The Joy Formidable
By Dan Kimpel
The Joy Formidable: America Hears The Big Roar
With their 2009 indie debut, A Balloon Called Moaning, The Joy Formidable’s arcing melodies, anthemic choruses and sonic intensity struck a resonant chord for listeners on both sides of the pond. Now, the band’s major label full length, The Big Roar, is poised to propel the band into global consciousness.
One hour before showtime backstage in Nottingham, UK, The Joy Formidable’s singer, songwriter and guitarist Ritzy Bryan -– crowned “Rock’s New Heroine” by the taste-making British magazine NME– is seeking a quiet corner to talk about her band’s ascension. Although The Big Roar comes with big expectations, Bryan remains modest. “We’re excited to be sharing it, since its been written for six months. We get itchy; we want to get it out there and let people listen to it.”
She notes that the night before, the continuously touring Welsh trio (now based in London) performed at a tiny venue in Edinburgh. “I think we were playing where the DJ booth was,” she laughs, “it was real close and personal.” Intimate audiences may soon be a memory: The band now appears at massive festivals in the UK, Norway and Australia, and they supported Paul McCartney for 75,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
Coming up is SXSW in Austin, and The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California. “I love the desert,” says Bryan. “I’m on a mission to get the boys to move to Joshua Tree with me right now, but they don’t like the heat. There is something about that landscape that gets me going. Maybe, one day.”
Traveling stokes Bryan’s creativity. “I’ve got a lot of scraps of paper from a lot of restless nights when I wake up,” she says. “I write a lot on the road. I find touring to be a really inspiring time, which is lucky, as we seem to be perpetually in the van. I write spontaneously and don’t force it. You’ve got Rhydian Dafydd (the band’s bassist) and I writing together, so what comes first is between the two of us. We like to swap it up as much as possible so it’s never a stagnant process.”
Songs on the new release like “Austere” and “Whirring” match the band’s dense instrumental textures with melodic sophistication and savvy hooks. “Even though there are many styles and genres in the music we’ve grown up with, what bonds them together is that melodic sensibility,” qualifies Bryan. “That is what excites us.”
Meanwhile, with their latest CD already ascending the charts in Europe, a U.S. debut on the horizon and a coast-to-coast tour of the states, Ritzy Bryan and company keep doing what they do best: winning over audiences night by night; song by song. “The plan is going well,” concedes Ritzy, “that is if there ever was a plan.”
What’s On My iPod?
“The new Anna Calvi album. I’ve been getting into Edwyn Collins – I heard he was going to be at SXSW. I’m getting all my Orange Juice (Collins’ previous band) back catalog running again. I’m loving his new album as well and am really excited about seeing him. We have a very eclectic mix tape in the van – almost scarily so. It’s quite schizophrenic.”