The Joy Formidable
Live @ O2 Academy 2 Oxford
May 22, 2016
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

The Joy Formidable released their exhilarating and essential third long player, Hitch, in March 2016, which will fill your heart with unfaltering joy and justly deserves to be heralded as an instant classic! It is also an LP that will forever be linked to a time of personal readjustments, reflection and contemplation for the band. In an enlightening interview with, Ritzy elaborated, "I think there's a lot about change on this album. Over the last 12-months we've been through a lot of changes - moving back to North Wales, changing our manager, changing our label. Also, this is the first record Rhydian and I have written since not being in a relationship anymore, so a lot of the lyrics talk about the emotional things you go through when there's so much change happening at once, it can be quite double-edged. There's a lot of freedom and excitement that can come from that, but also trepidation and feeling a little bit lost."

With Rhydian adding, "I think love is a pretty big theme on the album as well. But there has been a lot of change and I think the three of us just wanted to regroup, let the music do the steering, you know? Simplify things. You come across things in The Music Industry that can make you cynical and we wanted to try and get away from all that, just have the three of us in a room. I think with all of that change going on it makes you question big things, with me and Rhiannon not being together anymore, but we're really happy and if anything we feel more solidarity as a group. So there's been heightened spirits in that sense, and a sense of intriguing and new adventures coming up. So even though we were recording for an entire year, the record feels really vibrant, there's a pace to it and the sentiment is that there is a future, there is a tomorrow. That's partly why we called the album Hitch, it's a reference to hitch-hiking."


Addressing life on the road, having spent a lot of time Stateside especially - a country where TJF are more widely-recognised (something which the three-piece have keenly affirmed they would love to replicate in their homeland). In-keeping with Ritzy's belief that she does her "best work away from people and distractions," when ruminating further on these difficult transitions, themes of freedom and finding comfort in familiar surroundings. She has spoken candidly about how the band had "a deep longing towards the end of the last touring cycle; kind of a nostalgia and a romance about going home - chasing a sense of belonging, but also feeling that you’re not really supposed to be there any more."

Musically however - having decamped to Mold, North Wales and built their own studio, 'The Red Brick' - it has been one of the trio's most creative / prolific periods during their career so far, resulting in a rich vein of form. Their modus operandi, to simply leave the tape running and 'capture the moment'. This meant initiating a relaxed / intimate approach to recording, by not tampering with the chemistry or dynamics of their live sound in any way, shape or form. Disengaging themselves from all thoughts of what a record company would want, and crucially, not 'playing the game', by ignoring fleeting music press hype, what criteria radio stations require tracks to meet in order to be playlisted (hence some epic / ambitious compositions) and anything currently in vogue in The Charts.

Abiding by these outlier guidelines, and never being bound to a particular sound or formula while crafting different styles of music. This widening of The Joy Formidable's sonic palette went hand-in-hand with allowing the soul-soothing trademark emotion, honesty and tenacity in their "jubilant and melancholic" autobiographical songs, to fully shine through. Even if this did occasionally necessitate some of the tracks having to be grappled into shape.

Engineering and producing themselves again, but admitting at times they were beginning to lose their minds and going slightly stir-crazy. Although never deviating from their ingrained scrupulous attention to detail, there are far less layers and much more space in the refined musical arrangements this time around. And TJF's intended sense of the songs' "vibe coming alive" and allowing instruments to breathe, is audibly evident - with the only outside influence being the legendary Alan Moulder (The Jesus & Mary Chain, JJ72, Nine Inch Nails, Placebo, The Smashing Pumpkins), who meticulously mixed the LP, in turn, helping to embroider each and every nuance.

Amazingly - and as a testament to their non-stop work ethic - during the Hitch sessions, The Joy Formidable even managed to find the time to start a collaborative Welsh-language, mail-order 7" singles club, Aruthrol, in June 2014. An idea conceived not only to help draw attention to how proud they are of their Welsh heritage / identity and the beauty of the Welsh-language (Rhydian's first language and Ritzy's second). But philanthropically, with the equally as important aim of giving lesser-known homegrown acts the chance to showcase their talents internationally (while enabling the sharing of fanbases), via the double A flip-side on one of the three sporadically-issued, hand-numbered limited edition 7" singles (500 copies of each all now sold out), A, B and C, with more releases planned.

