Interview: ‘Turbulent and unhappy’ time in Manchester has not scarred city memories for The Joy Formidable

By Phil Jones

“It was a very turbulent and creatively unhappy time.”

The Joy Formidable front woman Ritzy Bryan insists the dark days that brought an end to her time in Manchester have left no lasting scars.

Ritzy and the band’s bassist Rhydian Dafydd, were childhood friends in North Wales but first started playing together in Manchester band Sidecar Kisses.

And as The Joy Formidable return with second album Wolf’s Law in January, they will play Manchester’s HMV Ritz on February 28.

Speaking to MM while touring America, Ritzy talked of the band’s genesis, being children of nature and escaping the chaos of touring to record Wolf’s Law.

“There were a lot of very sad and tragic things that were going on with certain members within Sidecar Kisses,” she said.

“The Joy Formidable marked the first time Rhydian and I wrote together and when we went back to North Wales we essentially escaped and left a very difficult time in Manchester.”

But having been to university in the city and with family in Wythenshawe, the front woman’s links to the city run deeper than just an unsuccessful band.

“Myself and Rhydian were reunited in Manchester, I’m half-Mancunian – but when we went home it felt so different, we were re-invigorated,” added the Mold native.

“It was a new start for us, no bullshit, no egos, just all about the music and beginning to love it again.

“It’s a very happy time when we come back to play Manchester though, my memories and my connections go much further back, I’ve not been scarred by a busted s***ty band.”

Wolf’s Law, the follow up to 2011’s The Big Roar, finally gets released on January 21, having been recorded in a log cabin, in the middle of a forest last winter.

The band was touring the US and about to take a break for thanksgiving, the final show before their week off was in Portland, Maine, and the trio felt right at home.

“Recording in Portland was a happy accident, it was just a great place and we decided to go back there to record,” said the guitarist.

“It reminded us a lot of recording our first EPs at home, that was a very harsh winter too.

“We grew up in North Wales and the landscape of the area, feeling like children of nature has formed us.

“So when we’re back in those surroundings and back in nature, that sense of isolation that we grew up with is definitely a good place for us creatively.”

And after three years of almost constant touring, living in each other’s pockets and sleeping in the back of a bus, Ritzy was grateful for the opportunity to take a break.

“It was the sense of peacefulness that we could find there,” she said.

“We needed somewhere with a bit of calm in the middle of all that chaos to reflect and consolidate what we’d been writing the previous year.”

During their time on the road the band’s full throttle performances have built them a reputation as one of the best live bands around.

And they attempt to capture the energy of their live shows when recording, a quality Ritzy admired in the music she grew up with.

“They committed with whatever they were doing in either a recorded sense or in a live environment,” she added.

“If you go and see performers like Bruce Springsteen or Elvis Costello there’s a huge amount of soul and intent coming from that stage.

“I don’t think we’d bother if it was any different, it’s not about going through the motions.

“A lot of the excitement and beauty of recording for us is recording a moment in the first take, as the song is coming to life.”

Ritzy, Rhydian and drummer Matt Thomas recently played to thousands at Manchester Arena when supporting Muse and have previously toured with Foo Fighter in the States.

Next year’s headline tour will be played to much smaller crowds, but Ritzy said the band’s approach to a show never changes, no matter what the venue.

“Whether we’re playing to a couple of people, a couple of hundred or several thousand, it’s about us and the songs,” said the blonde-haired dynamo.

“The meaning and emotiveness to that doesn’t change, we never feel daunted, they’re all the same to us.

“Somehow that switch is flicked every night when you go on stage, but you never quite know what it’s going to inspire.

“It’s a truthful, always changing, never quite knowing what you’re going to get next experience, and that is bound to happen if the songs come from an honest and emotive place.”

And as the band is set to embark on the next chapter of their life, Ritzy cannot wait to let the new album loose and continue doing what she loves.

“The variation and the people that you meet, playing the music that you love, I’m excited for the next year,” said the musician.

“Bring it on, it’s not a f***ing job, it’s a privilege doing this.”

Picture courtesy of Bradalmanac, with thanks.

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