Last year, The Joy Formidable did something they’d never done before; they disappeared. They’d seemingly already been around for an age before they released debut full-length, ‘The Big Roar’ in 2011, and when they went out on tour in support of it - as veterans, already, of the UK and European circuit - they didn’t see the value in slowing down. With a never-ending schedule taking in everything from toilet venues to arenas with the likes of Muse and Foo Fighters, the follow-up, 2013’s ‘Wolf’s Law’, written almost entirely on the road, and recorded whenever the group could grab the chance to cut some tracks; enforced downtime during a snowstorm in Maine, for instance.
It was only after wrapping up yet another exhaustive jaunt that singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan, bassist Rhydian Davies and drummer Matt Thomas decided it was finally time to slip under the radar for a while; their rural Welsh hometown of Mold the obvious spot to retreat to. “We were out in the hills, in this simple studio that we set up, with no producer, no engineer, and no interference,” says Bryan over the phone from the US, where the band have been rehearsing new tracks for their return to the road. “Staying and working in one place doesn’t really come naturally to me; I like the vibrancy of being on tour, and if I’m honest, I quite enjoy the chaos as well.”
The resulting record is their least straightforward and most stylistically diverse yet. Crucially, too, the confidence that led them to eschew outside help is scored through the songs; from the atmospheric, Twin Peaks murk of ‘The Gift’ to the woozy rush of ‘Running Hands with the Night’, ‘Hitch’ is an album that fizzes with thrilling self-assurance. “Aesthetically, we don’t care about getting too bogged down,” reiterates Bryan. “We’re big believers in trying to capture the moment; if it feels good and sounds good, don’t fuck with it. You need a certain dynamic and a tight relationship within the band to go without a producer, but we kind of needed to be just three people again. You can lose each other on the road; you’re together every day, but there’s a rapport that comes from being creative together that can fade a little bit when you haven’t done it for a while.”
” I think you have to feel a bit fucked up after making a record.”
At the album’s core, both in terms of theme and feel, is the often jarring comedown between the breakneck pace of touring through bustling cities and the relative tranquility of country life. The conflict that creates - as well as the sense of displacement - feels like a prominent concept on ‘Hitch’, and Bryan agrees. “There was a deep longing towards the end of the last touring cycle; kind of a nostalgia and a romance about going home. We were chasing a sense of belonging. I don’t necessarily think you need too much of that in life, either - I’m quite happy feeling like things are constantly fucking changing - but as you get a little bit older, you start thinking about what you’ve missed back home, and the melancholy that comes from that was important on this album.”
“There’s a paradox, of wanting two different things at the same time, and you can feel that pull in these songs a little bit. The album talks a lot about freedom, and trying to find it in that weird balance between how comforting it feels to be back home, but also the feeling that you’re not really supposed to be there any more. Being back in the same place for so long drove us a bit loopy, at times, but that’s OK - I think you have to feel a bit fucked up after making a record.”
The Joy Formidable’s new album ‘Hitch’ will be released on 25th March via Atlantic.