Interview: The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable released their sophomore album Wolf's Law last month, now they  embark on a lengthy tour. I caught up with bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matt Thomas at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, on a rather cool and breezy day, perfect weather for a bit of The Joy Formidable.

Eddie: What was it like recording Wolf’s Law in Maine?

Rhydian: It was really remote and quite. It was such a big contrast having peace and quiet, not because of 'oh isn’t this lovely', just because we could be consumed by the songs and stuff. It was like a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, it was great.

The Big Roar was mixed by Rich Costey, you've picked Andy Wallace to mix Wolf's Law, why was that?

Rhydian: Different flavour, they're different kind of albums. I've been banging on about Andy for a while because we’ve always been big fans of his mixes and big fans of his drum sounds - that was really important. I think it just suited variation; I don't like the idea of all albums having a similar approach and a similar sound.

How do you achieve the studio sounds when you perform live?

Rhydian: We don't always feel like we have to. We do see them as different disciplines, I think it’s actually exciting once we finish the writing to bring it into a live context and mess around with it.

Matt: Change things up again, keep it fresh, not just for us but for people listening.

Do you prefer playing concert tours or festivals?

Matt: It just depends what mood you're in really.  It’s great to play your own shows but equally it’s great to play festivals. Really it's the crowd that makes the things, if people are into it then it doesn’t matter where you are really. You could be in your uncle’s front room playing to five of your cousins, and they might have their fingers in their ears but at least they're smiling.

Do you have any festivals lined up for the summer?

Rhydian: We're kind of going through that right now; I know there’s a few American ones, a few European ones on the cards.

Are you doing SXSW this year?

Rhydian: Yeah, there is that as well we're doing quite a few shows there which is great, we love Austin. We played about 10 shows last time in about four days.

Matt: It was insane, it wasn’t easy. It was probably the craziest schedule we'd ever had playing. It's just like, you throw your stuff on and you play, and then run to the next venue because it’s within an hour you’ve got this next gig. It's exciting; you don't get that very often.

A couple of years ago you played David Letterman, and you played Jimmy Fallon a month ago. What's it like performing for TV shows?

Rhydian: I think we like the variety, we generally enjoy playing, so even if it’s for a couple of songs, when we get up there we just loose yourselves. For the Fallon one, we had quite a lot of our fans there in the crowd as well. So you feel that theirs that bit of a connection as well, it's not utterly sterile. It depends on the show really, depends on the format.

Matt: Sometimes you do TV shows and you can’t invite some of your fans, you can’t have your friends their or anything, it's not even a studio audience, they get in extras. They're pretend to like it, but they’re kind of dead behind the eyes, it's like, what you doing? What you doing with your life?

Do you ever get nervous for these big events?

Rhydian: No, not really. We play out live so much, I think there’s always only a tiny tiny bit of nerves which is good nerves.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to give it the kind of discipline that we feel it requires anyway. And that includes playing to huge crowds or small crowds. We feel like everyone deserves a fucking good show, to feel something at least.

My favourite track on Wolf's Law is "Little Blimp", is this how you make your songs, do you build them from riffs or do you write your songs first?

Rhydian: It changes, I think if you have different approaches with different songs and let it just be natural, let it grow from whatever the first spark of inspiration is, it keeps things interesting for you as the writer. I think very conscious of not having the formulae again. That's why we always get ideas down on the road just whenever we feel them instead of putting things in boxes and forgetting about being inspired for a while. You've got to feel these things and you might start from just Matt messing around on drums in a sound check, it might be humming a tune and building on that, it’s nice to have the variety.

Is this how "Little Blimp" came about?

Rhydian: That was written in Casco [Maine]. It kind of started off almost like a country hillbilly kind of song, but then we tried it with bass. That's nice to put the synths and the riffs in a different context.
Matt: It's what happens when you listen to the country music channel non-stop, the only channel you can get!

What artists have influenced all three of you as a band?

Matt: We all respect the same kind of artists, we all love PJ Harvey and Bjork and all that kind of stuff. We all have such different broad tastes; it’s useful because we can all bring something different.

What can people expect from The Joy Formidable in 2013?

Rhydian: Lots of shows, there's loads of things on the cards. We're working on a Welsh language EP, we want to do some film scoring. With so many shows we’ve got to bear in mind how much time we've got. First and foremost for us now is just getting out to as many people as we can and going to places we haven’t been before.

Will you be writing songs while on the road this year?

Rhydian: We're always writing. There were songs that were written off the road as well, but we spend so much time on the road I think it's inevitable. We're always writing wherever we are.

Was it a challenge writing and recording Wolf's Law?

Rhydian: I'd say that in a way the first one was harder. We were kind of boxed away in our bedroom studio and everything was frustrated from the subject matter, to the way we were writing, me and Ritzy were clashing a lot. With this record it actually came about really quick. We never feel like we're lacking in any ideas, there's no writers block. A lot of the time it's the media that are obsessed with the new all the time, so the second album people are maybe a bit quicker to slag it off.

You brought a blew up sheep and a red dragon when you played Letterman. When you're in America / different countries, do you think you're origin of Wales has helped you as a band to separate yourselves from other British artists?

Matt: A lot of people in America don't really know where Wales is!

Rhydian: Its quiet fun for us because being from North Wales it feels like there aren’t as many references. In South Wales there has been more of a scene, North Wales is a bit weirder, the door is open for bands that people will eventually reference, and that network is really hard for bands to get through a lot of the time. It is a bit hard on young bands coming from there, it would be nice to put it on the map a bit more. 


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Discovery: Interview: The Joy Formidable
Interview: The Joy Formidable
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