On top of this, TJF also wrote a score for the short film, F L O A T I N G, and as self-declared big fans of the offbeat cult TV show, Twin Peaks, following the news that a new series was to be filmed, purely for fun, they recorded a starlit, butterflies-in-the-stomach cover version of the theme song as well!

With 6-years plus having elapsed since I last had the pleasure of speaking to the group. It was with great delight, that after exchanging hugs and pleasantries in the band's dressing room, I was able to quiz the always jovial and eternally humble, Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt again, prior to another impassioned, mesmerising, playful, tender, stimulating and energised white-knuckle ride of a gig, in the beautiful and historic city of Oxford...

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1. If you could write the perfect headline for an article about The Joy Formidable, what would it be?
Rhydian: "Oh, God..."
Ritzy: "Blimey, I'd forgotten how good your interview questions are! That's not 'How did you come up with the name of the band?' is it!"
All: (laugh heartily)
Ritzy: "Maybe it could be something like 'RED BRICK STUDIO BECOMES A PERMANENT FIXTURE' instead of something that we keep having to put up and take down."
All: (laughing)
Ritzy: "Because obviously, we've built this studio space, but it's kind of doubling-up as somebody else's house. It work fines, because we're not there at the moment – as you can tell – and we've got a lot of touring going on. But, it would be nice if we could make something like that a completely permanent thing – not just so that we can use it, but maybe so that some other bands could use it as well. I think it would be nice to be able to provide a space for bands in our country and further afield, where they could come to make music."
Rhydian: "Yeah, and I would also add to the headline 'AND IT'S NOT FOR SALE'."
All: (laugh heartily)

2. Some songwriters speak of how when they haven't written songs for a while, they have a fear that they won't be able to do it again. However, you both write constantly to alleviate such worries and in terms of a starting point, be it working individually or together, Rhydian has talked of how "there really isn't a formula as such and whatever happens happens." From jamming, to moulding ideas that began life on an acoustic guitar or as beats / rhythms, to experimenting with studio technology, to a topline melody, chorus or hook, to lyrics coming fully-completed from one of you or by trading co-authored words and lines. But as you recorded between 60 to 70 tracks during the Hitch sessions, was it difficult selecting what ended up as the final 12 song tracklisting / deciding on the best possible way to pace the long player and present the breadth of your songwriting?
Ritzy: "Yeah, and I think that's why it probably took a full year for us to finish this record, because there was a lot of writing in that space and a lot of recording. Because I think we wanted to see a big chunk of the songs through and actually make sense of them all, I suppose. So, it wasn't until we kind of got to the point – 12-months in – where things almost started to become clearer for us, in terms of the material that we were writing and the feel of it and the vibe. Obviously, the flow of an album is a really important thing to us, so I don't think it was until we kind of purged an awful lot of material (laughing), that we arrived at the core of the record that we've actually made."

3. As a collection of songs, I think Hitch easily contains some of the very best tracks that you've ever put out! But is there anything that you may be willing to impart about your unreleased material, and are you preparing to release a follow-up record quickly?
Ritzy: "Well, some of the songs are very different that belong to those sessions..."
Rhydian: "Yeah, I think there's a mixture and we do plan on recording the next record pretty soon actually, but that's just where we're at, at the moment. Who knows what those songs will be, but we've got enough from these past sessions."
Ritzy: "And we'll be writing in the interim as well, because we don't just like to rely on material from another chapter. It's also a very personal thing, because what's happening in your own life, will inevitably have an effect on the songs that you write next."
Rhydian: "Yeah, but we never write-off stuff that we've written before..."
Ritzy: "Oh never, no!"
Rhydian: "Because we've revisited songs that we started writing right at the very start. You put them in the context of now and they're different again – it's kind of like a big bag full of ideas that you can tap into at any time really."
Ritzy: "We also want to record another live album at some point as well."

4. A lot of musicians believe that "you have your whole life to write your first album, that the second album is a reaction to this record and that by the time of your third album, you’re much closer to establishing a defining sound / identity of your own." Would you agree with this, and also, do you have any favourite third albums?
Rhydian: "Oh wow, favourite third albums..."
*I say that some of mine are The Holy Bible - Manic Street Preachers, Coming Up - Suede and Free All Angels - Ash*
Rhydian: "I'll have to have a think about that. But in answer to the first part of your question, I think that we've had quite a non-traditional path anyway you know? We've always done bits and bobs in-between albums, so I'm not sure about the whole theories and myths that go around about album-making. I think you just have to view it like each one is a different chapter in your life. You know, for instance, they say that the second or third album is the difficult one. But surely, that just depends on how successful the first album has been anyway – some bands are fucking amazing, but on a financial-level or exposure-level, they're not that successful. It depends how you categorise it really doesn't it? But for us, it's just about being proud of what we've written and the pressure that we put on ourselves. We kind of just have the shutters on with everybody else and I think it's important to do that!"

