Coming in out of Wales is The Joy Formidable, a familiar name on this space. The trio caught my ear with their early work like "Cradle" with its furious guitar attack. When I saw them on Fourth of July in the UK, I saw first hand that they build that energy of stage with an impressive live performance.
Depending on how you look at it, A Balloon Called Moaning can be considered their debut album; or just a starting point of what's to come. While you can sample their body of work online, where the action happens is on the stage. You can check it out yourself when they play Mercury Lounge on May 1st.
Lead singer Ritzy Bryan is the voice of the band with partner Rhy Dafydd on bass and Matt Thomas on drums. Taking a break from touring with Temper Trap in Europe, Ritzy stopped by to talk about not defining the band's sound and bringing their personality into their live shows. I would like to welcome her to this space.I know the band was formed from a previous band, Sidecar Kisses. Can you walk me through how this band came about?
Rhy and I went to school together, so we've known each other for a long time. 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.
Did you have a fully formed idea of what this new band was going to sound like?
What was most important to us was to be open to new ideas and now try to limit ourselves. I had never really written songs by myself, so for me, it was a new way of working. We didn't have an agenda. In fact, we don't really have one right now. We know what pushes our buttons, and we do work at it everyday to find out what excites us.
What we some of first songs you wrote for The Joy Formidable?
I think it was Austere if I'm not mistaken. We started off with loads of songs that all sounded completely different, but Austere was something that was different sonically from what we have done before.
Was it important to you to put an album out by yourself?
We didn't have a plan for putting out an album. What we set out to do is being a really good live band. I think the music became more developed the more we played it in front of an audience. Since we don't have a label in the U.K., it's important that we write great material and have it out there so we can develop a fanbase.
It is kind of hard to define the album. Some consider it an EP and we're not sure if that's how we think of it. You can say that we are currently working on our debut album, but it feels strange to call it that.
To answer your question, what happen was that a Japanese label wanted to put out our body of work. 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.
"Cradle" was the first song I heard from you guys. It's got a lot of drive and ambition to it. Would you consider it your signature song?
Not really. One of the good things about our band is that 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. You are correct in that it 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."
What I like about "The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade" is that epic sound. Did you have big things in mind when you created that song?
That sonf 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.
You've been putting out new songs since put out Balloon, one of them being "Greyhounds In The Slips". You got Paul Draper of Mansun to do vocals. How did that come about?
We heard through friends that Paul was a fan of the band. Certainly, being from a Wales, I'm a huge fan of his and of Mansun. I admire that they broke from that BritPop scene and went on to do more experimental work. Growing up in North Wales, they were considered a local band to me. I just always loved his voice. When he added us as friend on his myspace account, we thought, "We have nothing to loose, lets ask him if he wants to work together." We had this "Greyhounds" track, and it was something he can definitely add something to.
You were talking about how difficult it is to define Balloon as an album or as an EP. Since you are working on a sort of debut album now, are you satisfied with the songs on Balloon or are they going to be reworked and resurface on your next work?
We do plan on having some cross over songs that will be on both. I suppose no matter how you look at, some songs will feel new to people who haven't heard us before.
The two times I've seen you live have both been great performances. Do you have the live show in mind when you're recorded, mixing and creating these new songs?
When it was just me and Rhy in our bedroom studio, we wrote the songs without haven't play a live show yet. 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 need to do stop everything and run to the studio. It's exciting to work backwards I guess.
I'm sure you recognize that you are quite a stage performer. Do you recognize that aspect of your personality?
People have been telling me that. It does sound like a cliche, but the three of us do loose ourselves during a gig. 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.
You've toured with some heavyweights like Passion Pit, Editors and now you're on the road with Temper Trap. Since you're the only female among the bands, does everybody treat you like the kid sister?
Not at all. My own family doesn't treat me like the kid sister! I'm just like one of the guys and then we get on with it. (laughs) It's nice. Passion Pit and Temper Trap have been good to us.