This interview with The Joy Formidable is going to require a bit of time traveling on the part of the reader. Just pretend, if you can, that you’re reading this before the band announced they’d be supporting The Temper Trap on their European tour, before they announced they were releasing a live album of tomorrow night’s Glasgow show, and before they played Reading & Leeds Festival way back in August. Can you do that? Good. Off we go, then.
Hello Ritzy, Matt and Rhydian. We’re going to talk about not getting caught up in any one musical ‘bubble’ and generally confusing critics and listeners with your music. Hooray.
Festival season has arrived and you are playing Reading and Leeds. Right at the end of August it’s often seen as a celebration of all the best stuff of the year and a glimpse of what is to come next [music] year. So… It’s been a fair while since The Joy Formidable got ‘hyped’. How did you feel about that term?
I think it’s irrelevant; we’ve never been hyped and the future we’re shaping sidesteps it completely. It’s ultimately just a promotional tool; a media invention, if you’re a proper band you’d want to avoid it at all costs. Having support is one thing but where’s the fun in being promotionally bombarded by the act ‘you should be listening to’ in every paper or radio station. I want to be a band that people discover naturally and invest their affection in because they want to.
Since day one your music has caused fans and writers to conjure up all kinds of stupid adjectives. You’ve spoken out in the past about your dislike for pigeonholing. Got a favourite weird one you’ve heard?
I do dislike pigeonholing, it’s such a lazy way of describing things. We’ve not encountered a lot of it to be honest, the subject usually crops up because people find it difficult to peg us down to one sound or genre, which should be pretty standard if you’re dynamic. There is one recurring phrase; ‘hand-shandy pop’, which is at least original, that or grunge-noveau. Come forward who ever conceived that one.
So why do people continue to do it?
It’s not that important, sometimes it’s a ploy to give something broader appeal. Unfortunately not everyone likes to be challenged, and if it can be labeled, then it becomes more palatable.
You’ve also managed to make it [we call having even one beautiful record on Pure Groove a victory] without latching on to a recognised local scene. How has that affected the band? Or would you disagree?
Pure Groove are a fantastic label, so I’m glad you’ve mentioned them. No we’re not part of a local scene, we live in London and Wales is still an integral part of the writing process. It hasn’t affected us at all. The band has a very communal feel, with the fans and the team around us. It’s a completely homegrown affair, the music, the artwork, the visuals and there’s no middleman between ourselves and the fanbase, so what you see is honest and faithful. But bands evolve in different ways, I think local scenes should be encouraged but I’m also of the belief that you can be nomadic and if you’re making good music, you’ll get it out there.
After Latitude last year you spoke about your admiration for mixed-medias - artists, poets, and other performers existing together. And [however, um, controversial it might be] fans even bother to make videos for you. Playing with that for the new stuff at all?
Our fans are still making videos for us, which is great. We’ve recently received a video to a new track from a guy called Judderman, got to give him a plug, it’s excellent. He’s collected other fan footage and collaged it with our artwork, he’s captured a lot of the essence of our live shows actually. As for involving other artistic elements, we wouldn’t incorporate anything just for the sake of it, but if we’re inspired and it feels right, then we have and we will continue to play with it. Talking of which, anyone know any shithot harpists?
Although Latitude [obviously] was different for you, what do you feel about other UK Festivals? You’re playing Reading & Leeds which has got a bit of stick over the last couple of years…
This year has been our first full-on festival experience and we’ve really savored it. They’ve all been very different… We’ve loved the smaller scale festivals like Nozstock and Square, that have an unconventional and free feel, but then Reading & Leeds has a great line-up and we enjoyed our time there last year.
So how do you approach your festival performances? Same as any other? Or do you like to try something different?
It’s the same approach, sometimes the set goes in a different direction, but that’s irrespective of playing at a festival or in a basement. Austere seems to have unconsciously developed into a fun festival song and that’s good to witness and encourage. We like to see people having a good time and festivals are often a trigger for people to lose their inhibitions.
Considering all that… What would you say if we were to call The Joy Formidable a pop band?
I’d say milk was a bad choice.