5. Although as previously mentioned, you're consistently thinking about ideas for new songs, I remember once hearing how Rhydian writes the most frequently, while Ritzy, you tend to wait for lyrical inspiration to arrive unforced whenever and wherever that may be. Even acknowledging how a lot of your ideas are stream-of-consciousness, and that your "songbook is really a mixture of more fully-realized poems and very chaotic words: just word combinations, wordplay and imagery. Lines that sound interesting. It's a collage of separate threads." But in terms of honing your songcraft, do you both now know exactly how a track should be treated – sonically, length and feel etc?

Rhydian: "Well, I mean, obviously as you grow, there are certain things that fine-tune your perception of some things, but then you don't ever want to feel that you're stagnant either. So you have to push yourself and not feel like things are formulated. It's a constant push-and-pull maybe you know? That's how I feel."
Ritzy: "Yeah, and I like to be constantly surprised. Like maybe you'll have the bare bones of a song and you do have some preconceptions about what you want to lead it, in terms of section-to-section – and definitely the lyrics will be part of that for me. But sometimes, you do get surprised. For instance, like the flute making an appearance on this new album, that came at quite a late stage and it came quite spontaneously, just through us seeing Laura and playing some records that had that kind of feel – wondering how that would work in the context of the tracks that we were writing."
Rhydian: "Yeah."
Ritzy: "So a big part of creating, is keeping your mind open to the moment and what the moment can bring – it can make it very, very different to what you originally had in mind."

6. Have any song ideas ever come to you in your dreams a la Paul McCartney and Yesterday?
Rhydian: "Definitely in daydreams..."
*I interject, that while humming the melody to himself after waking-up and searching for the right words, Paul originally sang Scrambled Eggs, which then became the working title for Yesterday*
All: (laugh heartily)
Rhydian: "I mean (looking at Ritzy), you have quite a lot of vivid dreams, so I could totally imagine you've had that happen?"
Ritzy: "I have lyrically, but I don't know if I've had them musically. I was laughing just recently, because I saw Chrissie Hynde talking about how she wrote some of the tracks for The Pretenders – she said that she was on a train and there was something about the sound of the train, that made her think of a guitar riff..."
Matt: (adopting the voice of a train warning) "Mind the doors."
All: (laughing)
Ritzy: "So, I get that musically more often, where I hear stuff rhythmically or melodically, rather than dreaming of a song lyrically or conceptually and waking-up with a whole dream in my head. Definitely, yeah (smiling)!"

7. Ritzy, when asked about revising lyrics in a fascinating interview with Songwriters On Process, you revealed, "If your lyrics completely capture the spirit of what you want to say, then you leave them be and shape the music around them. On the other hand, if it feels like the words are not quite complete or can be changed, you revise because the music has a stronger lead at that moment. But when I'm more precious about the music, that's really the only time I'll revise the lyrics." But of all your songs to date, which one evolved the most or are there any that have taken on a life of their own / gone beyond your expectations?
Rhydian: "I suppose in a live sense, we've taken Whirring into loads of different places. Because we do enjoy how onstage when you're playing songs as a band, there's an element of improvisation and being in the moment as well – that's important I think. Recordings-wise..."
Ritzy: "With The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie on the first record (The Big Roar), I do remember the original demo of that being a lot simpler to what it actually ended up becoming. Because that went into the live room and then out of the live room, and back into the studio. So, it kind of had two building stages."
Rhydian: "Yeah, and we did that with this record a few times as well."
Ritzy: "We did, yeah. But we'll never drain the life out of a song and we'll abandon an idea very quickly, if we know that it isn't going to work."
*I remark how a lot of artists / bands recognise that knowing what direction a song should go in and when it needs more work, or is actually finished, are some of the most vital skills that any songwriter or musician has to learn – seeing 'the bigger picture'*
Rhydian: "That's right, and The Brook started off in a very different way. Initially I think, quite a few of the songs maybe had a lot more distorted guitars or whatever. But, we wanted to explore space and vocals, and therefore the lyrics a bit more on this album you know, and show intensity in different ways. Not just through aggression with our instruments."

