The Joy Formidable:
The TVD Interview

As far as career trajectories go, you’d be hard pressed to top the steady ascent of The Joy Formidable. From the tiny band with the full sound we latched onto at the outset, to the band that roared its way down the throats of North America’s largest venues last fall as openers for the Foo Fighters’ recent tear through the States, The Joy Formidable is on a steady, and heady, climb.

Shortly before the close of 2011 I zipped off a note to the TVD Editors and Contributors asking them to compile a Top Ten (or so) List of things from 2011 without a trite reliance on Top 10 singles or releases because those are well, a bit obvious. And tired. We held the door open for movies, books, live dates and what have you‚ and I too intended to cobble together said list.

But, I didn’t.

Yet, if there was one highlight certain to top that Top 2011 list, it would have been tossing on my coat, leaving TVD HQ, and a mere 30 minutes later being on stage at DC’s cavernous Verizon Center with The Joy Formidable. 

“You’re shooting all of this, right?” I asked Amy, our hyper-talented photographer who was along for the meet-up with TJF. Her responding face gesture was a bit of a “Duh, what do you think. . . ?” Which was, right, deserved.

Washington, DC, itself plays a role in the backstory of The Joy Formidable. Front woman Ritzy Bryan spent quite a bit of time working and writing and making herself a bit of a regular in DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood—which is TVD’s neighborhood, to be precise.

They still have gatherings at Trio Fox & Hounds at 17th and Q, NW when the band (and their friend, Ritzy) makes a TV appearance, such as their slot on Late Night with David Letterman a number of months back.

So, it was in advance of  TJF’s TVD First Date when Ritzy and I exchanged some notes and had a laugh as to some shared haunts and people we knew in common. Our in-person introduction backstage at DC’s Verizon Center on 11/11/11 felt like a bit of a catch up with a local, in an odd way.

Ritzy and bandmates, bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matt Thomas are uncommonly warm and inviting, and with a “We’re soundchecking—come along. . .” I stood dead center in that empty shell behind the band whose vinyl had been incessantly spinning on the turntable throughout 2011. Surreal and familiar in similar dosages.

Later, backstage again, I asked Ritzy what her time was like in DC. “What I was doing in DC was rather strange, because I was au pairing, doing plenty of drinking, and writing a lot of music. It was a lot of mixed senses because I had some great friends, but then again, that job is just so lonely, because it is just you and a kid and some parents who think of you as a second-class citizen, you know what I mean? Even though you are looking after their ‘precious one,’ in the grand scheme of things, you don’t matter.”

“None of that phased me, I didn’t give a shit, but it was a very strange family. But anyway, there was a lot of writing, and it was a very introspective time for me.”

Jon: Rhydian, you  two didn’t know each other at that point, correct?

Ritzy: He was stalking me, he was dying to get in my pants. He’s been trying to get into my pants for 15 years. (Laughs)

Jon: So Matt, what’s it like for you—these two have this connection for all of these years, and then you walk in, the new guy? And I always hear Keith Moon when your name comes up. Is it the drinking, or. . .

Matt: Yeah it’s the bad driving and the drinking. The drinking and driving!

Jon: So how did you find this guy?

Ritzy: The connection we have is pretty extraordinary, but we had another drummer for a short period of time, and he just wasn’t right for touring, so that wasn’t going to work out.

We had a huge tour booked in the UK and we thought, oh fuck, ya know, we just spent two weeks going through different advertisements, phoning friends, anything we can do, and we just invited a pile of people down to rehearse, which ended up being a party. . . that didn’t help! But when we found him, it was like, tada! And the lights came on.

Jon: So what’s that process like, Matt? To kind of get in their heads in a way, even though they’re strangers.

Rhydian: He was very talented straight away, as soon as we started playing together.

Matt: The funny thing about that audition was that the first thing you said to me was “Hit the drums as hard as you can,” and I did, and you were like “Ahhhhh!”

Rhydian: It was great, and I think within a few days we did our first radio station. And then after that we went to Paris, and from there we never stopped. This particular tour feels like a great American rock tour. A celebration of guitars.

Jon: What’s next? I’ve been a fan for a long time, so I feel like I’m a part of the growth of this band I dig.

Ritzy: We’ve been writing a lot, so we do have a modest amount of things written. And we’ve been doing a lot of demoing. We’ve got a week in Portland, Maine coming up to practice and to just tunnel ourselves away as we try to make sense of everything we’ve been writing while we’ve been touring.

Jon: Have you found a producer yet?

Ritzy: Can we reveal it? I think we are going to work with Andy Wallace.

Jon: Oh wow, he did Jeff Buckley’s Grace.

Rhydian: He also did Slayer and Rage Against The Machine.

Jon: Well, this is The Vinyl District after all, so what records are on your turntable these days?

Ritzy: Well, I have my own turntable—it was my parents’ actually. My dad had an amazing record collection that I’ll never be able to compete with. But because we’re on the road so much, we don’t really get to listen to vinyl much at the moment.

We do also have a gramophone. . . but it is not very good. . .

Photos: Amy Willard
Special transcription thanks: Kelly Kettering

This entry was posted in The TVD Storefront. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • http://www.gunhorse.com Greg

    super fun band!!! Can’t wait to catch them rock thru town (SF)

  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text