By Alex Baldino
As people across the nation continue to self-isolate to slow the spread of COVID-19, many turn to a variety of activities to keep themselves occupied, such as baking banana bread, dying their hair pink or going on neighborhood walks.
But for Format War, a local student band, self-isolation has been dedicated to doing what they love most — making music.
Format War released their second EP titled “Demo” on April 18. Focusing on themes of dissociation and anxiety, every song in the new EP is like being on a date with a ghost: hauntingly romantic.
Following the release of their first EP, “Home Recordings V.1,” which debuted in December 2019, “Demo” serves as a strong second wave. Recorded in early 2020 at In The West, a recording studio in New Brunswick, the EP features an array of “slowcore” songs, a subgenre of indie rock and alternative rock. In the track “War Room,” the band mocks their own self-seriousness with claims of divinity, self-importance and disillusionment with their peers.
The EP pits lead singer Jack Sofka’s soft vocals against the more harsh music, especially in their song “Good Morning,” where his dreamlike vocals contrast with the more harsh guitar riffs. The contradiction in the music is an interesting experience as a listener, and fits well with the themes of their EP.
“‘Demo’ was created with the intention to try to find a full-band sound for songs that didn’t really work solo,” said Sofka, a senior English major at College. “Thematically, it’s pretty all over the place, which doesn’t really matter because you can’t understand a word I’m saying, but I was happy that it’s pretty sardonically consistent as the solo stuff I had put out.”
Sofka started Format War in June 2019 as a solo act, so he could “have some sort of creative output while (he) was bored.”
In November 2019, drummer Mike Maciolek, a senior political science major at the College, and bass guitarist John Carone, a senior criminal justice major at Rider University, both joined the band and performed their first gig at an off-campus house in Ewing.
“The band is my project,” Sofka said. “I write the stuff and do all the imagery … and I bring stuff to them to play for live shows.”
Since then, the band has gained a cult following in the local music scene.
“I hope whatever our next release is, we are able to properly play shows around it, or do some sort of short, East Coast tour to share it,” Sofka said.
“Demo” could not have been released at a better time, as it’s a beautiful reflection of feelings now magnified by a global pandemic, and provides soothing music for people to listen to in the comfort of their home.