“There’s a real hunger to [record] when you’re on the road,” says Ritzy Bryan, frontwoman for storm-brewing Welsh alt-rockers The Joy Formidable. Thankfully, she’s been able to satiate herself. The trio are currently putting the finishing touches on the as-yet-untitled follow-up to 2011’s The Big Roar, tentatively due for release this fall or early next year. “We love life on the road, but [being a musician is] always about variation and we really felt like we had a lot of energy being back in the studio,” she says. Bryan, bassist Rhydian Dafydd, and drummer Matt Thomas self-produced the album in a cozy studio outside of Portland, Maine.
“I think when you’re on the road and you’re writing sometimes it’s quite chaotic, and occasionally you need some time to reflect on the floods of songs you have going on,” continues Bryan. That need for reflection is why the band decided, in late 2011, to decamp to a secluded cabin-studio on Sebago Lake in Maine, a place Bryan describes as “very, very quiet.” That silence was a welcome change for the hard-touring noisemakers. “We were blessed by having barely any phone signal, ” she laughs, “which in this day and age is such a great rarity. It was very peaceful. I think a lot of the feel of this album is reconnecting with ourselves on an emotional and spiritual level.”
The band ended up recording 13 songs, including “The Leopard and the Lung” (which Bryan says was inspired by recently deceased Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai) and another called “Tendons.” Although Bryan is careful not to give too many details away at this stage, she explains that the album feels more defiant and focused than Roar. “We’ve just been really excited about moving on artistically. I think it’s been a very natural stride forward,” she says, noting that the new songs are more “ambitious” than previously. To that end, Bryan and Dafydd wrote orchestral parts for a few album tracks that were recorded on a short jaunt to London. “[Rhydian and I] are from a classical background, but we’ve never scored or composed for instruments before,” admits Ritzy, “so I think we found ourselves quite challenged by allowing our musical palette to grow. That’s always kind of exciting about the music that we’re making, that it can catch people off-guard in different ways ”
In addition to the tracks that feature orchestral touches, Bryan is particularly excited about the song “Maw Maw.” “It’s a really exciting guitar moment on the album,” she says. “[The song] is certainly a moment that I’m looking forward to playing live.”
Bryan believes that on record, though, the material has “a greater sense of dynamism and clarity than it did on The Big Roar, to which she credits famed mixer Andy Wallace. “The thing with Andy is, he makes great sounding records,” she raves. “It’s not always about everything being technically correct. It’s about keeping all these little nuances. It’s about making the most out of the music that’s there. [Andy] allowed moments in the songs to flourish beautifully.”
The band is being judicious about its time on the road this summer, but will air new material at a select group of festivals that includes Sasquatch and Bonnaroo. In preparation, the trio will head to Los Angeles later this month for a round of rehearsals. “It’s always quite an exciting period when the tracks that we’ve written actually start taking on their live persona,” says Bryan. If those new tracks end up taking on thunderous lives like the the Roar ones did, we all have reason to be excited.