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The Joy Formidable Chat to Stereoboard Ahead Of Debut Album & UK Tour (Interview)

Sunday, 23 January 2011 Written by Rob Sleigh
The Joy Formidable Chat to Stereoboard About the New Album Ahead of Their February Tour (Interview)

On the eve of the unveiling of their debut album ‘The Big Roar’, the Joy Formidable’s leading lady Ritzy Bryan spoke to Stereoboard to tell us about the album, the rise of the group and their forthcoming UK tour.

A couple of years ago, while the Joy Formidable were still only experiencing the first few tastes of their early success, an unofficial video for their song ‘Austere’ made an appearance on YouTube. Although the fan-made video could not realistically be described as explicit, its rather controversial content attracted some apparently unwanted attention for YouTube, who swiftly removed it. The band soon responded by posting the video on their own website. “We thought it was absolutely priceless. It was genius. Why it got banned… who knows? It’s not pornographic at all. I think we just liked the idea of people watching it in their offices and then realising what the content was.” However, it isn’t just the more amusing contributions that the band look forward to. Ritzy confirms that similar gifts have also been welcomed in the past. “I think it’s pretty touching when people go to the effort to want to do something with one of your tracks. We’ve had people who do covers and then send them to us. Someone did a cello version of one of our songs. That means a lot to us. We’re really glad if we can inspire somebody to want to do something like that.”

A bit further down the line and the Joy Formidable have re-released ‘Austere’ with a brand-new – and much more YouTube-friendly – official video as a foretaste of their debut album ‘The Big Roar’. Fans of the London-based trio that have been following the group on the gig and festival circuit over the past couple of years will no doubt be pleased to finally witness the long-awaited arrival of the album. And it’s a welcome relief for the band as well. “We’re extremely excited to be sharing it. We’ve overseen every tiny bit of its making, having self-produced it in our bedroom in London. But in some respects, it’s just the beginning.”

Image‘The Big Roar’ may well mark the beginning of the next stage of the Joy Formidable’s existence, but as Ritzy goes on to explain, it also symbolises the end of a period of work that started with the release of their 2009 mini-album ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’. “The background of the mini-album is that it was a bit of an accident. Not a bad accident – we’re very proud of it as a body of work, but it was definitely a very spontaneous release.” She also describes how, while the recording processes of the two releases bore a number of similarities, there was also some variation that helped to bring the energy of their live performances into ‘The Big Roar’. “The biggest difference is that we’ve involved our live engineer. He obviously knows our live sound through and through, so there’s a little bit more of that aesthetic.” One of the most noticeable comparisons, on the other hand, is the reappearance of four of the tracks from ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’. “We’ve re-recorded a couple of them, but the spirit of the tracks hasn’t changed that much. Even now, those tracks feel very relevant and they definitely have a place on this larger and more considered body of work.”

“A bad workman blames his tools” is a philosophy that Ritzy and co are keen to avoid. The band’s experiences during the making of both records have taught all three members of the Joy Formidable to make the best use of the tools at their disposal. “We’ve got a very, very modest studio in our bedroom in South London. We are restricted by some of the gear we’ve got, but I think that when you’ve got restrictions like that, that’s when you have to be creative with what you’re doing.” The result of this shared attitude is that, over the last few years since the release of ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’, the group have evolved their sound into an altogether deeper composition on ‘The Big Roar’. “It’s quite ambitious for an opening album. I think it’s powerful when it needs to be and there’s definitely a statement of intent there that we wanted to create a soulful, passionate, emotive-feeling record.”

The release of their debut album is not the only landmark that the group have recently been observing. “We’ve just celebrated out second anniversary together as the current line-up. The writing started a little bit earlier than that between Rhydian [Daffyd, bassist] and I in North Wales.” Prior to the birth of the Joy Formidable, the two founding members had previously worked together in another band. “It was a totally different dynamic. We came out of that both feeling like it wasn’t what we wanted to be or do at all. The Joy Formidable marked the onset of us writing together for the first time. It was about grabbing back the controls and finding a new lust for music again. It was instantly different because there was a good chemistry, but we definitely felt tenacious about doing something that felt important to us.”

Looking back to her background in North Wales, Ritzy remembers how her own lust for music started from an early age. “I grew up in a very music-orientated household. Maybe even music-obsessed. I don’t actually remember my house ever being silent. There was constantly music on somewhere. My mother and father were both big record collectors. In that sense, it could have gone either way. Sometimes you don’t share your parents’ enthusiasm for things [Laughs].” Although Ritzy confirms that her own musical inspirations have ranged from Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan to Motown and Elvis Costello, the Joy Formidable’s influences are not as easy to pinpoint. “When we started writing, we definitely had no big idea of what we wanted to sound like or what we wanted to be like. I’d say that a lot of the influences you wouldn’t be able to tell. They must have seeped in quite unconsciously.”

However, she also goes on to explain that their current sound is much more than just the rock label that has been placed upon them far too often. “We do have a rock sensibility, but I wouldn’t say that we’re just a rock band either. I think it can be quite an easy perception to say that because we’ve got guitars we must, in some way, be quite a heavy rock band. It’s got a loud aesthetic to it, but it shows a lot of different sides. Loud is only powerful if you’ve got the dynamic to go with it and, for that, you have to have quiet and fragile as well sometimes.”

Looking into the not too distant future, Ritzy talks about how the band are looking forward to christening ‘The Big Roar’ on their first major tour since its release. “We enjoy all our tours, but maybe more so now than ever. It will be the first time that we’ve had a synchronised body of work going out there. We’re very excited.” She also describes how the Joy Formidable have built on their live performances over the last few years and are now at a stage where they can bring something spectacular to their old fans as well as the new ones. “We definitely put a lot of thought into the way we’re going to present tracks - old and new. We’re constantly messing around with ideas and structures. It’s good to push the tracks in a live way as much as you possibly can.”

Although Ritzy and the rest of the Joy Formidable have no specific plans for the next few years, she is able to confirm that their most important aspiration as a group is to continue making music that will inspire and entertain them enough to keep going. “There’s a definite need to write music and an emotional enjoyment in what makes us feel alive. The ultimate would be to be able to keep doing that and for the emotive sense of the music to remain on a level where we can be constantly creating albums that evolve.” The Joy Formidable’s journey so far has brought many challenges and many achievements for the band. Ritzy believes that the greatest achievement has been staying true to themselves. “If you’re good at what you do, that has to go hand-in-hand with having utter tenacity and conviction in what you do. You come up against so many obstacles, so many problems and so many disappointments. F**k it all. The most important thing is your songs, your music, and the people that are doing this with you.”

‘The Big Roar’ is released on 24th January.
The Joy Formidable will be touring the UK in February 2011.

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