8. Although over the years you have written and recorded music on the road using your mobile studio,while all the time "collecting experiences, soaking up your surroundings and chronicling the moment." I'm sure that readers will be interested to know more about your purposely-built recording studio, 'The Red Brick', which you set up at Ritzy's childhood home in Mold, North Wales. So, can you walk us through what a visitor would encounter?
Ritzy: (laughing) "Well, it's an old house and it hasn't had much done to it either since The '70s really. So it's quite an interesting house – it's got a lot of Welsh slate on the floors and we've got a big room where the drums were set-up."
Matt: "Higgledy-piggledy."
Ritzy: "It's a bit higgledy-piggledy (smiling), but it definitely feels very much that it's not been completely 'studiofied', in the sense that it kind of feels that it's this meeting of an abode you know? You might find a microphone at the top of the stairs or in the kitchen, or wherever we've decided to stick it for the day. You know, next door to the fridge and the kettle really."
All: (laughing)
Ritzy: "It's a great space for us, in terms of just having somewhere that we could make this record without having the pressures of time, which sometimes a studio brings and there's also a lot of financial implications setting-up in a studio. So having that space and being back home, was a big part of this record as well, because we hadn't been back to Mold for a really long time. But yeah, we could make people a cup of tea very easily!"
All: (laughing)

9. Of your musical output to date, in terms of studio embellishments, what’s the simplest recording and the most complex multi-tracked recording you’ve ever committed to tape?
Ritzy: (laughing)
Rhydian: "The simplest, is maybe something like Silent Treatment."
Ritzy: "Yeah, or 9669 – either of those would be in the simplest category."
Rhydian: "For the most intricate, I would say maybe The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie."
Ritzy: "Yeah."
Rhydian: "And on this record, Running Hands With The Night..."
Ritzy: "But I think Spectrum would beat that."
Matt: "Which song was it that had 128 drum tracks on it in the end?"
Ritzy: (laughs heartily)
Matt: "It was something from Wolf's Law."
Rhydian: "We put some engineers through the mill."
All: (laughing)
Ritzy: "Yeah, poor Andy Wallace (laughing)."

10. Having fulfilled your contract with Atlantic Records / Canvasback, can you tell us about starting your own label, C'mon Let's Drift, and why you chose that name?
Ritzy: "Of course (enthusiastically)! Well, I think we've always had a real sense of autonomy as a band, in terms of our career path and our creativity, and I suppose it's been spurred on by the Welsh single releases that we did in the middle of recording this new record – we were doing these collaborative double-sided 7"s with other bands from Wales. So as I said, I think that definitely spurred on the decision to maybe build some sort of releasing platform for ourselves, and that was under the guise of Aruthrol. C'mon Let's Drift feels like an extension of that, and it's definitely something that I would like to keep on building outside of us. Because I do think what we really liked about the Aruthrol series, was the collaborative aspect and sharing this release with other bands. I do think with our background in production and now having 'The Red Brick', I would like to use it outside of us as well eventually. So with Hitch, I suppose that's the starting point, and hopefully, it will flourish and then we can go outside of The Joy Formidable. The name comes from a Raymond Chandler book, where one of his characters says, "C'mon let's drift." Which basically just means, 'Let's get the fuck out of here'."
All: (laughing)
Ritzy: "So, it's that sort of sense of going for something you know? Inspirationally and thematically as well, our new album talks a lot about freedom and following your own path, which also ties the songs together."

