Local Limelight: Familiarize Yourself

Based out of the extended Capital District, Formula 5 has been gaining fans from over the Upstate region and beyond with their improvisational funky jams. Familiarize yourself with Formula 5 consists of Joe Davis on guitar, Mike McDonald on keys and Bill Shattuck on bass.

Their live performances are nonstop dance parties as they combine elements of funk, jazz, rock and more to their own original music. Besides their unique sound, each show sends the crowd soaring with covers and teases from a never ending list of musicians such as Phish, Herbie Hancock, Elton John, Steve Miller Band, and Was Not Was.

Ever-changing melodies with familiar sound and catchy lyrics are enough to turn anyone into a lifelong fan. Formula 5 has performed at Upstate festivals such as Strange Creek, Backwoods Pondfest, Green Mountain Getdown, Autamation Indoor Music Festival plus many others. Don’t miss their new album Edging on Catastrophe release party Friday the 18th at Red Square in Albany with The Hornitz and Suitable Groove or Saturday the 19th at Monopole Bar in Plattsburgh with North Funktree. The boys will always be a part of this year’s Spring Revival festival May 8th-11th in Macedon, NY.

Susan Rice: You are parting ways with your bassist, Bill Shattuck. What is one of his strengths as a musician that you will miss most?

Formula 5: Well anyone that knew Bill knew that he had quite the presence, whether it be in person, on stage, or when we were writing new material. His stage presence is something that we will surely miss and his ability to completely take over or lead a jam was second to none. Bill was an extremely creative person, our friend, and has been a huge part of what we’ve developed with Formula 5.

SR: With the addition of a new band member, how does this effect your band’s formula for practices and live performances? Does each member find himself adjusting drastically or is this an easy transition?

F5: Any time you bring in a new member and especially because we are a very improvisational “jam”-type band, there will always be a significant difference in the dynamic of the band. James has a very different style and with it a different set of influences that shape his playing A large reason we were so impressed with James was with his ability to just fit into our style so quickly, it was like we had been playing with him for months and this was literally his first time playing music with us. In terms of our live connection as a band, we’ve felt that progress abnormally quickly.

SR: Formula 5 is known for their original improvisational tunes as well as some recognizable covers, especially from Phish. How has their music influenced you? Any specific shows? Do you have plans in the works for any Phish after parties during the summer tour?

F5: Phish is obviously a very big influence on us and they helped pave the way for artists in this broad genre of jam music. Our favorite part of Phish is that they span so many different styles of music and their extensive list of covers helped open our eyes to some amazing artists that came before them. The question about specific shows that have influenced us is a GREAT question, Joe would have to nod to the 12-29-97 MSG show as he felt it was some of their best playing as a group. Mike’s would have to be 6-11-94 (Red Rocks) because it was one of the early SBD bootlegs of Phish (long before the days of Live Phish and torrents) he received on cassette tape and it was some of their most polished, energetic playing or go with the Colonial Theater show from 7-12-91 with the awesome addition of the Giant Country horns. James’ favorite would be the infamous 10-31-94 Glens Falls show because he remembers his friend burning him a copy and recalls it as an “eye opener” musically. As for after parties, we will have to see…..

SR: With the release of your new album, ‘Edging on Catastrophe’ what are you hoping to achieve with new and old fans? Why that album name? I would think that you are on the edge of a great explosion of success.

F5: The album is definitely a step in the right direction, we were trying to illustrate how our songwriting has developed but we are also trying to push our music in different directions. And yes, that means there will still be a healthy amount of “jamming”, or improvisation, on the album but we have a few shorter ballad type songs that show another side of us as well.

The title “Edging on Catastrophe” specifically comes from a lyric on the second track on the album “Earthbound Tim”, to us it represents a sort of fearlessness and freedom that comes from living in the moment. This theme is represented lyrically throughout most of the album and in the overall musical layout of the album as well. We like to push the energy live and improvise as a group in the moment, which adds a lot of risk for “catastrophe” but can also create special moments of musical connection that otherwise won’t be attained.

SR: It’s almost festival season, if you had the choice to play at any festival in the United States, which
one would it be and why?

F5: Right now, I think it would have to be gathering of the vibes. It’s such an amazing festival and has been the ultimate festival in the northeast for years now. This year’s lineup is ridiculous.

SR: In efforts to help fund your latest album, you went thru Indiegogo to request contributions from fans. What was the easiest part of the process? What was the hardest?

F5: The easiest part I suppose was the setup of the actual campaign. The indiegogo service is great and they help bring some amazing independent art and music projects to life. Honestly the hardest part was “panhandling” to people who love original music. Fans may think we are just being lazy with it and asking for additional handouts to be able to play music, but when it comes down to it, there is a lot more time and money that goes into being in an original band than most people know. We know these are not the best of times economically but through our fans, friends, and family we were able to help pay for this album which has been our focus for the last 4-5 months and we can’t wait for everyone to hear the final product.


Keep up to date with all things Formula 5 on their website, Facebook, Twitter and download their shows for free via their archive page.

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