|Featured Band (12): First Full-Length Album Captures The Big Roar of The Joy Formidable|
|Written by DJ Space|
|Thursday, 20 January 2011 23:00|
Since the release of its first single in 2008, it seems The Joy Formidable has been on just about everyone's radar and playlist, and yet this talented band has waited until now to release its first full-length studio album. With three (brief) US tours and a number of European, Australian, and UK tours under its belt, and the scheduled release of The Big Roar in the UK, Europe, and America during the next few months, it is an appropriate time to showcase The Joy Formidable.
“It’s all felt right, and at the right time," Lead vocalist and guitarist Ritzy Bryan told TLOBF. "We’ve done things a bit topsy-turvy; releasing singles, EPs and live albums before a proper one."
“It’s all about having fun,” Bass guitarist Rhydian Daffyd added. “We’re not influenced or swayed by the business aspect of it. Ultimately what matters to us is putting out releases we’re proud of.”
VPME described The Joy Formidable as "The euphoric aural equivalent of a hand job."
The Big Roar is an appropriate title for the debut studio album from The Joy Formidable. "The Joy Formidable are one LOUD band," VPME reported. "Get to hear them live just the once and there is very good chance that the foam flecks of rabid fervour will start to form during the evening, and you’ll be their willing bitch for life."
“There’s a lot in the name," Bryan disclosed. "It [the album title] references the sonic of the album but also, Big Roar is the longest wave in the world; it normally happens in the Amazon.”
By all accounts, the band's live performances contain plenty of "crowd surfing and epic riffs."
"Generally our fanbase are into live music, they’re vocal and we encourage that connection when we’re onstage," Bryan explained to SunontheSand. "We’re very passionate about our live shows, so we appreciate a gregarious audience — even some good old fashioned heckling as long as it’s witty. (Note to punters: 'Get your tits out, Rhydian' doesn’t quite cut it.)"
"It’s a lot of fun, it can be emotional too, but you certainly feel very alive when you’re onstage. I love the recording process, too. I need a mix of both worlds for variety."
"What we set out to do is being a really good live band," Bryan told Music Snobbery. "I think the music became more developed the more we played it in front of an audience."
"They make a darkly joyous soft-loud racket that is being compared to Sonic Youth, Breeders, Belly and Arcade Fire," Chris Salmon reported for the Guardian in 2008.
"Dreamy indie pop," Donna Oldfield wrote in The Times.
"In order to experience the full on 'Joy Formidable effect' it is imperative that you catch them live," VPME reported a year later. "They produce a mind blowing sonic attack of raw emotion and energy and in Ritzy have as compelling a front person as I’ve seen in a long time. Off stage she is polite, friendly, demure, but on stage there is a remarkable transformation as she smashes her guitar around stage with the sort of carefree abandon that would give your average Health and Safety Officer a nervous breakdown."
"The three of us do lose ourselves during a gig," Bryan told Music Snobbery. "We're passionate about what we do. There is a lot of our personalities in our music, and that does come off in our live shows."
"Ritzy Bryan was a tiny but magnetic frontwoman, handling both vocal and Stratocaster sonic attack duties with aplomb," Chromewaves said in a review of a Toronto concert last year.
"As soon as she picks up that guitar she assumes the position of sonic sorceress and all who listen are weak to her musical prowess," Stoke Sounds contributed.
"Singer Ritzy has a remarkable voice," Donna Oldfield continued. "Her dreamy vocals lift you up towards a happy place while the buzzing guitars get you all excited. Then the guitars and drums relentlessly build up towards the end, leading to an epic climax that refuses to die and whirls you into a state of euphoria... It's reminiscent to the finish in Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart and somewhat like a stripped-down Arcade Fire track."
"While it was hard to take your eyes off her [Ritzy Bryan]... credit must also go to her bandmates Rhydian Dafydd on bass and backing vocals and Matt Thomas on drums for both laying the foundation for their monolithic wall of sound and lifting her up on top of it," Chromewaves added.
The Joy Formidable are a three-piece band from Mold in North Wales, currently located in London, England. The band consists of "Welsh sweethearts" Ritzy Bryan (lead vocals, guitar) and Rhydian Daffyd (bass guitar, backing vocals), who were school friends in rural North Wales, and Wolverhampton's Matt Thomas (drums, percussion).
"We sort of became a couple," Bryan told ALTsounds.
