The Joy Formidable on Their New Album “Into the Blue” and Riding out the Pandemic | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024  

The Joy Formidable on Their New Album “Into the Blue” and Riding out the Pandemic

Power to the Artists

Aug 20, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Welsh trio The Joy Formidable return today with their fifth studio album, Into the Blue, which was recorded during the global pandemic restrictions. Frontwoman and guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd spent the lockdown at Bryan’s home in Utah, whilst drummer Matt Thomas remained in the UK.

“We arrived back in Utah in February [2020] and the plan was to stay here for a few weeks pick up some gear, work on a few demos and then go back to Wales to record it,” explains Bryan. “Then we saw on the news that something big regarding a virus might be happening so we reasoned we’d wait it out a bit, stay here a little longer and it’ll pass. But then the shit hit the fan with the pandemic spreading everywhere so we thought, ‘Oh, okay, we’ll record the album here then.’”

Into the Blue is an album informed by the aftermath of Bryan and Dafydd individually being involved in problematic relationships. “It is a very personal record,” admits Dafydd, “and we talk about embracing uncertainly and regaining faith in yourself. Ritzy and I had both separately experienced manipulation in relationships over the past few years. And it’s strange how the album seems to have echoed the chaos in the wider world. It’s essentially about coming through a turbulent time and getting back in touch with yourself and your emotions. And it’s about learning to trust yourself again and being open to the world and to possibility again.”

It was these shared experiences and the isolation that saw Dafydd and Bryan embark on a prolific period of intense songwriting and creativity. “It felt like we were on fire writing,” enthuses Dafydd.

Bryan agrees: “Rhydian and I have been in a really great place in terms of writing. In the past because as we’re both passionate and creative people we’ve been quite headstrong and we would kind of butt heads over certain issues which could be quite draining. I mean we still do challenge each other creatively but it’s in a much more trusting way. On this record it felt the collaboration clicked perfectly and we didn’t disagree, which is a fucking miracle!”

“It won’t last!” adds Dafydd, laughing.

The logistical challenges of recording an album with Dafydd and Byran holed up in Utah whilst drummer Matt Thomas remained in the UK required an element of trial and error at the outset. “Matt would send us samples and beats which we’d work on,” explains Dafydd. “It does very much sound like much more of studio album then previous albums but we’ve learnt so much. It’s been an interesting time and I know people have struggled financially, but it’s also been a time to reflect, to face yourself, and to address some personal demons and learn to be comfortable within yourself. It’s been a really important and fruitful creative period for us.”

The band have also spent the pandemic working on developing their “TJF Music Club,” a direct artist support model allowing fans access to exclusive tracks and merch, online shows, and have contact with the band.

“That’s kept us sane,” acknowledges Bryan. “We’ve been able to do exclusive live streams, upload archival stuff and premieres. And it’s all in one place rather than across various platforms. It’s been great to connect with fans and try a few things that perhaps we wouldn’t have previously considered.”

There’s also the financial side meaning there are no middlemen and the fans’ subscriptions go directly to supporting the artist, an issue Bryan has been painfully aware of in the past. “I do all our accounts so I can see where we have been getting it in the arse,” she laughs. “But honestly, there have been moments in our career when I’ve been looking through the finances and everybody else was paid apart from us! Which is totally unjust.”

Dafydd suggests there needs to be a cultural reset with artists demanding greater recompense for their art. “Playing live has been a no go during the pandemic and that’s often the very thing that makes a career in music viable for many, so ‘TJF Club’ has been a godsend,” he says.

It’s also given the band the impetus to look at the model they have created and work on how it could be expanded to work for other artists. “Sadly the pandemic has been almost like a nail in the coffin for many artists. I mean, with the live side gone how the fuck do you carry on?” Dafydd ponders. “The power has been dispersed amongst these various platforms and taken things out of the artist’s hands. We need a cultural shift so that all artists have their own centralized hub and control their own data. It would be terrible if the lack of touring meant the end of certain bands.”

There has been some half-hearted support for artists from the UK government during the pandemic, but many have fallen through the cracks. However Bryan and Dafydd remain optimistic that the post-pandemic scene might lead to a more equitable ecosystem and an appreciation and re-evaluation of just how important music is to people. Bryan suggests in the past music, due to its ubiquity, may have been devalued. “Hopefully live music will have a huge bounce back with gigs having been shelved for so long,” she says. “There was a feeling a few years back that maybe there was a bit of lethargy creeping in with live shows and maybe it was oversaturated.”

Dafydd is also hopeful but he believes it’s up to musicians to fight their corner. “On the positive side during this pandemic, we have had people saying, ‘Holy fuck, now I really understand what music means to me.’ So we need that conversation to be ongoing with the powers that be. Sadly music and the arts is the first thing that gets cut in schools when the money’s tight. And yet music is the thing that keeps us in tune with our emotions and the thing that has really helped us in times like this. There’s a lot of anger out there at the moment and it certainly doesn’t help that we are being ruled by people who are fucking lying to us all the time. We need to create the change ourselves and support each other rather than sit around waiting for the government to do something. We need to bring the power back to the artists.”

Read our 2016 interview with The Joy Formidable on Hitch.

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