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Joy of Joys
7:00am Saturday 12th January 2013 in Music
Fresh from an American tour with Muse, Welsh trio The Joy Formidable return to the UK with a new album and a string of their own live shows. Singer Ritzy Bryan talks to Andy Welch.
By Andy Welch Wolff's Law is a medical rule written by 19th century German anatomist Julius Wolff.
It states that a bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the weight it's placed under. Rather than growing weaker, if the load becomes too much, the bone will remodel itself to bear the weight.
Ritzy Bryan, the singer, guitarist and main songwriter in The Joy Formidable stumbled across Wolff's Law while aimlessly trawling through pages on the internet one night. Suddenly she had a name for what she'd been feeling.
"It was just as we were releasing The Big Roar," she says, referring to the band's first album, released in January, 2011. "The idea really struck a chord with me because there had been some degree of healing in a relationship in my life.
"My parents had been going through a long and drawn-out divorce. Basically they've been getting divorced for 10 years, really out-of-the-ordinary stuff. It's difficult to deal with whatever age you are, and the length of time it was stretched out over meant I became quite estranged from them.
"It was a sad time, things breaking down like that, but there had been small steps towards me reconciling with them. And that's when I saw Wolff's Law. It was very symbolic and made total sense to me."
The idea stuck in Bryan's mind, and lyrics started to flow. Wolf's Law (she dropped an 'f') was the first song, and subsequently gave the trio the title for their second album. It'll be released on January 21, the day before they begin a large UK tour.
The band, from Mold in North Wales, toured almost constantly in 2012, including a support slot with Muse in the US, meaning they should be in perfect shape for the UK dates.
"We should be, but that all depends on how many Christmas puddings Matt eats. It could all go horribly wrong and we'll have to wheel him on stage in a barrow," she says.
The band did manage to find time in their touring schedule to record Wolf's Law. November 2011 saw them escape to Portland, Maine, for a week or two for initial sessions. Smitten by the setting on America's north-east coast, they decided to return in January 2012. Drums and strings were recorded in London, mixed in March and done and dusted a month or so later.
"It was all so quick," says Bryan. "The writing and recording was, anyway, I just think we were eager to get back in the studio. We'd been writing on the road for 12 months, and when you've got all those ideas, you just want to find out what you have.
"It's like unpacking a case, and you don't know what you've got until you get it all out and have a look.
"I think it's a lyrically brave album, and has a really consistent context. It's varied in its range and the palette between tracks, but it does all belong together. We never want anything to be formulaic."
Much of the album concerns itself with the preciousness of time, inspired by the aforementioned divorce, and the death of her beloved grandfather.
"We'd only been in the studio a week and that happened," she says. "I was so close to him, and he was our biggest fan. He knew more about the band than we did, with his scrap books and cuttings. Typical proud grandad."
The loss is reflected in their new song The Turnaround. Tendons is another personal song, the first time Bryan has written about her long-term relationship with bandmate Rhydian Thomas. The pair have been best friends since meeting in school, and in a relationship "for years".
"People would read things into songs on The Big Roar and think, 'That must be the song about their relationship', but there wasn't really anything on there about it.
"Tendons is about the craziness and lifestyle that keeps us together, and considering for the first time that if the dust were to settle, or things were to change and we weren't in the band anymore, that it might actually change the relationship," she says.
"It's not a conventional relationship, I'll give you that. Quite bizarre really, but our relationship drives the band in a lot of ways. Music has always been at the forefront of what we do, and us as people, but we have a relationship too. It's a tricky thing to balance, but he's my best friend. The creative side is so alive in us, but we do wonder where we'd be without the band and that's what the song is about."
While Wolf's Law was written and inspired by testing circumstances, it's positive in mood, and the process of getting her thoughts down on paper helped Bryan work through her problems. It's a stark contrast to The Big Roar, which she says added to real-life tensions of the time.
"Rhydian and I were living in this tiny room in London, working day jobs, playing gigs at night and trying to tour," she says. "It was so claustrophobic, and just added to this sense of angst and anxiety. There was no catharsis at all.
"This time around, having a creative project to throw myself into was really helpful, and properly gave me a new focus. It was very sad, but I've come out of it more positive than ever.
"We've got this tour coming, which I can't wait for. We've been all over the US, but it's always good to get back to the UK. It'll hopefully be the first tour of many this year. I can't bear hearing bands whining about how much they're going to be touring or how much they're going to be away. Yes, there are people I'll miss, but we've got jobs we love, where every day is different. It's brilliant."
Extra time - The Joy Formidable :: The Joy Formidable are Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas.
:: Bryan and Dafydd had been in numerous bands together in Manchester, before moving back to Mold and forming The Joy Formidable in 2007.
:: Matt Thomas replaced original drummer Justin Stahley in 2009.
:: Debut album The Big Roar was released in 2011, peaking at No 31 in the UK, and No 8 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart in the US.
:: The band's song Endtapes featured on the soundtrack for Twilight: Breaking Dawn.
:: The Joy Formidable release their second album Wolf's Law on January 21. They begin a UK tour on January 22 in Liverpool. Full dates below.
January Tuesday 22 - Liverpool Kazimier Wednesday 23 - Norwich Waterfront Friday 25 - Belfast The Limelight Saturday 26 - Dublin Academy Monday 28 - Cardiff Solus Tuesday 29 - Bristol Fiddlers February Sunday 24 - Nottingham Rescue Rooms Monday 25 - Leeds Cockpit Tuesday 26 - Glasgow Oran Mor Thursday 28 - Manchester Ritz March Friday 1 - Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall Saturday 2 - Sheffield Leadmill Monday 4 - Brighton Concorde 2 Tuesday 5 - Exeter Phoenix Wednesday 6 - Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms Friday 8 - London The Roundhouse
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