By Jennifer Lynn
She’s the “Rottweiler” of The Joy Formidable and she’s got a pretty awesome bark on her. Ladies and gentlemen, Ritzy Bryan…
“We’re all feeling a bit peaky,” says Ritzy Bryan, when I ask how she and the boys are today. “We had a bit of a choppy crossing over to Belfast, but we also had too many beers last night, so it’s all self-inflicted!” With her gravelly voice and a wicked laugh, I can tell from the word go that this is a girl I’d like to sink a few tequilas with on a Saturday night.
As frontwoman of Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable, Ritzy is definitely one of the lads. “I mean I could say that they’re disgusting and smelly,” she begins, talking about her bandmates Rhydian Dafydd (bass) and Matt Thomas (drums), “but we’re very tight-knit and very good mates. They do pick on me though, but when I say things like that they go, ‘Ritzy, we think you can hold your own pretty well…’ I’m like their little sister, but at the same time they call me the band Rottweiler!”
Ferocious animals seem to be a running theme with this band, whose new album is titled Wolf’s Law, a follow-up to 2011’s The Big Roar. Is there something significant there?
“Wolff’s Law is actually a scientific term for ‘bone under stress’ and how bone adapts to cope with breakage,” explains Ritzy. “There are a lot of different themes and stories on the album, threads running through it, with this reoccurring sense of healing in relationships. Like the ability, beyond the physical, of trying to reconnect with the people around you in life. It’s very much a symbol that runs through the album, which is captured in its title.”
And what about the ￼￼￼album itself? “You know, at the heart and soul of it, it’s very much a Joy Formidable record,” she says. “It’s got all the intent, the passion and the dynamic of our previous bodies of work, but at the same time it’s different, and I’m delighted about that. If we hadn’t grown or changed in the eighteen months since the first record, there’d be something wrong.”
During those eighteen months it’s a miracle that the band had time to write an album at all, considering they barely stopped touring. “I love touring, we all do, but it’s almost surprising to me that there are places we haven’t been for years, because I just think ‘we haven’t stopped!’” laughs Ritzy. “It just shows you how fucking huge the States is to tour and how big Europe is, because we haven’t had time to visit Australia in almost two years, same with Japan.”
Now back on the road in the UK, things are showing no sign of slowing down for the trio. “The tour started up in Liverpool, which isn’t too far from where the band began, so you could tell it was very much a home crowd,” she says. “The exciting thing about the fan base in the UK, and in the US, is that there seems to be a real sense of exploring the entire range of the band. We’ve got a fan base who are definitely listening to each album in its entirety, they’re following us intently and there’s a real sense of excitement about what we’re doing.
“You can’t make that happen and it’s something that you’re never in control of, but it’s a really nice feeling and it gives you a lot of freedom as an artist with which set you want to play, or the way that you want to release singles from your album. The fans aren’t just there to hear one song, or because they’ve been told to be there; we’re not riding the wave of a hype that’s been a little bit short lived. As an artist it is really heartening.”
With the constant touring, the band recently decided to sacrifice something that most of us take for granted. “We’re kind of homeless at the moment!” says Ritzy. “We were just spending so much on rent that it was becoming ridiculous, and I think I’d spent about three weeks in total in my flat last year, so we moved out in November and shoved everything in storage.
“We were having a laugh about it the other day because we were trying to work out where Matt’s acoustic drumkit was; we had one bit of it in our hands here in the UK and we were trying to track down the rest. We figured out that we had one part of it in New York and another in LA – what a mess! It’s quite liberating though, because you can kind of lay your hat down anywhere.”
It doesn’t seem like Ritzy’s going to be resting anytime soon anyway. “We kind of know where we’re going to be everyday for the next eight months,” she says. “It’s a dizzying, exciting, but slightly scary prospect. We’re also going to try and finish this Welsh EP that we’ve been fucking talking about for fucking months! Every time we go to work on it we get totally side-tracked by touring or collaborating, but I really want to get stuck into that, given that Welsh is Rhydian’s first language and it’s my second.”
With that final round of F-bombs I say my goodbyes to Ritzy, safe in the knowledge that we’re all in for a roaring good time when the band hit Glasgow later this month – just make sure you’ve listened to the whole album first!