The Joy Formidable have developed quite the…well, formidable resume in the eight years since their debut. With a list of credentials that include having songs featured in the filmTwilight: Breaking Dawn and songs sampled by The Lonely Island, it’s been a wild ride for these Welsh alt-rockers. They show no signs of slowing down this spring or summer, as they will be headliners at the Savannah Stopover Music Festival and featured artists at Shaky Knees in Atlanta. Rhydian Dafydd Davies, bass player for The Joy Formidable, took a few minutes out of his schedule to chat about the bands origin, influences, and future projects with us.
JB: First off thanks for your time, how did The Joy Formidable come to be?
TJF: No problem. Me and Ritz have known each other since school days but we met up years later when I was looking for another guitarist in my band in Manchester at the time. That disbanded dramatically so we started writing together back home in North Wales. We had a new found energy after a tough spell and after recording a bunch of demos we decided to take the project on the road and bring the songs to life. We found our previous drummer Justin in London and moved down there to throw ourselves into it fully. Justin left not long after but we’re still good friends. Matt came into the fold and we went straight into gigging non stop! That was 10 years ago and I’m glad to say we still love each other and what we do!
JB: Y’alls first record “The Big Roar” was a very strong debut, featuring the singles Austere and Whirring among others. What was the motivation or feeling behind the writing and production of “The Big Roar”?
TJF: Thank you. There was a lot of releasing on that record. Some deep wounds needed confronting. Family, relationships, mental health, cynicism and hope. It was tense and was written under a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere with lots of push and pull but the music was the solace and always has been.
JB: “Wolf’s Law” was y’alls second album, released almost exactly two years after “The Big Roar”. What was it like writing a follow up to such a successful debut?
TJF: We certainly don’t succumb to this mindset of ‘second album worries’. You should put the music first and be utterly dedicated with every record and forget everything else. That’s what we did. It’s a different chapter just like every record.
JB: The first thing I noticed about “Aaarth” was the amazing artwork on the cover. What was the inspiration for the multi-colored imagery and the title “Aaarth”?
TJF: It’s a piece we fell in love with by Brazilian artist Fernando Chamarelli. For us it captures the colourful, layered patchwork effect of this latest album. ‘Arth’ means ‘Bear’ in Welsh. We are fascinated by symbols in nature and the bear is seen as a figure of strength and healing in many cultures. This album deals with releasing (AAARTH!), healing, evolving, transformation.
JB: How do you feel your sound as a group has changed or evolved on “Aaarth”?
TJF: It is pieced together much more than previous records, especially Hitch, which was all about capturing one performance and the band chemistry live. It celebrates the guitar but we really played with it too. Seeing what’s possible and expanding our pallete . We were energised and relished experimenting. Chopping, rebuilding, toying. Building sounds in post. It is layered but composed with moments and memories as opposed to dense throughout. Building brick by brick like that and making it work as a whole is really fulfilling when you nail it. We made use of more synth and samples here too. Live drums, drum machines, combinations. It really is a studio record.
There are psychedelic, tribal and eastern influences and rhythmical threads and plays too, introduced straight away with the interplay of vocals on Y Bluen Eira (our first Welsh language track featured on a full length).
JB: What are some of the differences between the U.K. and U.S. music scene?
TJF: Hmm. Tough. And the world is getting smaller. Maybe because of the size of the US people are willing to travel a bit more for shows. Luckily for us our fans are sweet, decent and dedicated regardless of where they’re from and we’ve always felt we’ve carved our own path so our experiences might be a little different.
JB: Who are some major musical influences y’all have?
TJF: So many. Today I’ll reel….Hendrix, Dylan, Morricone, Van Morrison, Zeppelin, Sam Cooke, Patti Smith, Bjork, Philip Glass, Nick Cave, The Cure, The Smiths, The Prodigy (RIP Keith) , Yes, Massive Attack, NIN, John Martyn, Thomas Newman, Elvis Costello, Mclusky, Television, Springsteen, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Talk Talk, Deftones, Zappa, QOTSA, Grandmaster Flash, Daft Punk, PJ Harvey but could go on and on and oooon!!! X
JB: What can fans of The Joy Formidable expect in the near future?
TJF: Lots. We want to do something special for the 10th anniversary of our first e.p ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’, another release for our welsh label ‘Aruthrol’, we’re starting our own festival, we’re working on a side project and we’re excited for the next release/chapter for the band too!
The Joy Formidable play , New Brookland Tavern Friday March 8
Jacob Boland is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications. After graduation, Jacob and his girlfriend embarked on a cross country trip in their Toyota 4Runner and 13 foot Scamp camper. After 10,000 miles and 21 states they returned to South Carolina where Jacob worked for WCSC in Charleston. Jacob and his girlfriend recently relocated home to Newberry, South Carolina to begin their next big adventure, raising their baby boy Nathaniel Hawk Boland. Jacob works at Hy Hope Farms and enjoys hiking, camping, attending any and every concert he can, and watching his baby boy figure out this wide world we live in.