11. To date, what has been the biggest surprise in your career?

Rhydian: "Wow (wide-eyed), the biggest surprise!?! (thinking) Well, the world of The Music Industry is quite a surprise in a way, because there are a lot of grey people and a lot of evil people and you think you know that, but until you come across them (pausing), that's taken me a little bit by surprise. I don't know about these guys?"
Matt: "I always knew there was a lot of slime!"
All: (laughing)
Ritzy: "I still look back with a lot of happiness and fondness on the gig that we did with the Manics and Paul McCartney at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (June 26, 2010). There was just something about that whole weekend (big smile) – it will always be hard to top!"
*I remind The Joy Formidable how they very generously added me to their guestlist with a +1 for this concert, and that with both the support acts and the headliner, it is without question, the best gig line-up that I've ever seen!*
All: (laughing)
Rhydian: "Yeah, and it was quite a moment walking out onto the stage there. I mean, we'd done stadiums before, but that was like HUGE!"
Ritzy: "Yeah (excitedly)!"
Matt: "Do you remember walking out and we just burst out laughing!"
Ritzy: "Yeah, I think there was a lot of that happening."
Rhydian: (laughing)
Ritzy: "I remember the first vocal line that I delivered (laughs heartily) and I still try not to laugh, because I could hear it echoing around the stadium! Before I delivered the next line, I was thinking, "Holy Fucking Shit! There's 10 of me!" (laughs heartily again). My vocals were just bouncing off the walls! That was a surprisingly happy moment. I also actually had a good surprise not long ago in Brazil, when I turned around onstage and (looking at Rhydian) you weren't there and there was some other gentleman with your bass guitar!"
Rhydian: (laughing)
Ritzy: "That was quite an interesting surprise, because he was a good bass player (laughing)!"
Matt: (laughs heartily)
Ritzy: "Not that you're not (looking at Rhydian)."
Rhydian: (laughing)
Ritzy: "I'm just saying (laughing). But, I hadn't even noticed that you'd swapped hands almost. So, that was quite an interesting development!"
Matt: "It was choreographed."
Ritzy: ""Where have you come from!?!" (laughs heartily)"

12. Your LPs all have very memorable opening and closing tracks, but do you have any favourite album intros and outros?

Ritzy: "Thank you for saying that about our opening and closing tracks (big smile)!"
Rhydian: "Yeah, thank you! As for some of our favourites, doesn't The End finish one of The Doors albums? That's a great finisher!"
Matt: "I'm trying to think of album bookends..."
Rhydian: "What starts off OK Computer?"
Ritzy: "Airbag."
Rhydian: "That's a fantastic song!"
Ritzy: "I do like The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead, that's a clever opener because it's really powerful and visceral. But although it's one of my favourite albums of all-time, I always think the ending of that album isn't how you would expect it to end, because it finishes on Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others and I always thought that was quite weird."
All: (laughing)
Ritzy: "I suppose that's the great thing about music, because it's very personal in terms of the journey that an artist wants to take you on. But you would have thought that they could have ended it with I Know It's Over or something. Maybe that would've been too clichéd? So, I like the way it starts, but I'm not keen on how it ends."
Matt: (laughs heartily)

13. If you could have played or sung on any album in your record collection, which one would it have been?
Matt: "There's a few for me!"
Rhydian: "Wow (excitedly), maybe Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin for me and on something by Björk."
Ritzy: "What about yours Mr. Thomas?"
Matt: "Obviously, Joe's Garage Acts I, II & III from Frank Zappa."
Ritzy: (laughing)
Matt: "Selling England By The Pound by Genesis. Jeff Buckley's Grace album."
Rhydian: "I would've loved to have collaborated with Bowie."
All: "Yeah."
Matt: "Hiromi's Sonicbloom - Time Control, but I can't play as good as that though. For that album, I cannot emulate the drumming on that one, and I need A LOT more practise before I can do that (laughing)!"
Ritzy: "Well, that's a good honest response (laughing)!"
Matt: "There's so many though really."
All: "Yeah."

14. Now neatly segueing into your back catalogue, The Joy Formidable have issued a number of gorgeous collectibles through the years – from limited edition vinyls and CDs, to bespoke box sets, to promos. But as music fans, habitual record store shoppers and crate-digging collectors yourselves, what’s the most expensive album that you’ve ever bought and the best bargain you’ve ever found?

Rhydian: "I've found plenty of bargains, but I don't think I've ever spent hundreds and hundreds of pounds on one record or anything like that."
Ritzy: "No, not on music. I think the best bargain that I've ever found though, was when I bought the first ever Radiohead release, the Drill EP. I found that at a record fair and I was really young, but it was just before The Bends had been released and I don't think the lady running the stall who was selling it, quite realised just how rare that EP was and how valuable it would go onto become. I remember thinking, "Wow (excitedly), this is a find!" I've still got that (big smile)."
Rhydian: "It's funny how buying physical music has changed, because I remember years and years ago, some albums costing close to £20."
Matt: "If you're talking about CDs, they were new things weren't they. But buying vinyl wasn't as expensive then and it's kind of reversed now, vinyl's really expensive and CDs are super cheap (laughing)."
Rhydian: "Yeah."