"It was a time where things started to knuckle down in terms of writing together so obviously that’s when a lot of time was spent together and it kind of grew from that," Dafydd confirmed. "This is the first time we’ve really been a...proper partnership in terms of the songwriting, and so the musical side did come before the relationship."
Ritzy Bryan and Rhydian Dafydd originally played together as part of indie rock band Tricky Nixon, which later reformed into a four-piece known as Sidecar Kisses in 2006. The band dropped its bassist in 2007 and changed its name, drummer, and subsequently its location, relocating to London. The Guardian cited them as "one to watch" in 2008 and they appeared at both the Latitude Festival and the Reading and Leeds Festivals. The band was tipped by the NME and Steve Lamacq.
"Rhy and I went to school together, so we've known each other for a long time," Bryan revealed to Music Snobbery. "Our previous band didn't really work out so we moved back to Wales. We didn't start writing songs until about a year and a half ago. We both had an idea of what was important to us in songwriting and in sound."
"The Joy Formidable started about a year and a half ago when Rhydian and I began writing together in North Wales," Bryan explained to VPME. "We’d played in a band before, but this signalled the first proper collaboration. We just locked ourselves away and the writing came very easily, we were excited by the connection and the voice that was appearing. Then it was a matter of shaping it in a live sense; first with Justin and now with Matt, who is an exceptional drummer and the dynamic has just grown and grown."
Despite the temptation, the band name should never be pronounced with a French accent. "There’s no inflection, so that’s what gives it away... the meaning’s a little bit different... I don’t want to give people too much leeway to think we’re a f*ckin’ cheery, happy band," Bryan commented to ALTsounds.
"It [the band name] came very naturally once we’d written a large amount of material," Bryan disclosed to VPME. "We didn’t sit down and think how to surmise our work; but when you’re so involved in making something – your conversations, dreams, imagination they all become obsessed by what you’re creating and a name is one of the fruits of that preoccupation."
"We started writing in North Wales, and then when we decided to expand into a band," Dafydd said in an interview with ALTsounds in 2009. "It just happened to be that our drummer was from London and it’s so integral that you’re all in the same place together..you know it’s important for us to have that proper kind of family feel, I wouldn’t like to be in a band where one of the members is on the other side of the country, so it was an easy enough decision for us to go to London and I think there isn’t a hell of a lot of infrastructure for this stuff in North Wales."
"Creatively, in terms of writing together, in the team we’ve surrounded ourselves with, and the labels that we’ve worked with..it’s certainly been a massive influence on our band...on all levels," Bryan added.
"What was most important to us was to be open to new ideas and not try to limit ourselves," Bryan explained to Music Snobbery. "I had never really written songs... it was a new way of working... We know what pushes our buttons, and we do work at it everyday to find out what excites us."
"When it was just me and Rhy in our bedroom studio, we wrote the songs without haven't play a live show yet," Bryan continued. "With Matt on board, he's such a dynamic drummer, more songs came from rehearsals. He's very musically inclined and that just opened up a lot of great material. What tends to happen is that we'll think of a new song in rehearsal and we feel the need to stop everything and run to the studio."
"There’s a lot to enjoy and we’re great friends, all three of us are exceptionally close," Bryan commented to SunontheSand. "We believe in what we’re making and we’re enjoying the ride. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to constantly evolve and we’re madly passionate about this band, it’s never just a job, it’s all-consuming."
"The dynamic of this band is based on having a very close, personal relationship," Bryan told VPME.
"As a band our musical influences are very eclectic, and that gives texture to the songs that we write," Bryan added. "I grew up on a staple diet of Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Springsteen, Dylan, and Neil Young to name just a few, all amazing songsmiths. But we’re influenced by more than just music as well."
"I look to Springsteen, Elvis Costello, The Flaming Lips, and Wilco as some of my favorite live acts growing up," Bryan continued to SunontheSand. "On record, I’m a huge fan of The Smiths, Bob Dylan, Nick Drake. Yes, tons of stuff and I think that’s the key, enjoy everything that’s good in every genre and you won’t get stuck in one musical style."
"Imagine that the indie timeline went askew, and Karen O and Ian Curtis had a secret lovechild. Who sat next to Kim Deal in music class," Donna Oldfield told readers of The Times. "This is surely what she would sound like."
"Resembles a motorway pile-up involving tourbuses of Sonic Youth, The Ting Tings, Metric and Kate Bush," NME said.
Following its formation in 2007, The Joy Formidable released the track "Cradle" digitally in July 2008. Listen to "Cradle" here.
