The Joy Formidable sticks to musical principles on ‘Wolf's Law'


London-based arena alt-rock band The Joy Formidable is playing Wilmington's Brooklyn Art Center on Friday, May 10. From left, bassist Rhydian Dafydd, guitarist/vocalist Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan and percussionist Matthew James Thomas. Courtesy photo

Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:11 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:11 a.m.

The Joy Formidable, a London-based trio that specializes in creating powerhouse tunes of the alt-rock persuasion, has created quite a reputation since forming six years ago in Wales. Despite having just three members – Rhiannon "Ritzy" Bryan on lead vocals and guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on bass and backing vocals and Matthew James Thomas on percussion – the band has a huge sound that is at once hypnotic, raucous and melodic.

Facts

Who: The Joy Formidable, with IO Echo and Fort Lean
When: 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, Friday, May 10
Where: The Brooklyn Arts Center, 516 N. Fourth St., Wilmington
Tickets: $16 floor in advance, $18 day of show; $25 balcony in advance, $28 day of show
Details: 538-2939 or www.BrooklynArtsNC.com

Touring in support of its album "Wolf's Law," released in January, The Joy Formidable will make its way to Wilmington on Friday for a show at Brooklyn Arts Center.

Asked to describe his band's style during a recent phone interview, Dafydd had this to say: "I think it's difficult to sum up because it's very broad. There are some meaty, heavy moments like metal and heavy rock and rock 'n' roll … The key is that it has to say something with passion, passion and soul. It's like if you're a writer and you have a voice, you can infuse all styles. Music is like that, too."

The Joy Formidable first began to take form back in 2007, with Bryan and Dafydd drawing on their childhood friendship to get the musical ball rolling.

"(We) have known each other a long, long time, at school and out, but we never did music together," Dafydd said. "We started writing years later in North Wales and enjoyed writing and experimenting, the whole process. We found we had a great dynamic."

Growing up in North Wales, Dafydd said it was slim pickings as far as the music scene was concerned.

"There weren't many venues and the (musical) network was a bit sparse, so it was a bit difficult in that regard. We would lose ourselves more in our record collection – Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, Dylan – just good music, bad music, such an extensive collection we had. There wasn't any genre we were particularly drawn to, but those artists with a big voice and a message is what we did feel drawn to. A lot of artists were more like poets to us, (and) our taste is still very much still grounded in that sort of thing."

The band's new album, "Wolf's Law," differs in certain respects from its celebrated debut, 2011's "The Big Roar." But Dafydd said both records are true to the fundamentals The Joy Formidable has aimed to adhere to since they began.

"We never want anything to be forced. We did more with strings and choirs and harp (on ‘Wolf's Law'), more instruments. The experimentation came naturally, because it's more important for us to lose ourselves in the writing process. It's more truthful. Otherwise it can be a bit contrived. (Any changes) have more to do with us growing as people, and our writing shows that more than anything. The big change is how we wrote, it was around a guitar and piano. More naked, you could say."

With critical acclaim and a growing fan base coming with each new album, Dafydd said that "the most important thing for us is that we want to have no regrets … We're not out for fame, but it's not something we don't want, either. We want a conversation with fans. We want to make them feel something, feel something familiar with us. We stand behind what we write. We love connecting. We don't seek the hype. It's more about people becoming fans the right way."

A key part of connecting with fans is that the band tours extensively.

"We try to cover as much ground as possible," Dafydd said. "(We) started in the UK, now we're in the states. We got to play SXSW, and I know the rest of the year holds a hell of a lot more touring and festivals, which is a treat for us. We want to be places we haven't been yet."

As for the drawbacks of such extensive touring, there don't seem to be many.

"Generally speaking, it's a privilege to do what we do," Dafydd said. "We're behind the material, we get to see the world. It's a beautiful marriage in that respect. Occasionally we do pine for our families, but having said that, we like the nomadic lifestyle. We all thrive on it. There's always something that you could complain about, but this is great, so we never really go there or dwell on it. It's not about money. It's about the power of music and saying something. We have fans come up and tell us their personal stories. That alone just makes it all worthwhile."

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