Interview: Sam Means (The Format)

Interviews / Special Features / December 23, 2013

With vinyl reissues of both “Dog Problems” and “Interventions + Lullabies” coming from The Format in a matter of weeks, Modern Vinyl had the pleasure of talking to Sam Means, one half of the indie rock duo. You can still pick up both reissues over at the band’s merch store, along with the die-cut 7″ for their previously rare track, “Swans.” A big thanks to Means for talking with us during the busy holiday season.

First off, congratulations on the initial pre-order stage. You sold out of both “Dog Problems” and “Interventions + Lullabies” in a matter of days. The pressings were certainly much-wanted, but did that kind of response come as a surprise to you at all?

Thanks so much. Yes, I was very surprised to say the least. People have been asking for both records as well as “Swans” for years, so it was really cool to see that so many fans are still paying attention to the band and interested in the vinyl pressings. We worked really hard on putting it all together, so I’m happy it went over well.

In terms of “Dog Problems,” that’s been a highly sought after record for a number of years. When did you begin to realize its rarity and value amongst the world of collectors?

The original two pressings sold out really quick, so there has been a bit of a demand from the get-go, but once kids started sending me tweets to eBay auctions, selling the record for hundreds of dollars, I knew we had to do something.

It’s always interesting to me when a record skyrockets in price, somewhat because I wonder what the band or artist must think about it. Were you proud to see something you had such a hand in creating be that sought after? Or what were the feelings you had regarding this progression?

It’s cool that it became such a rare item.. You know, I don’t want this new batch to devalue those copies for the true collectors out there…But for the most part, I feel like a lot of those auctions were just people trying to cash in. There isn’t anything wrong with that, really, but we’re happy to be able to offer this now to all the fans, not just super collectors.

You had been teasing some vinyl releases for a while through outlets like Instagram and Twitter. How long exactly have these projects been in the works and what was the timeline like in relation to each?

It was in the works for a LONG TIME. Tons of back and forth over the years, but once we finally made a definitive decision to move forward, it came together pretty quick. Nicky, who works at The Format’s management office in Boston played a major role in assembling all the pieces. I can’t thank her enough. It was also really cool that Elektra finally let us license Interventions + Lullabies. For a couple years, the plan was just to do Dog Problems, so in a way, I’m glad it took a while so we could make the whole package that much more special.

I think we’ll dive into the products themselves now, beginning again with “Dog Problems.” You’ve got a triple gatefold and die-cut jacket in the works, so will that jacket fold out, with the dogs serving as the different panels? 

Yes, the packaging is super cool. It doesn’t have as many panels as the CD version, but it’s the same idea with the die-cuts. The two panels unfold out left and right. Nate and I wanted to really go all out with the packaging this time around since the first pressing was so boring.

The “Swans” single is pretty impressive, as well, with a complicated die cut. The inspiration is obvious, but what made you want to go the extra mile on that one, when you could of just done the standard 7″?

The Swan shape was a suggestion from Nicky. I honestly didn’t even realize we could do that, but jumped on the idea immediately. There’s a certain distance from the center that has to obviously house the song, so it took a few tries to design the shape, but I think it turned out really cool. Another group of people that should be thanked is Pirates Press. They did everything possible to help us achieve the vision for this release.

I think fans really appreciated the fair pricing on everything, especially on the $10 version of “Interventions.” What did you factor in when pricing the records and how were you able to keep them relatively low, given some of the higher rates we’ve seen lately?

Luckily, Nate and I have other jobs these days, so making money was at the bottom of the list when planning everything out. Not really having to worry about profit margins gave us the freedom to get the bells and whistles without having to charge an arm and a leg for them.

Of course, these releases were made a little more likely with the changing music marketplace. What are your thoughts on this “vinyl revival” and what do you think the format adds to the musical experience?

I love the vinyl revival. I own a merch company and we have multiple rooms here just filled with records. I couldn’t be happier that its thriving. There’s something special about holding the artwork, reading the liner notes and looking at the pictures. Digital music is an incredible convenience, but there’s room for both formats.

Do you maintain a record collection yourself?

I do have a pretty great collection. It was mostly older stuff for a long time, but I’ve more recently gotten into buying new music, as well. My 4-year-old daughter just started getting into vinyl, so we’re sharing our collection now.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about your solo work, in which the last release was the Record Store Day 7″, “Nona.” I know you’re quite busy with the family and merch company, but are you currently working on new material and can we expect anything soon?

I have at least an EP’s worth of songs about 70% recorded and tons of new songs since I first started those, so I may just shoot for a full length. Either way, I’m fairly certain I’ll be releasing something next year. Hopefully not too deep into it.

Do you see anymore soundtrack work in your future? After listening to “Santa Isabel,” I think you’ve really got a knack for that world. 

Thanks. I certainly hope so. I did a song for an indie film called, “HairBrained,” and I think it’s still riding the festival circuit, but should be out to the public soon. I’ll probably put the song out as a single early next year. Just waiting for the right time.

A big thanks to Sam for participating in our interview! You can still pick up each of the releases over at The Format’s merch store. The colored versions of both full lengths are currently sold out, but black versions are available, as is the “Swans” die-cut.

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Christopher Lantinen
Chris Lantinen is the owner and editor-in-chief of Modern Vinyl. Along with his modest collection of sad sounding records, he collects his share of soundtracks and previously adored indie up-and-comers. Chris is currently a professor of journalism and public relations at Edinboro University in the Erie, Pennsylvania area.

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