Interview: The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable band

Ritzy Bryan is the type of girl that you wish was your best friend. She is funny, easygoing and in one of the biggest bands to be in 2013: The Joy Formidable.

Wolf’s Law is the bands most recently released record after their debut album The Big Roar in 2011 and the lead singer, Ritzy, talks to Samantha Booth about the new sound the album explores, the record title’s meaning and how the HMV administration is going to affect the band.

The Joy Formidable bandThank you for talking to me today, Ritzy. How are you?

I’m very well, I’m just waking up here in Philadelphia to do a week of promo on the East Coast. It’s busy, busy and it’s kind of one those weeks where you’re not sure where you’re waking up but there’s a sick part of my that quite likes that.

I grew up in Cheshire, which is obviously close to the North Wales border, where The Joy Formidable were born. I used to go on holiday in Snow every year and it is such a strange place because it can be so beautiful yet so strange in it’s own ways. Do you think growing up in North Wales has inspired your work in anyway?

Yes, definitely. It’s difficult to dissect how much of it directly changes the writing of the lyrics and songs but definitely in terms of forming you as a person, which obviously in some ways is going to seep into your art, in terms of your imagination, my love of nature and things that excited you in the world. We’ve always said that we feel like children of nature and I almost get withdrawal symptoms from it if I’m in cities constantly. I need that variable brought in.

When we started the band, we moved back to North Wales and that was part of how this band few in the early days when we were getting to know each other. It was quite a feisty beginning to the band in terms of finding our way as we’re both quite head strong and passionate. We used to go walking in those hills to, almost, cool off and the way in which we shook the stress out. I’m absolutely certain that those landscapes and the calm and how evocative those moments with nature can be, have had influence on the music back then and to this day.

Many bands bring their own life experiences into the music. Do you think as a band you have incorporated your own life experiences into the music then?

There’s always going to be a personal anchor to the music that you write and thus far the albums that we have wrote have definitely chronicled how we feel, where we are at personally and you can that is quite defined between The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law. Neither of the albums just deal with personal contents and stories, they aren’t completely introspective. There are lots of motivational things we have learnt and other people’s stories that we want to share. There are breadths of themes on the album, but they are all underpinned by a lot of emotions that are very personal.

Have you always wanted to be a singer, or did you aspire to different goals when you were younger?

It’s a tricky one because I’ve always written and sang and was playing my first instrument being eight years old. There’s always been music in our household and it was my escape when I was growing up as an only child in rural north wales. I filled a lot of my time playing and listening to a lot of records. I would always gravitate towards this as I got a lot of joy from it and I never always felt the need to share it. And it maybe wasn’t until I was reunited with Rhydian (Dafydd, bassist) that I had that pivotal moment when he really pushed me to “fucking hell, share this stuff!” So, this is maybe when the penny dropped and I thought “maybe I will then”. And now it feels like the most natural thing in the world.

How do you think your sound has changed between your debut album, The Big Roar and Wolf’s Law? Are there any surprises in store?

When we were touring The Big Roar through Europe and the UK and when we spent the end of 2011-12 in the states touring there, we wrote a lot on the road. We have our own mobile studio that we have with us all the time, so we have been busy behind the scenes, even when touring the first record, and we have done a lot of dabbling and experimenting in different things. There were no restrictions in being creative. I can definitely see how the 18 months has kind of worked its way into the new record. It’s been a natural instruction into our sonic pallet, which is the bear bones of this band, and we have been experimenting with guitar sound and the percussive stuff.

What’s the meaning behind the album title, Wolf’s Law?

It’s a scientific term about how the bone is able to adapt to breakage, fractures and stress. There’s something to be admired in that and I’m fascinated by the body, how intricate it is and how it manages to work it’s way around a whole host of things so sophisticated without us fully realising sometimes. It really connected with this album.

In the first album, it chronicled a lot of turbulence, sadness and relationships that were breaking down. There was a lot of strain from my parents and we were in the eye of the storm where we were writing it. There was a lot of sadness, numbness and depression so I think, not to say that all of a sudden the clouds have parted and the sun is shining, but it certainly feels like some of the personal situations started to reconcile and relationships are healing now.

It’s about feeling inspired by that, realised you’ve wasted a lot of time being miserable and living life a certain way. There is a sense of trying to recapture the moment of it with this record, so the title was really significant.

Last year, The Joy Formidable supported The Foo Fighters on tour which is obviously a massive achievement. If you could share the stage with any other band or artist, who would it be and why?

That’s a hard one. I’ve always said I would love to do a show with Bruce Springsteen. I saw him live when I was little and it was one of the reasons I picked up a guitar and started playing. So, to come full circle would be pretty special. I’d love to play with Future of the Left. They came to that states and we came back to the UK and so we keep missing each other! I’d love to be a punter in the audience and see the new record live.

It was announced recently that HMV has gone into administration. Do you think this will affect the band or the music in anyway?

We heard last night, it’s sad. It’s always sad when you see any amazing independent record store go. Anything like that, where it’s a hub where people can go and listen to music is great and there is something ritualistic about going to buy a record and having it in your hand. But, I like embracing new as well. It would be hypocritical of me not to. I’m on the road at the moment and I don’t have my fucking record collection with me and I’d going fucking mental if I wasn’t able to listen to it some other way. They are sat in fucking storage so I’m big about embracing the new so I hope we can keep a balance of it. That’s the way you meet people and I think of the conversations I’ve had in record shops, High Fidelity style and you’re sharing and communicating and it feels alive. As long as we can keep a balance of both and I hope there is a public desire to actually leave your house and not virtually meet music and someone.

Do you think this will inspire the rise of the gig?

Yeah, you cannot replace the gig, so maybe it’ll be the rise of this and we can cling on to the amazing records shops. Even when they struggle, there’s always a pulse where people want to congregate.

What are the bands plans for the next year?

Well, there’s going to be a lot of touring so the calendar is looking pretty fucking manic. This is only part of the tour and I have to emphasise that, as it’s just the beginning for this year. We are going to try and get around as many places as possible. So, bring it on and we excited to be sharing these new songs like. We are going to be working on that Welsh EP and a few new ideas that are firing up, which is just part of the band. Luckily, we enjoy being on the road; otherwise we’d have all gone fucking nuts by now. We are looking forward to it.

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