A Joy Formidable Ride

The Welsh trio goes small before they go big

Ritzy Bryan, the singer/guitarist for Welsh band the Joy Formidable, speaks with a quick, quiet enthusiasm about the trio's work that seems to bely their reputation for huge-sounding, anthemic rock songs such as "Austere" and "Whirring." Then again, as she notes with a friendly laugh, when it comes to the details of the group's recorded work, there's a lot going on beneath the surface:

"A lot of work goes into what we do in the studio—a lot of nuances, a lot of in-jokes! If you're listening to it on different systems, you're hearing different things," she says. "At the same time, the moment is captured because it was there, in our bedroom or in our studio. You can't get away from it, and you don't want to—it's part of the whole process of recording: free, claustrophobic and intense."

Bryan reviews the Joy Formidable's slightly circuitous route to their debut release, with earlier singles and an EP serving as a staggered introduction to the world. Combined with worldwide touring and an increasingly high-profile live reputation, it made their full-on debut, The Big Roar, one of the best releases of the year, as well as one of the most aptly named. Bryan's strong, unashamedly metal leanings on guitar was balanced out by the band's rhythm section of Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas, the result being a textured series of songs, as apt to entrance as to pound skulls.

That Joshua tree is the fourth member of the band
That Joshua tree is the fourth member of the band

"We always balance spontaneity and detail," says Bryan, "to where you get it sounding exactly how you want in your head. No sound or texture was taken lightly. We're not a power trio in the studio; you get a strict sound and raw aesthetic. . . . The experimentation that recording brings—and trying to push that—is key. . . . When it comes to live shows, we're only limited by being three people. We don't want to replicate the album—so long as the intensity and emotive moment is captured. They sit happily together, as powerful as passionate as the other."

The Joy Formidable's return to the Detroit Bar on Sunday might be the last chance to see them on a smaller scale. Dave Grohl, a longtime fan of the group, has signed them up to open for the Foo Fighters later in the year. Even if they're still being a bit reintroduced to America this time out, their home-country reputation is locked in; the group just came off a series of successful British shows, with festival appearances at Reading and Leeds.

And next after this year? Bryan says she's open to whatever might suggest itself to the band.

"We just started working with a harpist, doing a few tracks together, also dabbling a bit with a choir—it's great to hear songs lots and lots of different ways, with a full choral effect, a huge orchestra," she says. "We've met people, invited them to rehearsals, and it would be great to so some concerts together. We'd be cynical of any band who put too much thought into the direction of where their next album is going. We can already hear in the recordings that we're starting a different process. It's what you always want."


This article appeared in print as "Joy Formidable to the World: The Welsh band come into their own with a powerful debut."

 
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