The Kendall-area home of Harry Varela is framed by the backdrop of the balcony's sliding glass door as he points at a cramped corner of the dining room. Attired in a thuggish-looking wife beater and jeans, he chuckles when he calls it "Chocolate Thunder Studios."
The name seems like the product of Varela's nerdy musical savvy. The light touches of a live-in girlfriend (i.e. pastel-colored décor, cleanliness, order) are restricted to the other parts of the apartment. Meanwhile the machinery scattered about looks like a tech's Christmas list: Oberheim, Virus, KS Rack, HMC, etc. The furlongs of cable stringing them together make this corner look like a mad scientist's lab.
The sight of this prompts his three friends and bandmates to call him a "gothic Backstreet Boy"; Varela retorts, "Dark Menudo." It's a lighthearted call-and-response shtick that masks the seriousness of the quartet's endeavors. In the four years since it first formed, Formula Redux has demonstrated the potential and ability to make a huge splash on the dance/industrial music scene. Though far removed from New York or London, the band continues to gain momentum.
The group began in 1999 when 24-year-old Brian Eusse (vocals) decided he was going to give the music thing a try. Gathering together his ideas and some bedroom equipment, he laid out a plan to blend his love for Eighties New Wave and EBM (electronic body music) into a solo career. Instead he enlisted long-time friend and collaborator Andres Auad (keyboards/guitar) to expand and build on this energy. A year later, they recruited Harry Varela (keyboards/programming), a friend in the local Goth scene whose band Medusa had just broken up. "We concentrated on creating a more 'live' sound within the scope of the electronic music that interests us, and that really took off once we met Harry," says Eusse enthusiastically.
The trio's hard work culminated with a well-received live debut at the now-defunct Power Studios in 2001. This quickly led to gigging on the Gothic/industrial circuit and building a fan base strong enough to get bookings at clubs and events such as Sin, the Gathering, O'Zone, and the Church. An eight-track demo appeared in 2002 as Formula Redux's calling card; local scenesters and DJs gave it an occasional spin between cuts of Christian Death and Diamanda Galas. The demo was a rough version of what would eventually become the band's debut full-length, Altered States; producer Varela continued to tinker with its tracks.
Never discouraged by the local scene's small size, the predominance of rock and Latin acts, or even a predilection for house and trance in Miami clubland, Formula Redux chugged along into a very active 2003. Numerous sessions and countless hours tinkering away at "Chocolate Thunder," plus taking full advantage of the Internet (www.formularedux.com/) as a networking forum, using online communities such as Friendster and MySpace to advertise and share MP3s, paid off when the band began earning a higher profile. "The response has been very good and the feedback from people all over the world has been very positive," says Auad. "Even better has been the crossover fans we've made with people who wouldn't listen to our kind of music but happened upon it online."
Formula Redux opened 2004 with the release of Altered States and a minitour of the upper East Coast. In New York City, the group shared the AlbionBatcave stage with dark wavers Bella Morte to a capacity-filled floor and played at CBGB, as well as the Axis Lounge in Carlstadt, New Jersey. WSIA-FM 88.9, which broadcasts from the College of Staten Island, occasionally reported the band on its top five called-in request list after the AlbionBatcave gig in February. Meanwhile the single "Water" is beginning to break the surface of British synth/futurepop and electroclash dance clubs.
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One addition to Formula Redux that expanded and diversified its sound was Raul Rio, a.k.a. DJ Dino, on drums. Brought onboard to provide live skins for the New York/New Jersey tour, Rio found it perfectly timed with his desire to depressurize from his DJ gigs (though he still spins records on occasion, usually during O'Zone's Wednesday-night Morgue party). Aside from providing a rock-steady rhythm, he lends a DJ's feel for danceable tracks during the band's writing sessions. While he was not involved in the recording of Altered States, his enthusiasm for the record is just as fervent. "At this point, the album's already out, but I'm looking forward to the next one and the input that I can give in its creation," he says.
Now Eusse adopts a rock star demeanor, aiming to get a rise out of the room as he wonders aloud whether they should be discussing the meaning of the moniker. The rest of the band joins in the prank, putting on airs and giving over-the-top explanations as to what Formula Redux means. Varela begins the sum-up: "We started off with Formula and then felt like changing it, but we'd already built a fan base around that, so we added the Redux to change it a bit." Auad and Eusse chime in: "It was like a revision of the pre-existing formula." And Rio ends it: "There's a metal band in California named Formula. We've fended off a potential lawsuit."
Formula Redux's similarities to Apoptygma Berzerk and VNV Nation aside, this "dark Menudo" from Miami has the means and energy to pursue the music thing. The personnel is glued together to balance the organic with the digital, the subtly sensuous with the overtly dark. Eusse points out: "We're constantly trying to evolve our sound." The agreement of his band members is unspoken. Their slowly nodding heads show they know that's the ticket, the formula to make it.