Meet: Air Formation’s Matt Bartram

Inspirational Brighton shoegaze outfit Air Formation made  a rather subtle return to the fray last week with the release of the EP ‘Were We Ever Here’. Their first release since getting back together last year, ‘Were We Ever Here’ features four tracks that the band had been working on just prior to their split in 2010.

We hooked up with lead singer Matt Bartram to talk about the latest release, reformation of the band and more..

BM:Were We Ever Here’ – features tracks that you were working on back in 2010 prior to you splitting up…

MB: Yeah, we had a bunch of songs up and running straight after the last album but I don’t recall them ever really feeling finished. They were great songs but I seem to remember being really frustrated in a two steps forward, one step back (or even three steps back) kind of way.
Things were falling apart basically, I’m not sure everyone’s hearts were in it, including mine.

BM: What made you decide to revisit the songs ?

MB: Last Christmas we were talking about maybe getting together to play through some of the old songs for fun as it was 10 years since our current line-up formed. I suggested that maybe it would be more worthwhile if we rehearsed something new to see if we could maybe pull off a new EP. We had quite a few unfinished tracks from 2010 so we chose four and set about finishing them off. All the songs had been demo’d back then so the process was fairly straight forward, we just rehearsed and let the songs evolve. For example, The Wasted Days never had the long outro, that only came about by us messing around at rehearsal the week before we were due to record.

BM: The recording of the EP was a very well kept secret. Why?

MB:  In an age where everyone is constantly updating statuses about impending this and that, we thought it would be a more relaxing process for us just to get on with it unannounced. We obviously told Club AC30 our plans but we felt that if what we came up with sounded awful no one else would ever need to know we had attempted it. It took the pressure off to some extent and made it quite exciting knowing what was coming, especially after hearing the finished record (which we recorded with the wonderful Pat Collier). It only took about 12 weeks from recording to the release date which is pretty bloody impressive, so it still feel really fresh to us too.

BM: You originally formed back in 1998, and over a 12 year period,released four albums, built up a decent live reputation which earned you a fairly devoted fanbase – and then in 201 you split. Why?

MB: In hindsight it might have been better not to say anything and just disappear off the radar for a while, but everyone was living in different towns and it was getting increasingly hard to all meet up. We had all worked our asses off on our ‘Nothing to wish for…’ album but the response was luke warm compared to the reception of our previous releases, which was a shame as we were (and still are) very proud of it.
Even though it was a little disheartening I was quite determined to start working on another album, then after playing some shows around the country to increasingly smaller crowds some of us started to wonder if it was all really worth it, so made the decision to make a clean break.

BM: What was it that made you decide to get back together?

MB:  I think we missed meeting up, making some noise and zoning out of day to day reality. We played a couple of shows last year including one at Reverence Festival in Portugal and it reminded us how much fun it can be. So we decided that as long as things stayed that way, and are worthwhile, we would be open to doing more with Air Formation.

BM: What happened during the four year ‘hiatus’? Did you do any work with any other bands/solo etc?

MB: James & I formed ‘You Walk Through Walls’ with our friend Harry Irving and released an EP and an LP via Club AC30. Ben (Bass) started a solo project named ‘I am your Captain’ which is pretty cool.

BM: You’ve drawn comparisons to a number of ‘shoegaze’ bands (Slowdive, Loop etc.) Would you say it’s bands of this ilk that have influenced you?

MB: I can honestly say that none of the obvious ‘Shoegaze’ bands influenced the creation of Air Formation. In fact I only heard ‘Loop’ for the first time when I went to see them play Brighton a while back. My overriding influence was ‘Flying Saucer Attack’ so my initial vision for the band was a very lo-fi guitar heavy sound but then as everyone else joined in, and we added keyboards etc, it evolved into more traditional shoegazey sound. It was then that I started tracking down releases by those classic bands, that would have been around 1998.
I would say I’m more influenced by the vibe and aesthetic of bands like MBV or Slowdive rather than the sounds they create, if that’s makes sense. I really enjoy their music and both are incredible live but we’ve always tried to forge our own path, not that we could come close but it would feel false if we tried to emulate them in any way.

BM: What about as a band? Any particular bands/albums that you all bonded over?

MB: Not really, between us we have very eclectic tastes. It may sound strange but we rarely all talk about music or other bands, if anything we’re more likely to bond over a TV show, something like ‘Breaking Bad’.

BM: How about growing up? What was the music that you listened to?

MB: Local commercial radio, my earliest musical memories are of Status Quo and Abba. I used to tape the top 40 with my older sister and among the first albums I bought were the first two ‘Pet Shop Boys’ albums which I still really like. Richard (keyboards and childhood friend) is a couple of years older than me and introduced me to the likes of The Beastie Boys, The Sugercubes, The Stone Roses and most importantly The Cure.
Hearing “Disintegration” as a 13 year old had a pretty profound effect on me.

BM: Did you grow up in a musical household?

MB: My Dad is a collector of 50s/60s vinyl. so yeah, music was always around me growing up.

BM: Was there a particular record from your Dad’s collection you were fond of?

MB: As a kid I remember really enjoying playing ‘Twist and Shout’ off The Beatles ‘Please, Please Me’ LP my dad had, I pretty much wore the groove away. Years later I discovered that LP was a rare original gold label edition, probably not worth what it was now though. However I must say I’m not much of a Beatles fan.

BM: Air Formation have a reputation for a pretty intense live experience. How would you describe your live set?

MB: Having never witnessed one I couldn’t really say, but from where I’m usually standing I would say they can go from pretty uplifting to incredibly tense experiences.

BM: What’s do you enjoy most? Playing live, or been in the studio?

MB: Speaking for myself I’d much rather just spend time playing guitar, writing songs, recording and having people listen to my music that way.
I do enjoy playing live but life dictates that they are more one off special events nowadays.

BM: What has been your favourite gig to date? And why?

MB: Supporting Chapterhouse at the ICA just before ‘Nothing to Wish For…’ came out. It was such a great event and although I’m not usually comfortable playing big rooms I really enjoyed our set, it sounded great from where I was standing and it felt like an exciting time for Air Formation.

BM: And the worst?

MB: The Betsey Trotwood, London around 2005. it was our first headline show and we started drinking straight after sound check. James drank about 10 pints, could barely walk let alone play the drums and then forgot what song was what. In truth we were all in a bit of a state and it was utter carnage, no one spoke a word in the van home.

BM: The bands back together, the EP’s out, and you’ve done the odd gig; so whats next for Air Formation?

MB: We really haven’t talked about what comes next, just taking it all as it comes. If everyone wants to, then maybe, we’ll record another EP next year. But as I say that hasn’t been discussed. Whatever happens I am just very pleased we re-connected and recorded ‘Were We Ever Here’.


‘Were We Ever Here‘ is out now on Club AC30 – order you copy HERE


Matt Bartram – Guitars & Vocals
Ben Pierce – Bass
James Harrison – Drums
Ian Sheridan – Guitar
Richard Parks – Keyboards



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