Hundred Waters on curating the FORM Festival experience [Interview]
FORM Festival is nearing its third installment in Arizona’s high desert at Arcosanti. OWSLA’s Hundred Waters have not only made a name for themselves at the intersection of folk, experimental, and electronic influences, but also as the curators of one of the more unique festival experiences in the world. The band has created their own model for a niche micro-festival that is intrinsically different from nearly every other event in the country. Now, as FORM enters its third year, the festival is expected to double in capacity from last year, bringing 1,200 attendees to the event, all free-by-application. Ahead of the event, Dancing Astronaut caught up with Hundred Waters’ Zach Tetreault, who has been at the helm of planning and refining the FORM experience since its inception.
The conversation begins with our mutual reverence of OWSLA, which this year seems to be a more prevalent aspect to FORM than in years past. Since Hundred Waters signed on to Skrillex‘s LA-based dance-heavy label in 2012, the band has been received as a welcomed departure in style for the imprint, defined by their experimental folk-meets-electronic catalogue.
Zach: “OWSLA is a huge part of my life. I’ve worked with them every day for the last four years and they’re family. It’s been an extremely trying experience for all of us. You know, signing to [OWSLA] knowing that we are very different from what they normally put out and ultimately them doing a really great job caring for us.”
DA: How did the idea for FORM develop? How does the label factor in to the festival?
Zach: “The label didn’t really factor in to how it all came to be too deeply, up until this point. I’ll tell you how it all began. So coming out of our first record’s release, Hundred Waters carried on about a year and a half of touring pretty extensively. Nonstop. We rented out our home in Gainesville and set out on the road. When we wrapped up that stretch of touring, we made a conscious decision to do a show, or a series of shows, that were unconventional and more intentional.”
“We were tired of playing venue shows over and over again. We thought, lets do something for free, somewhere interesting, where people have to kind of drive to get there. Somewhere thats beautiful.”
Zach: “When I was moving the band from Gainesville, Florida to LA I made a little trip out of it with my friend and we checked out a series of places. Arcosanti was one of those places. As soon as we went and stepped foot on the site we just knew, ‘This is exactly what we are looking for. It’s bizarre, beautiful, thoughtful, intentional. It’s inspiring and it has performance spaces built in.’ So we kept planning of when to do the show, which was right as Hundred Waters was finishing our second record, The Moon Rang Like A Bell. We started thinking about album release shows and it just sort of coincided with my conversations with Arcosanti.”
DA: So Majical Cloudz and How To Dress Well got on board to play with you that first year and just like that, the inaugural FORM was born.
Zach: “That first year I booked eight artists and split it up over a weekend. We wanted it to be free so that’s how we came up with the free by application process and that year we invited 250 people. It wasn’t overly planned and it turned out really special. Coming out of that first year it was perfect, we knew we had to do it again so we upped the ante and I booked 25 artists last year. I was talking to Sonny about it too, so last year we were able to make him our special guest. It was an amazing experience. We had 600 people come free by application. Still, I saw room for improvement, and thats what this year’s about. This year it’ll be about 1,200 people and 30 artists playing. Four Ted Talks, visual artists, and podcast channels. All sorts of cool shit. And as its grown, now Sonny stands behind it fully and is becoming one of my partners in the festival.”
DA: What is the broader vision for the festival going forward?
Zach: “I have some ideas for how to expand what we are doing with this festival and take it to different places all over the world. It is becoming a year long, committed, devoted job. It’s not just the festival, it’s about cultivating this mentality. We want to form a community of people who are respectful, thoughtful, and inspiring. When you go apply for the festival on the website, you’re creating an account with FORM and we are going to launch a robust community portal and anyone who has applied to the festival will have the opportunity to exchange within this community. That’s something we will present in the coming year. But we want it take this model to urban areas. Cities like LA, London, Paris, Berlin, Sydney…
“Theres a lack of this out there and the people who come out to Arcosanti, they get it. You’ll come up and you’ll get it.”
DA: So is the plan to make FORM Arcosanti a sort of flagship event, and run satellite FORM events in other places?
Zach: “We can take this model and put it anywhere around the world. We have already located some of those sites. There’s even further ideas of touring this model. That’s kind of where my heads at. Keep the core ethos of what we are doing intact and still manage to take it further.”
FORM’s third edition will take place in Arizona from May 13-15. Skrillex, Bonobo, Four Tet are expected to headline along with Hundred Waters. Home-grown and curated to include family and friends, Hundred Waters’ FORM experience is disrupting the three-day festival archetype, introducing a new kind of event that may become the most sustainable festival model moving forward.