15. Can you tell us more about collaborating with the esteemed artist and illustrator, Ralph Steadman, for artwork on both Hitch / fan merchandise and how this came about?
Ritzy: "Well, it came from just a very regular night out in Mold, which is the nearest town to where 'The Red Brick' is located. We happened to be having a few drinks and we bumped into some people and got talking to them (pausing and looking at Rhydian), I don't know if you knew them?"
Rhydian: "I knew them before, yeah."
Ritzy: "But I hadn't really made the connection at all, we were just having a nice chat and it turned out that one of the ladies we were drinking with, was Ralph Steadman's Daughter. Like I said, it was a very honest conversation and several drinks in..."
Matt: (laughing) "You mean a very drunk conversation!"
Ritzy: "A very drunk and honest conversation (laughing), with me saying (adopting a drunken slur), "Do you fucking think Ralph would like to do something for the album?""
All: (laugh heartily)
Ritzy: "Because even prior to that moment, if anybody had made us choose an artist to collaborate with, it would've been Ralph Steadman – 100%. So it was very, very surreal!"
Rhydian: "Yeah, we LOVE his work!"
Ritzy: "We're BIG fans (enthusiastically)!"
Rhydian: "Her Husband, Andy, I've known a long time. There's a bar in Mold called Y Delyn Wine Bar and that's where we've been more than any other bar really. It's quite a cool little place and we always used to see him in there."
Ritzy: "Yeah."
Rhydian: "But also, it turns out that Ralph Steadman is Welsh – he grew up in Abergele. So that was a nice connection, especially because at the time, we were doing the Welsh single releases..."
Ritzy: "Yeah, we were in the middle of those at the time."
Rhydian: "And it felt like it totally made sense. Because the whole point of that singles club was to champion the stuff coming out of Wales, especially North Wales, because we feel that it needs a bit of help you know? So it was a nice touch!"
Ritzy: "He was really nice. We just had one simple phone conversation with him and off he went. We haven't met him yet – he invited us down to visit him didn't he (looking at Rhydian), but we haven't had a chance to. But he's going to be at one of our shows..."
Rhydian: "He's going to be in Denver apparently isn't he?"
Matt: "Yeah – he's having a big party!"
Ritzy: "In Denver, yeah. He's been listening to the record, because prior to him doing the artwork, he hadn't listened to the record..."
Matt: "Oh, right (surprised)."
Ritzy: "But now, he's really into it (laughing) and he wants to come and see us!"
All: (laugh heartily)
Ritzy: "I thought that was quite funny (chuckling)."
*In relation to Hitch's sleeve artwork, I mention how I noticed that on the LP's tracklisting, The Gift is written in an italic typeface so that it stands out from the other songs and I wondered what the reason behind this was*
Rhydian: "It's because we felt like it was some sort of – not interlude – but like Adam was saying the other day, there's almost like a breath in the album or something. It feels like if you were to have your way with a vinyl, it would almost be like there's two sides."

16. As dedicated readers, I know that you even have a mini-library in the back lounge of your tour bus, and so I thought that this next question about literature would be rather apt! A book entitled, ‘The Empty Page: Fiction inspired by Sonic Youth’, features "short stories by authors whose initial sparks came from Sonic Youth song titles." Would you ever like to see a selection of your song titles treated in the same manner, and if so, are there any specific writers who you would like to see take up the challenge?

Ritzy: "Well, I've written a song based on a writer, because A Minute's Silence – which is a song that we released (as a limited edition 12" vinyl) exclusively for 'Record Store Day' in 2013 – was inspired by Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. So yeah, I'd be quite fascinated to see it reversed from his perspective, because I love his writing and I especially like some of his novels. When he hits it, I just think that his observation and the simplicity in which he captures the moments of relationships, and conversations between couples, is so well-executed! So, I would LOVE to see what he would do with one of our song titles. But what song title could we give to him (looking at Rhydian & Matt)? Let me think..."
Rhydian: "Maybe give him A Minute's Silence."
Ritzy: "Just throw it back at him, yeah!"
All: (laugh heartily)
Rhydian: "I would have liked Roald Dahl to have written a story based on Popinjay. Obviously, he's a children's writer, but he's one of my favourite writers ever, in terms of the imagery and how strong and powerful and imaginative his books are. I can imagine he would have thought of something pretty macabre for Popinjay... I mean, we kind of did do a pretty dark video to it anyway."

