jason stives interviews rhydian dafydd of the joy formidable…
First impressions are always an important part of anyone’s sense of being whether it is as an individual or as a respected outfit. This is definitely an important aspect of up and coming rock bands looking to make a name for themselves. Sometimes the right first album is all that is needed to get an act on the map and it takes a lot of broad strokes to make this a reality.
Welsh alt rock trio The Joy Formidable chose to fashion their debut album, The Big Roar, with a very appropriate title. The group charges through their first major label release with a brigade of sonic haywire and clever pop hooks making for an impressive debut that made many critics best of 2011 lists.
In lieu of their show this week at the Union Transfer in Philadelphia, Jason Stives had a chance to talk briefly with bassist Rhydian Dafydd about touring, the writing of their sophomore release, and how a band is creatively always wearing their heart on their sleeve.
Pop-Break: How is the tour going so far?
Rhydian Dafydd: It’s going great! We are about a week in and have played a bunch of shows so far. We are out in Los Angeles right now but yeah everything is going really well so far.
PB: I know this is a big deal for you guys; this is your first big US tour right? Having spent a good amount of time playing support slots for other bands over the last five years has it helped prepare your presentation to be a headliner?
RD: Well not really. We have actually been doing headlining shows here in the US for a couple tours now. But we aren’t actually concerned about the presentation because we have spent enough time perfecting what we sound like and I think that transitions regardless of what slot we play in or in what venue we play at.
PB: And this past year has been a big deal for you guys. How has it been for you and the band as whole getting this kind of exposure and the reception that your debut has gotten?
RD: It’s very exciting and a wonderful moment. The good thing for us is we stay busy so while this is all going on we are still writing and recording even while we are on the road. We are always onto the next thing. It’s more or less playing safe and taking in what is going on. So by staying busy it’s easy for us to engage what is going on because we are still being productive. But what is important is that we are proud of what we have done whether it’s the music we create or the connection that comes from the people who come and see us and buy our records. It’s really come down to word of mouth and the amount of shows we play that’s matters.
PB: The one thing that stands out about you guys is the full sound that you create and the record definitely reflects that full sound. Where do your influences lie and what sound are you trying to create?
RD: Well we have never wanted to present something one dimensional we like having like you said a sonic feel and a bombastic one at best. Musically we wear our hearts on our sleeves and that is reflected in what we produce, kind of a ghost in the machine like thing. But yeah it’s tough to say because we all have a lot of influences. Ritzy (Bryan) has an extensive record collection and she tends to like Van Morrison, Springsteen and Bob Dylan, just those rich classic singer/songwriters. Matt (Thomas) is very influenced by a lot of jazz music, and I grew up listening to a lot of sixties rock music so it was Hendrix and Zeppelin and these gave way to even greater music. We don’t try to stick to one sound because we aren’t genre specific which I think is a great thing. We try not to be one specific sound and while we are influenced by those acts and even later acts like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, we don’t set out to be that. Whatever sound we go for basically comes down to what the song we are recording requires.
PB: There are a lot of great songs on the Big Roar, but when it came down to pick the songs that would be singles, how did that work out? Did you have a lot of input on that or was it your label, or a little of both?
RD: It’s definitely a little of both. We are presented with the opportunity to say what we think would work as a single but our label, you know they have people designed to do that (laughs) but they want to know what we think. We have a great label in that respect and we work more as a collective on decisions like that more than separately.
PB: I know you have probably been asked this many times but it bears repeating. You guys formed in 2007 but your debut only came out last year. Was that intentional? Did you feel no pressure to release an album right out of the gate?
RD: Well it’s more like four years since we got Matt in the band but we have always tried to stay busy and it’s always a little tough to get stuff out. But we have found time in between then and the release of The Big Roar to put out material whether it was singles, or even our EP A Balloon Called Moaning which predated The Big Roar. But we never set out to have a time frame in which to record an album and build our presence, we are always doing that. But we eventually did do an album and its one that everyone seems to really like, which is a great feeling for us creatively.
PB: Do you feel the wait has paid off?
RD: I mean it hasn’t been like a hiatus or anything it was just a different way of going about things. It has never been premeditated to take this long to release an album because we did release music we just never felt like there was a rush to make a full length. We have just been doing what we love most and that’s playing music and writing it. It’s what has always felt natural for the band to do.
PB: The band will be on the road for the next month here in the US and you have already been touring a lot in the past year. Have you guys been writing on the road and have you started thinking about the next record?
RD: Absolutely, we have actually finished our second record. We go into the mixing stage in New York at the end of this coming month in fact. But yeah we have been very busy writing and recording which we have been doing since the end of last year and all throughout January. We are very excited about the new material and we are looking forward to sharing it to our fans so it will definitely be out this year.
PB: I know you probably can’t give too much away but what can we expect on the new album, a little of what you did on the first one or are you moving forward and trying some new things this time out?
RD: Yeah I definitely think people will be surprised with what the result is but you know it’s still the same formula for us; we still wear our hearts on our sleeves. If anything I would say we have taken it a bit further, the new songs are very bold and direct. We are very proud of the stuff that we have recorded and we hope everyone else feels the same way when it comes out.