Chorus of descent
The Joy Formidable generates its own gravitational field
The latest “it” band to emerge from the U.K. is The Joy Formidable, an emerging Welsh post-rock trio with its own Celtic cross to bear. Hailing from “the land of song,” the genre-shaking trio holds its nation’s reputation true for producing nonconformist choral arrangements, but in this case the unconventional vocal harmonies are baptized in a font of feedback and swathed in robes of electro-synth magnificence.
The girl-boy duo responsible for the band’s frenetic bipolar frequencies and lush Jesus and Mary Chain reverberations are sonic-soulmates vocalist-guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd, who originally met during their school days. Recording together in London, the burgeoning group produced an admirable effort in the 2008 single “My Beerdrunk Soul is Sadder Than a Hundred Dead Christmas Trees,” but really hit the mark a year later with the launch of the corpulent EP A Balloon Called Moaning. Granted the Radio 1 nod of approval, the airplay The Joy Formidable’s stormy grunge-pop received enjoyed a warm zephyr of acclaim that carried their austere amplitude around the U.K. and eventually across the pond.
“I think we’re an oddity in that we haven’t relied on hype,” says Dafydd, the band’s bassist. “The people who come to our shows are genuine fans, and it is honest word-of-mouth promotion that’s gotten us to this point. People are definitely catching up with our stuff as it gets released in various territories and even though it can be a bit strange visiting various places and people for the first time ever, we embrace the challenge. One of the reasons we’re so excited about our first trip to Calgary is that we’re always itching to get out further afield. I love the feeling when people sing our songs back to us, because it shows they’re emotionally invested in our music.”
Acquired by Canvasback Music via Atlantic Records, the freshly signed ensemble’s full-length debut, The Big Roar, hit American shores in January of 2011. While some bands might consider the sizable collection of eight tracks presented on A Balloon Called Moaning to be a full-fledged LP, Rhydian asserts that The Big Roar is the realigned trio’s official coming out party.
“Balloon is essentially just a snapshot EP; a real bedroom album. We’d prefer that people notice The Big Roar as our debut because it offers something more substantial and enduring,” Dafydd says. “Ultimately we were striving to create a debut that covers all emotional ground we occupy. The Big Roar’s nature is not contrived, but it is conscious of the need for peaks and troughs. Everybody enjoys ups and down, so rather than thematically stringing together 12 singles, we embraced our desire to explore our range.”
Linking up North American tour dates, the inimitable Joy Formidable, which shares its nationhood with fellow musicians Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, Super Furry Animals and Bonnie Tyler (to name a few), has found a fan in the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl. Currently, working with the Foo Fighters’ noted producer Rich Costey for its forthcoming single “I Don’t Want to See You Like This,” Rhydian and company’s melodic melancholia came to the ears of the former Nirvana drummer as he was cruising the freeways of California.
“The tour with Foo Fighters is a very nice deal for us,” Rhydian says. “Dave’s a super guy and it has all happened naturally and organically. Apparently, he was driving when he heard one of our songs on the radio and wound up humming the tune the whole way home, trying to remember it. Later he found out who it was and tracked us down old school. Since then we’ve met up when doing a couple of the same festivals and started a neat little relationship that’s grown into this huge tour. He’s very down to earth and there’s a mutual appreciation that arises out of the belief in steering our own ships as artists. From day one, we’ve been involved in dictating anything that concerns creative choices or our band’s ethics and principles. You could say it’s all part of our gangbang mentality.”He chuckles, and then adds, “We’ve always felt like we’ve got blinkers on. You need to block out the chatter to see the real truth in what you’re doing and people’s perception of it. It goes hand in hand with our way of thinking. Being a success is more than a matter of interpreting whatever you think the scene is needing. To be shit hot live band you’ve got to deliver something more than just a tune that’s easy to dance to. Believe me, being anti-formulaic isn’t easiest thing.”
The Joy Formidable
Republik Monday, September 5
by Christine Leonard
Published September 1, 2011 in FastForward Magazine.