17. In our previous wide-ranging interview, you told me some interesting stories behind the creation of some of your tracks. So with this in mind, if you were asked to put together a TV show in a similar vein to ‘Storytellers’ – whereby 5 musicians play songs together, talk about their music / respective careers, jam and tell anecdotes etc. Who would you ask to appear?
Ritzy: "I've never seen that."
Matt: "It's really good actually, VH1 'Storytellers', but it's hard to watch it in the UK now. Over here, it was on satellite TV in the mid-'90s to early-'00s (looking at Ritzy), so that's why you wouldn't have seen it (jokingly + laughing)."
Ritzy: "We didn't have very good TV in North Wales (laughing)."
Rhydian: "Did they have all kinds? I think I saw some country musicians..."
Matt: "They had loads of stuff and each show focused on one particular act, where they would perform and chat, plus answer questions in front of an invited audience. There were quite a few programmes really and sometimes you see it when we're on tour in America, because you can get VH1."
Ritzy: "Oh, ok."
Matt: "They'll be going like (adopting a hippie voice), "Yeah, we were really bummed because our tour bus broke down, so we just started writing this song that we're about to play for you.""
Ritzy: (laughing)
Matt: "Stuff like that (laughing)."
Ritzy: "But (looking at me) your idea is a new spin on that, where an artist or band would actually book the guests and there'd be 5 different songwriters and musicians all appearing together. Wow (excitedly)!"
*Rhydian asks me if the artists have to all still be alive and I say that that would be better, joking that just in case a TV channel may read this article and want to commission the programme, that line-up could happen*
All: (laugh heartily)
Matt: "It COULD happen!"
Ritzy: (laughing) "That's it, yeah! Well, I think Courtney Barnett would be good, just in terms of having that free vibe lyrically and she's quite witty. But who could we put her with?"
Matt: "Tom Waits?"
Ritzy: "Tom Waits, yeah."
Rhydian: "Leonard Cohen maybe?"
Matt: "Kanye West, just because it would be hilarious to see all of these people try and punch him really (laughs heartily)!"
Ritzy & Rhydian: (laughing)
Ritzy: "Definitely not Kanye West!"
Matt: (laughs heartily again)
Ritzy: "You can bog off frankly! I think Benjamin Booker would be cool on guitar and how about Steve Nieve on piano? He's been doing some of his own stuff recently and that would be a nice twist to it."
*TJF's 'Storytellers'-style TV show line-up in full... Courtney Barnett, Benjamin Booker, Leonard Cohen, Steve Nieve and Tom Waits*

18. Of all your songs to date, which are you most proud of and why?
Ritzy: "Ooh..."
Rhydian: "It's always a tough one that."
Ritzy: "It is."
Matt: "It's like saying who's your favourite child (laughing), which is weird, because none of us have even got kids!"
Rhydian: "Some of our songs are short and some of them are long, and it's easy to think that something is somehow bigger and deeper if it's longer. But, I don't always think that's the case, I just think it's the context of everything you know?"
Matt: "Yeah, and I guess it depends what mood you're in when you're listening to it as well, because it changes. You don't want to listen to a sadder song when you're about to go out clubbing do you? Well, you might (laughing)!"
Rhydian: "For the sake of being decisive, I'll say The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade."
Ritzy: "I think I'll say something off the new record, so either A Second In White or The Brook. One of those."

