While Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable toured their 2013 sophomore album, Wolf’s Law, singer-guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bassist Rhydian Dafydd, a long-time couple, broke up. The trio, which included drummer Matt Thomas, spent the following three years out of the public eye.
They finally resurfaced in March with Hitch, a new album that they recorded at Bryan’s childhood home, on their new independent label. The 66-minute-long album retains The Joy Formidable’s aesthetic of loud, quiet, loud vocals layered over rapid-fire guitar solos and earth-shaking drumming.
There are new, milder elements as well; woodwinds, more brass, and even “Don’t Let Me Know,” a nearly eight-minute song that transitions from vaguely Spanish folk to full-on electronica, and finally a post-rock wall-of-sound.
Following in that vein, the band released acoustic EP, Sleep Is Day, which includes the new title track, acoustic versions of “The Last Thing On My Mind” and “Radio Of Lips,” and covers of songs by Misfits, David Bowie and South Africa band Kongos. Bryan told DoTheBay she has hopes of her band playing a few acoustic shows in the next few months.
On October 27th, the band returns to San Francisco, opening for Kongos at the Regency Ballroom. The two bands were fans of each other’s work, even though they hadn’t met prior to the shared tour. Now, they plan on sharing a tour bus for several weeks.
“We’re big advocates of bands sharing and supporting each other,” said Bryan. “This, I think, would be a lovely extension of that. It was a no-brainer, really.”
RIFF: What did you, Rhydian and Matt do following the Wolf’s Law tour?
Ritzy Bryan: We needed to step away from touring for a little while. It’s always good to refresh and reflect. We’ve been on the road – heavily on the road – for about six or seven years straight. And we live for the road – it’s a big part of this band. It’s like one of the most exciting, truest sides of the music industry. But it does take its toll in different ways over a long period like that. It’s good to step away and look at the way the creative lifecycle is going and just become more autonomous than we were before.
Wolf’s Law itself was written on the road. This time you wrote and recorded at a studio you built yourselves next to your childhood home in Wales. It took considerably longer this time around. What was the process like?
It definitely wasn’t a relaxed 12 months of just every so often doing a little bit of writing. It was very full-on. You’ve got to be at peace sometimes with how long the record takes. …The main thing is getting to that point where you have no regrets for what it is you’re releasing. We never felt any pressure. You can release something really quick and spontaneous because it feels right. Other times, you have to do what is right for you as the artist. For this record to take a little bit longer; we were very peaceful with that and the decisions around taking the time. We should never feel any constraints, time or pressure, from anybody.
You started your own label to release Hitch. Was it because you didn’t enjoy your time on Atlantic?
Being with Atlantic was just as well for the first two releases. Sometimes the freedom and the spontaneity and the way that you do things; a lot of big labels have more red tape that had to be checked through and questioned. It becomes evident that people are not too sure how to do things or release things. There’s almost too much questioning. We were in partnership with a few different labels along that stretch. We released a record in the U.S. with Caroline, but it’s a very, very different type of relationship. They’re definitely a bit stepped away from the creative decisions.
With Atlantic, they wanted to be more involved. At no point did it tie our hands. You’ve got to be very careful when you get very busy as a band. You don’t want anything to stagnate the passion that you have. You want to be able to connect quickly with the fan base and share things. I think we’ve loved having that extra step up of freedom. It’s not wholly different.
On the album, what’s going on with the pre-song banter at the beginning of “The Last Thing On My Mind?” Where was that taking place?
I think this record had a kind of aesthetic to it, a live aesthetic. We’ve captured the band that we are on stage and live. So there’s a real sense of ‘leaving the tape running.’ With a lot of the tracks from the album, we’re inviting you into our studio space to capture a moment live. And there’s a lot of little idiosyncrasies on the record; mistakes, and we wanted to keep all those little moments. I suppose that conversation is part of a lot of conversations that were captured on tape. There’s probably enough shit talking for a whole album if there was ever a market for that — which, I doubt.
Will you tour Hitch through the U.S. as headliners?
We’re definitely going to do some dates of our own at the same time as the Kongos tour. There’s a real stripped-down, acoustic side to what we do. We’d like to tour that a little bit. So we’re looking at doing that at the end of the year. Something very, very different from what people have come to expect from a The Joy Formidable show. There’s a lot of acoustic moments and stripped-down moments, and some cool musical arrangements on our record. It would be nice to go out and capture that properly.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.