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The Joy Formidable

Hermits and Hearsay

Jun 22, 2016 The Joy Formidable Bookmark and Share

In the opening seconds of “The Last Thing on My Mind,” the lead single off The Joy Formidable‘s third album, Hitch, listeners are provided an ears-only glimpse of the band before the final count in to the song’s thumping, ever-present riff. While much of what plays out on the tape is simple warm-up, the most memorable part of the recording comes when frontwoman Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan, in response to some indiscernible comment from either bassist Rhydian Dafydd or drummer Matthew Thomas, jokingly says she’s just going “play the melodica for the next 20 minutes by myself in the corner.”

“There’s a lot of shit-talking that goes on,” says Bryan, explaining these exchanges. “You have to kind of keep your sense of humor when you’re locked in a room for 12 months. You can kind of hear a slight tinge of us leaving the plot. There’s a little bit of manic laughing. It’s a nice little moment from a lot of downtime conversations we captured along the way.”

As if they were not just making a record but imposing a year-long series of wire taps on themselves, The Joy Formidable managed to carry the looseness of this singular, behind-the-scenes moment throughout the entirety of their new album, concentrating their energy on emulating the feel of their live performances. “We wanted to capture all those nuances that you get live,” says Dafydd. “The live side is such a big part of this band. We knew we didn’t want any interference. Just the three of us. We left everything up in terms of the mics and just recorded little bits all the time. I suppose we wanted people to get a sense of the space we were actually in. We’re inviting you into our space, I suppose, as opposed to this wall between us the listener.”

To bring their audience closer, the band separated themselves almost completely from them, retreating to Bryan and Dafydd’s hometown of Mold (or Yr Wyddgrug in Welsh), where they had built their own studio amidst the small town’s surrounding hills and valleys. “It was literallythank fuckno neighbors,” says Bryan with a laugh. “Otherwise we’d have been evicted. It was in this countryside little corner. Quite a few sheep and cows. I think they were the only kind of spectators we had making this record. We’d look out the window and there’d be a big cow staring back, like, ‘Oh hey, how’d you’d like that fucking bass lick there?’”

The prolonged isolation was a new experience for the band, who had recorded both their 2011 debut The Big Roar and its 2013 follow-up Wolf’s Law in tandem with touring. Without an outside engineer or producer even providing the slightest bit of mediation, Bryan says the whole experience definitely “put us through the wringer quite a bit. There were some tears, some good feisty arguments…. I think we work really well together, but I think it makes it for a more intense experience.”

This inherent intensity bleeds throughout the trio’s finished work. “I think it’s more about the conviction of it than anything sonically,” says Bryan. “I’ve always liked musicians that have a real sense of identity and courage in the material they’re writing.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s May/June 2016 Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]


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