The band's debut single "Austere" was released in August 2008 on 7" through Another Music=Another Kitchen Records, which was followed by a support slot in the White Lies' UK tour.
"Austere is a thing of beauty," Donna Oldfield wrote. "You'll notice a similar guitar sound to that of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Breeders, but The Joy Formidable are certainly no copyists."
The original video can be viewed here .
The single attracted some attention when it featured in trailers for UK Channel 4's Skins, and it had a fan-made video (which featured off-camera masturbation) banned by Youtube.
"Their fans, though, are a right bunch of tossers," Chris Salmon wrote about the band in the Guardian. "Some of them made an unofficial video for the band's debut single, Austere, which featured various people of both sexes masturbating. It was quickly banned by YouTube."
"The unofficial video to Austere was made by a fan and we thought it was a brilliant visual," Bryan explained to VPME. "There was no rational to it being banned from YouTube, it’s all about what you don’t see. We get a lot of videos through from fans, some are more surreal than others."
"Like those, this is a song that sets bleak, 'austere' lyrics to an uplifting tune you can't help but dance yourself giddy to," Donna Oldfield continued. "Expect to see countless indie kids joyously hitting the air and shaking their fringes around to this sometime soon."
The fan-made video can be viewed here .
"The past week has seen The Joy Formidable gather some very high praise indeed, with Steve Lamacq and NME tipping them as the band to watch," Donna Oldfield added in her 2008 article. "If this debut is anything to go by, there'll be much more acclaim where that came from."
The band has subsequently been supported by Nemone and Lauren Laverne on BBC 6 Music, Huw Stephens and Fearne Cotton on BBC Radio 1, and The Radcliffe and Maconie Show on BBC Radio 2.
The Joy Formidable has won the BBC 6 Music rebel playlist on Steve Lamacq’s show every time it has appeared on it, even beating Biffy Clyro.
"Hats off to our fanbase," Bryan commented to BIYL. "You know it’s a really nice reflection on us that they take the time out to support us in that way."
"Austere" was followed with a second single, a limited edition double 7" physical release of "Cradle" on Try Harder Records, in February 2009.
The video can be viewed here .
In support of the record the band appeared at several notable festivals, including Latitude Festival and the Reading and Leeds Festivals, during which time Justin Stahley was replaced on the drums by Matthew Thomas.
"We have so many different styles of songs. 'Cradle' does have a lot of layers to it, and that's something we tend to aim for," Bryan explained to Music Snobbery. "Iit has a lot drive to it. It does have a rawness. Some of the others songs we do have are a little more contemplation to them, like 'The Greatest Light.' That song came about pretty quickly. We had the basic melody and the riffs. The feeling was that the song should not be your typical two- or three-minute rock song. It needed to be something more of a grand scale with the melody we created."
Listen to "The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade" here.
The band's first collection of songs, A Balloon Called Moaning was released as a CD/poster package from Pure Groove records, and instantly received critical acclaim. The band also released the mini-album as a free download at NME.com.
"It’s a two way trust thing, it’s not just about giving away," Dafydd told BIYL. "Yeah it’s a track but hopefully if they like it they will invest in coming to see you live and buying your music."
"The album originally came out on a fantastic label called Pure Groove, but now it’s self released and available from us," Bryan revealed to VPME in 2009. "We’re well aware that people invest in different ways and we wanted to cater for that. 'A Balloon Called Moaning' isn’t really our debut album either; it was always more of a snapshot of work to date. We’re incredibly proud of the release, but the 1st album is coming together now, we’re very excited."
"What happened was that a Japanese label wanted to put out our body of work," Bryan disclosed to Music Snobbery. "At that point, we had eight songs that we felt were ready. Back in the UK, we didn't have anyone willing to put it out, so we figure we'll just put it out ourselves."
"Rallye (the label in Japan) approached us after hearing the tracks on myspace," Bryan told Strangeglue in 2008. "Fumi who runs the label is amazingly enthusiastic, he runs a thriving record store in Kanazawa, Japan and we were just struck by his passion for music and how he was willing to give us a free reign on making the album and the artwork."
"Rhydian and I recorded and mixed the album in our bedroom / studio in South London, though some of the tracks have their roots in earlier sessions when we lived in North Wales. We've been occupying the same tiny space for many months so we're undoubtedly a massive inspiration and frustration to one another. It's a unique working and personal relationship; musically our ears flit from being almost identical to wholly at odds, so we definitely challenge each other; it keep things interesting."
