Apr 30, 2016
Review & Interview: The Joy Formidable’s Ritzy Bryan Talks About New Album, ‘Hitch’
Frontwoman of The Joy Formidable, Ritzy Bryan, walks her dog along the Intracoastal Waterway, next to the JetBlue stage.
Tony — a black and brown long-haired dachshund — is a rescue the band got a year ago, from Arizona. Sometimes, he joins the band for tour. “State to state is easy and when we fly domestically he goes under the seat and doesn’t seem to mind,” she says. “He breaks up our day a little bit because we have to schedule ‘walkies.’ He’s full of mischief and keeps us smiling.”
Bryan wears a navy blue mod-style dress with an oversized white Peter Pan collar, black tights and booties. Her blonde lob shows absolutely no sign of Florida humidity as she walks into a trailer and takes off her Betsey Johnson sunglasses.
It’s 5:30 p.m. and the indie rock Welsh trio just returned from an acoustic show in Hollywood, Florida. Between the TGi5K race happening outside the trailer and the view on the water, Bryan is smitten.
“On a first look it’s such a beautiful location,” she says. “It doesn’t get much nicer than this.”
The band’s third album, “Hitch” just came out in March. To record it, the band spent 12 months in a home-studio they built in North Wales. “It’s been an experience that’s brought us together because we were holed away, just us three, no engineer, no producer, nobody else,” Bryan says of the experience. “In terms of the connection that’s happened again between us as three people — musically and on a deeper level, I think the album is really great for that.”
Two hours later, the band hits the JetBlue stage, opening with “The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade,” off the band’s debut album, “The Big Roar.”
Bryan, who’s changed into a sweater with cutouts, strums her white Elite Fender Stratocaster to the crowd of hundreds. “It’s lovely to be here,” she tells the crowd. “I was going to say what a lovely evening, I guess that’s pretty common here! It’s a bit of a novelty in Northern Wales — the weather, I mean.”
The band played a variety of old and new songs including “Little Blimp” from its 2013 release, “Wolf’s Law,” and “The Last Thing On My Mind” from “Hitch.”
“In terms of the connection that’s happened again between us as three people musically and on a deeper level, I think the album is really great for that,” Bryan tells SunFest about “Hitch.” “It’s also spurred on the energy for going back on tour.”
Up until the band’s year-long recording hiatus, Bryan says they were basically touring for six years straight. “Which is great,” she explains. “We’re a band that thrives on touring, but it definitely in terms of reinventing yourself and stepping outside for a moment it’s important to do that. It felt quite strange and there’s been like a happy kind of trepidation for coming back.”
Bryan kicks and flails herself around the stage, vibing off of her bassist, Rhydian Dafydd, and drummer, Matthew James Thomas — who went full rockstar with a massive gong behind his drum set.
The band seems tighter than ever tonight, something Bryan attributes to “Hitch.”
“I’d absolutely say in terms of the camaraderie that’s come from this record, sonically this album is precisely what we wanted,” she says. “I think kind of going through lots of different moments in the studio together in terms of making this record we were really really excited, we could tell we were making something really special to us for a very long time.”
As the group performs “Maw Maw Song,” a girl walks toward the stage telling her friend, “I don’t know who to really compare them to.”
That’s because you can’t. The Joy Formidable is this one-of-a-kind, indie, jam band with members whose passion streams off the stage for miles.
“There’s a range to the band in terms of there’s definitely a bold fierce side and we like to play on the dynamics of that,” Bryan says. “There’s an aggression but there’s also a kind of beauty and fragility in some of the moments.”
The Joy Formidable isn’t a super chit-chatty group — there’s not much banter between songs — but that’s because they don’t need to be. Between one song ending and another beginning, the crowd’s cheers filled the momentary silence.
“The approach never changes ever in that sense. I think you can create an intimacy no matter how big the festival or the space is you can still have a connection and feel like there’s a conversation.” Bryan says of the outdoor crowd.
“We never like it to feel like it’s us and the audience with some invisible barrier. We like interaction and we like them to feel like they’re involved. We want them to respond and be awake and be in the moment more than anything.”
The band closes with one of its early songs, “Whirring.” The track, which originally came out in 2009 and was then re-released on the band’s debut album in 2011, eventually morphed into a giant jam session.
By the very end, Dafydd and Bryan and her mic stand are on the floor. The band walk off with the two axes left behind, humming and feeding back until the lights finally go out, and the crowd gives one final roar.
The band’s dog, Tony lies down in the seat next to Bryan. Out of nowhere, a police motorcycle rumbles, perking him up. Race runners pass the trailer’s window and Bryan laughs, but quickly finishes her thought. “Being in the moment. I think that’s a big part of it.”