19. I recently read that because of the changes The Joy Formidable went through, how it "crossed your minds that you may not tour again." Thankfully though, you turned things around, as you've noted on many occasions how 'audience connection' is a massive part of what drives the band, and how the roots of the group, have depended hugely on the special and caring relationship that you've long-maintained with your faithful fanbase. With a genuine love for performing live, thoughtfully determining set lists show to show and the heartfelt sincerity which you always display when interacting with crowds (onstage and off). It's obvious that you've never taken people's ongoing support / emotional investment for granted, and due to the incentive of this 'truthful exchange', I know that the way in which the messages in your music translate to audiences, big or small, is also of utmost importance to you! But, at a guess – with your famed incessant touring schedule – I wondered how many gigs you think you’ve played since you started as a band?
All: (laughing)
Rhydian: "That would be a good thing to find out!"
Ritzy: "Let's do some basic calculations."
Matt: "We must have easily done..."
Rhydian: "It's definitely over a thousand."
Matt: "Oh yeah (without any hesitation), it's definitely over a thousand."
Ritzy: "We've had 7 or 8 years together and we've probably played at least 200 shows every year."
Rhydian: "There's been some years, where we've done quite a lot more than 200 gigs as well."
Ritzy: "Yeah, so that rounded up is about 1,500 to hazard a guess. FUCKING HELL – no wonder my arms are falling off (laughs heartily)!"
All: (laughing)
Matt: "We spent a whole year not gigging as well really (pausing), well, we did a couple. But, we should try and work it out – it would be interesting."
Ritzy: "That would be quite laborious and I think I'd have other things that I would much rather do (laughing)."
Rhydian: (laughing)
Matt: "We could force someone to try and work it out (laughs heartily)!"
*At 7.15pm, The Joy Formidable's Tour Manager, Scott, enters the band's dressing room to let Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt know that their next interviewer will soon be arriving, but they graciously agree to quickly answer my remaining questions*

20. From personal experience, what is the one thing that everybody should try at least once in their lifetime?
Rhydian: "Ooh, God (thinking)... I would say dancing. Definitely!"
Matt: (laughing)
Ritzy: "Going out into the wilderness and stripping everything back, so that you really don't need much at all. Getting under the stars, just being away and switching your FUCKING phone off!"
Matt: (laughs heartily)
Ritzy: "There wouldn't be any signal where I'm talking about anyway. But yeah, sit under the stars and just reflect."
Rhydian: "Realise that there are so many things that you don't actually need."
Ritzy: "Yeah, precisely that!"

21. In reference to a question that I asked you in 2010, about how three-piece bands (using the classic guitar, bass, drums set-up) are able to deliver 'the purest form of musical expression'. As each of these instruments continue to play such a key role in TJF's overall sound, from some of your own songs and from some of your favourite artists / groups, are there any guitar riffs / solos, bass lines and drum patterns that have stuck in your head?

Rhydian: "Hmmm... Well, off the new record, the bass riff in Liana. In terms of other people's stuff, I think some of the bass lines from Jamiroquai are amazing – especially the early player (Stuart Zender) that they had."
Matt: "Before they sacked him (laughing)!"
Ritzy: "There are so many riffs and solos by guitarists that I love, but I'd need more time to think of them all really."
Matt: "Yeah, I think I'd need more time to work out some of my favourite drum patterns as well."

22. Lastly, I know you feel that time truly proves a band's worth. But what has been the most valuable lesson that you have learnt from writing and recording songs – and do you see yourselves always making music in some capacity?
Rhydian: "Yeah, and there's plenty that we've learnt. I think with it being such an intense relationship in a band, you learn to deal with people and a big part of it, is how to get the best out of each other. It's not just something that you can leave at the end of the day, if you want to call it a 'job'. So there's that, and also, it really makes you think about why are you doing it and what the point of the music is. You know, we still love music and that's the guiding force for us. I think it's quite easy to give it up if you don't have that, and that's been the thing I think – that's driven us – that we're still turned on by believing in what we write. Especially for guitar bands, because it's not the easiest time to be doing it, just to sustain yourself and like I said, you come across a lot of fucking bullshit, politics and everything else that you have to deal with. So, it helps if you like doing it (laughing)."
Ritzy: "Try to never second-guess yourself, and I think it's really important to surround yourself with people who you love and trust. You have to be really strong when you're making music and sharing it, because in terms of staying true to yourself and keeping your integrity, it can be easily bent and moulded and I think you have to be very hard, but always keep a softness for the people that you love. Because ultimately, we're the people who are going to be playing these songs and I don't have any regrets about any of the music that we've put out, or the albums that we've released – and that takes A LOT of confidence! Music's such a subjective thing, that you're always going to end up with a lot of opinions, so you have to really learn which ones to block out and which ones can actually help you."

A very special thanks to Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt, and to The Joy Formidable’s Tour Manager Scott, for all of their time and help.

Oxford Set List

Little Blimp
I Don't Want To See You Like This
Maw Maw Song
Silent Treatment
The Last Thing On My Mind
The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Brook (acoustic in crowd)
Radio Of Lips

"A New Beginning"

The Joy Formidable - Archived R*E*P*E*A*T Interviews here here and here


wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?