Bryan talked about the title of the mini-album in the interview with VPME . "I think for us it had many levels of intent, some personal, some playful," Bryan said. "I’m not one for attaching a blanket meaning to things; not songs, not drawings, not lyrics… you know when something has a value, when it moves you, that’s what’s exciting, not summing it up as an absolute."
"A Balloon Called Moaning is a pretty much perfect blend of sugary pop hook, spiky attitude and aesthetics that are little too effervescent to count as shoegazey," Chromewaves wrote in a review of a Toronto concert last year.
A third single,“Whirring”, was released on 7" in June 2009 through Friends Vs Records, which was BBC Radio 2's Radcliffe and Maconie Show's Pick of the Week.
The official video of "Whirring" can be viewed here .
"‘Whirring’ is always really good because we have the option for quite a lot of improvisation in there," Dafydd said to BIYL.
The video of a live performance of "Whirring" can be viewed here .
2009 ended with the release of a free digital-only single "Greyhounds in the Slips", produced by and featuring ex-Mansun frontman Paul Draper on vocals, and a limited edition live album entitled First You Have To Get Mad, which had been recorded at a headline London concert. Listen to "Greyhounds in the Slips" here.
"We heard through friends that Paul was a fan of the band," Bryan revealed to Music Snobbery. "Certainly, being from a Wales, I'm a huge fan of his and of Mansun... When he added us as friend on his myspace account, we thought, 'We have nothing to lose, lets ask him if he wants to work together.'"
The Joy Formidable supported Silversun Pickups in London and toured the UK with Editors and Passion Pit. The band has also toured, appropriately, with Howling Bells, with whom closest comparisons can be drawn. In June 2010, the band supported Sir Paul McCartney at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and performed an opening set on the Other Stage at the Glastonbury Festival 2010. In July they supported The Temper Trap on their Australian tour leg. The band played the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2010 and toured as part of the 2010 NME Radar Tour, headlining with former featured band Chapel Club.
The band's sixth single "Popinjay" was released through iTunes Store in February 2010, ahead of a physical release in April, to trail the band's full debut album The Big Roar. In support of the single and album, the band played a UK headline tour.
The video of "Popinjay" can be viewed here .
The first single from the album The Big Roar, "I Don't Want to See You Like This," was released in October 2010. The video can be viewed here .
“It was weird.” Ritzy Bryan explained to TLOBF. “We went back [to the Gower, Wales] and it conjured up a lot of nostalgia for me. I went as a child and I had forgotten about it as I was very, very young. Then, quite accidentally I chanced upon a cottage I had stayed at. It’s a very personal song as a lot of things have changed since then.”
"A lot of the songs have an imaginative and a visual dimension and I really want to share that," Bryan continued. “It should all be connected. There is a story, there is imagery and the overlap between artwork and lyrics works in both directions.”
The second single from the album, "Austere," was released earlier this month. The official video can be viewed here .
Bryan talked about plans for a full-length studio debut album to BIYL in December 2009. "It’s not something we really think about as long as we can manage to put the music out there," Bryan said. "I think the main issue with this release is to maybe have a better distribution with it."
Dafydd also explained the band's philosophy on record-deals. "We really didn’t want to relinquish control of the creative side to someone who didn’t really get what we are about, that’s why we have not been chasing a deal," Dafydd said. The band has subsequently signed with Atlantic Recording Corporation for the United States and WEA International Inc. for the world outside of the United States.
"We’re not concerning ourselves with anything other than putting out records and doing stuff for the fans and as long as you concentrate on that, whatever happens, will happen," Dafydd told ALTsounds in 2009. "You just gotta really knuckle down and be proud of what you’re creating I think."
"The main object should be writing good songs, getting yourself out there, playing good shows and really, really believing in what you’re doing, and everything else should be secondary to that," Bryan contributed.
"If endorphins could make music and decided to form a band that band would be The Joy Formidable," VPME concluded.
The Big Roar is scheduled for release in the UK on Monday, January 24, in the rest of Europe, February 21, and in the US, March 15. It is available on CD or in a limited edition box set, and can also be downloaded from Amazon UK and iTunes UK - a big release for a band which has a growing reputation for a big noise.
"Experience the 'beautiful agony' that is The Joy Formidable" - VPME.
1. The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie
The limited edition live album has sold out.
|Last Updated on Friday, 21 January 2011 18:00|