Formula 5’s Joe Davis Talks new Lineup, Cohesion, Phish in Advance of Tour

Of all the music I saw in 2015, one moment stands out in particular. At Disc Jam, headlining band Twiddle was deep into their set when suddenly, but slowly, each member of the Vermont band was swapped out for the members of Upstate New York group Formula 5. It was as seamless as I can describe, with Joe Davis taking over Mihali Savoulidis’ guitar and leading the group on a several minute excursion into improvisational bliss.

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That was when Formula 5 was still largely playing festivals and bars in the northeast due to members of the band either having work or school hold them back from playing all over. However, beginning today, Formula 5 is embarking on their largest tour to date — 23 shows to be exact — in an effort to bring exposure to the talented foursome.

“This is our big first step toward spreading our wings outside the Northeast,” Davis said in a recent chat. “We have been working to do a large tour, but school and work and life has gotten in the way. We have the freedom to do it now and I couldn’t be anymore pumped about it.”

Back in December the group bid fond farewell to Mike McDonald, their keyboardist since 2012, as he chose to focus the bulk of his energy on his family and his day job. Replacing McDonald is Matt Richards, a Bethlehem, N.Y., native who has spent time with The Assortment of Crayons before joining Formula 5.

Davis said he met Richards at a show in New Paltz.

“I heard him play and I knew he was good,” Davis said. “He was just ready. With our music, it’s not about just being really good — I mean, we are all good individual players — but it’s about chemistry and playing well together. He connected well with us and we knew it was real.”

He added that the pairing has worked out pretty well, noting that the band didn’t “have a lot of options” for a new keyboardist because they didn’t really spread the word much, so they “hit the ground running” with Richards. McDonald, Davis said, was instrumental in helping Richards jump into Formula 5. At their December 12 show in Troy, McDonald and Richards both played keys at separate points during the show.

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photo by Boney Diego Photography

“We get along so well and that’s important, because you have to look at things like, ‘do they have a similar sense of humor? Are we going to be able to spend all this time together without killing each other?’,” Davis said. “Matt just fit and it’s working. We’re all in the moment players and we work as a team. Mike was great at it, and Matt has filled that role and then some. It’s a new budding friendship.”

Starting at Flour City Station in Rochester on January 14, Formula 5 will officially start the new chapter of their book. Along the way, the band will stop in Jamestown, Buffalo, Oneonta, Ithaca, Syracuse, and Plattsburgh while also playing shows throughout New England and opening for Twiddle at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park on February 26. Along the way, they will make stops at famed clubs Nectar’s in Burlington and the Bearsville Theatre in Woodstock.

Just following last summer, I had a brief chat with Savoulidis that included his thoughts on Formula 5. He said the band is chock full of energy and that “makes then incredibly fun to jam with.” In a recent text message, Twiddle keyboardist Ryan Dempsey mentioned that their swap-out at Disc Jam is one of his fondest memories of the summer.

Davis said the band is going to bring along recording equipment and hopes to get a bunch of music from the tour up on archive.org. He added that Formula 5 will be debuting new, original songs throughout the entire tour.

“We may hit the studio around Halloween because that’s just a good time to do it, but we want to focus on giving people our live experience,” he said. “Instead of hoarding our material, we want to share it and get the word out.”

He added that he would like to see an official live release come from this tour.

Any conversation with Davis that doesn’t touch on Phish and notably guitarist Trey Anastasio wouldn’t be complete. Davis doesn’t shy away from the fact he takes a ton of inspiration from the Languedoc-wielding redhead, and commented on the New Year’s Eve show he attended at Madison Square Garden.

“He’s been playing better than ever since those Grateful Dead shows,” he said. “What Trey has lost in dexterity at his age, he has more than made up for with his creativity. He sings a lot of the effects he used back in the 90’s — like dropping loops in the middle of a solo or using the whammy pedal. He was on fire at that show, especially the “Wolfman’s Brother”. He absolutely destroyed that “Walls of the Cave.””

His parting thoughts deposed his hopes for this tour.

“We sound really good now, but how about after we have 16 shows or whatever under our belt? We have so many ideas right now, we want to keep the energy high and continue building that cohesion,” he said.

The band recently posted a jam from practice over at their Soundcloud. Take a listen below.

Formula 5 Winter Tour Dates

January 14 Rochester, NY—Flour City Station*
January 15 Jamestown, NY—Mojo’s
January 16 Buffalo, NY—Nietzche’s^
January 21 Oneonta, NY—Black Oak Tavern
January 22 Ithaca, NY—The Dock+
January 23 Syracuse, NY—Funk n Waffles+
January 29 Plattsburgh, NY—The Monopole
January 30 New Haven, CT—Stella Blues#
February 3 Burlington, VT—Nectar’s**
February 4 TBA
February 5 Nyack, NY—Olive’s
February 11 Stamford, CT—Seaside Tavern#
February 12 Providence, RI—The Spot
February 13 Manchester, NH—Penuche’s
February 14 Lake George, NY—King Neptune’s^^
February 20 Bridgeport, CT—BRYAC
February 21 Stratton, VT—Grizzly’s
February 22 Brooklyn, NY—Brooklyn Bowl++
February 25 Worcester, MA—Electric Haze
February 26 Clifton Park, NY—Upstate Concert Hall##
February 27 Hartford, CT—Arch Street Tavern+
March 2 Burlington, VT—Nectar’s***
March 5 Woodstock, NY—Bearsville Theater^^^

(*) w/ Upward Groove
(^) w/ Universe Shark and The Fredtown Stompers
(+) w/ Chromatropic
(#) w/ Moxa
(**) w/ Sammich
(^^) w/ Capital Zen
(++) w/ The Jauntee and Sprocket
(##) opening for Twiddle
(***) w/ The Jauntee
(^^^) w/ Teddy Midnight and The Other Brothers