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October 2019

Formation: "I still don’t want to be a rock star"

As one of the hottest duos of 2015, 2016 and likely 2017 too, Formation look back on the amalgamation of influences and events that have led them to this point.
Published: 8:32 am, September 02, 2016
Formation: "I still don’t want to be a rock star"
If there’s anybody keeping groove alive in 2016, it’s Formation. Lead by twin brothers Will and Matt Ritson, there’s an undeniable sense of destiny for these South London movers, combining unabashed pop with an unfiltered box of electro treats that makes them one of the most exiting propositions in joyous dance celebrations since LCD Soundsystem first opened for business.

Growing up in Wimbledon, the brothers’ first introduction to music was the vast swathes of Northern Soul running through the household, and it’s that soul that lives and breathes in Formation - formed from years of experimentation and trying their hands at every musical style possible. It’s a full beast, and one built upon the power of a youth spent in mass ensembles and true collectives of sound.

“At school, the first instrument I had was a recorder, and then we were kind of forced to sing in our local church…” explains Matt.

“Not ‘kind of’,” interjects Will. “We were forced! But Northern Soul and classical music were both huge influences, so for us it was constant rehearsals with the choir and the orchestra we joined.”

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If there’s a perfect combination of those worlds, it could be in the form of Queen. The outlandish, open and expansive signs of the time clearly left their mark on the brothers - and it seemed to be the first moment where those classical worlds they had been exploring finally entered rock’n’roll.

“Before we properly got into music the only band I can remember passionately being into was Queen,” recalls Matt. “It was the ultimate bridge between the mad operatic choral music we were getting into with the choir, and the soulful pop music we’d been hearing in our record collection at home.”

Specifically, Freddie Mercury was an icon that Will says left a lasting impact on him, and something that has given a key direction in Formation’s music so far, an infectious soundscape that beneath the surface is a damning kick on control and power in the modern age.

“That power, when you see him as a kid and you have no reference in terms of sex or gender or anything like that being important or sold to you, Freddie Mercury is such a figure of power, way more powerful than anyone you could see as a kid - he was like a superhero, a Transformer or something - and I think that still resonates with kids,” he continues. “That definitely still resonates with us, having a fucking soul that expounds power.”

Power is definitely the word that hits you in the face from the get go with Formation. Their 2014 white label release was a delectable introduction of DFA-inspired beats and expansive cuts, which Matt notes was funded by their manager and saw them walking around Soho dropping it into record stores. Born out of an improvised music project first started by Will, the brothers came together as Formation after their post-education years saw them head down different paths after both were booted out of school.

“When we got kicked out, I remember the teacher saying ‘You know, you need a Plan B - because you think you’re going to be a rock star’. I still don’t want to be a rock star. I think it’s bullshit. Like what is that? I just wanted to play music.”

Their call to arms and statement of intent so far is ‘Pleasure’, the concise disco-infused punk attack that sounds like a gritty London nightclub at closing time, a sea of bodies and late night revelry bursting with exotic vibes and cowbell cocktails. If there ever was an example of rock’n’roll in the digital age, then this is it.

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