of time on this album!
Are there any plans for gigs to see these songs performed live?
It would be amazing to play the songs live but sadly it’s not something we have plans to do anytime soon. Logistically it’d be difficult for a whole load of reasons. Jay is super busy with Yard Act and Russ is always in the studio recording but if the right opportunity came along, we’d try to make it work.
If I looked in your fridge right now what would I find?
A lot of aging condiments and not much else… that’s right, I’m a condiments in the fridge type of guy. I’m taking less risks as I get older. Which reminds me, I need some fresh veg, post-haste!